One month left! Instead of dying of despair like record numbers of my demographic lately (came close!), I overcame to graduate this May 13 from CSU’s Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI) program. What did I learn?
Well, as the most non-traditional of students, I had time to watch a lot of TCM, and last week I finally saw a film that captured what I learned in the MAGI program in a non-academic consumable nugget. Hot Stuff, a 1971 animated short by Zlatko Grgic, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is sort of a Smokey Bear warning cartoon from Canadian firefighters to kids.
“This tongue-in-cheek animated short serves as a cautionary tale against the hazards of fire. Early humans were given the gift of fire, but warned against the dangers, warnings that eventually fell by the wayside.”
In the MAGI program, I learned that capitalism is a fire which behaves exactly as Hot Stuff depicts. Awesome, necessary power, with constant risk of explosion. Unless it’s in a furnace, capitalism, like fire, will engulf all around it in flame. Needs to be a pretty strong furnace, too.
I also learned FDR’s New Deal was that furnace, the size of a country, designed to funnel the power of capitalism for the most good, to all; just as fire is captured, stored, transformed, and harnessed in Hot Stuff. Pipes in the New Deal furnace have been springing leaks since it first roared to life, with vandals (neoliberals to be exact) taking bits of pipe in order to unleash the fire for more than 80 years.
As a young Clintonista, I bought the con that making the New Deal’s furnace pipe less thick and certain would all work out just fine. Another analogy I often use is the Eye of Sauron, and The Ring. We as Americans are particularly vulnerable to this…er…Dark Side Precious. (for geeks, see Gramsci.) My paper on the City of London best captures my MAGI journey from Clintonista to Bernie Sanders/Jeremy Corbyn leftism. It’s a crime story. A known racket (the City) took a crowbar to a key New Deal pipe and lopped it off…in 1953. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis at CSU deserves many thanks for including the City in the syllabus. It helped me write a very personal term paper on my own role in helping keep the New Deal gushing one of its first, most damaging, furnace leaks.
So, off we DLC-Third Way-Centrist-New-Labour buffoons went for a few decades, removing valves, shoving in more fuel to the fire, overloading the pipes of a weaker New Deal furnace…all vividly animated in Hot Stuff. The first 6 inch thick walls of the New Deal furnace to crack were organized labor laws. From the moment the Wagner Act, a crown jewel of FDR’s first term, took effect in 1935, capitalism has been torching its way through unions, continuing without cessation today. Just like fire in Hot Stuff.
So you watched a lot of TCM?
A great movement will be required to reconstitute a 21st century New Deal furnace for capitalism, or luck. Probably both. Herbert Hoover spent the bulk of his presidency making things worse after the October crash in his first year, 1929. On a Trump timeline, that’s this fall. Bernie Sanders probably could have staved off the next, completely predictable, financial crisis. Trump can’t even see it. Eye of Sauron, and whatnot.
Mostly what I learned during the MAGI program is that Americans need to be reminded how Americanly awesome the New Deal was. We once controlled capitalism, not the other way around. And that furnace, which we dismantled ourselves, built the American Dream, which today is a fantasy. America used to be so very proud of the New Deal. TCM helped me visualize this pride during the last three years. For example, classic movies of Hollywood’s New Deal era were unabashedly supportive of every aspect of FDR’s program. Even in opening credits, like this one from Claude Raines’ first big hit The Invisible Man in 1933, celebrating the National Recovery Act (the first, better, NRA).
My MAGI exit project studied the internet as a powerful global non-state actor, currently subjecting this debate on our generational insecurity to its own never ending, constant churn of ideas. Thanks to TCM, I guess I’ll toss some Canadian animation into that buzzing stew. In Hot Stuff, it’s easy to see Trump, Brexit, and LePen sparks fly from overloaded sockets as busy, distracted humans ignore the warnings and multiply the risk, oblivious to fire breaking free of its human control. If you’d like to see more incredible Canadian animation, check out the NFB website. Some pieces of the furnace still work.