Poor Souls

The End of Poverty? provides a predictable look at the rise of capitalism

The End of Poverty? ** Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque At 7:25 p.m. Saturday, March 6 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 7 cia.edu/cinematheque

For a taste of the true college experience nobody can afford anymore — namely being locked in an auditorium interminably with a graying '60s-burnout Marxist professor — here's a white-guilt documentary of the Emma Goldman school (no Michael Moore/Al Franken levity).

More one-sided than a flounder, it charges Judeo-Christian multinational free-market capitalistic imperialism (est.1492, no joke) with manifold crimes against the universe. Colonial superpredators Britain, Holland and Japan are blamed for misshaping the global economy we know today — their former possessions and enslaved states (mainly in the Southern hemisphere) now Third-World ghettoes and tyrannies, chronically in debt. The U.S.A., like Emperor Palpatine, enters late in the drama, a master villain with a Reagan "trickle-down" policy wonderfully misnamed "neo-liberalism" that sabotages poorer nations and unleashes multinationals (Halliburton, Bechtel, etc.), "economic hitmen" and "jackals" to spread war, pestilence, famine, the World Bank, etc.

The film works best when — citing Kenya and Brazil especially — it explains how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in legal transfers of debt from colonial times that made certain these countries' citizens — even when declaring their independence in the 20th century — were crippled and shackled in a form of legal slavery right out of the starting gate. But the quixotic solution that greedy Americans gobbling a quarter of the planet's resources should gear down and go "sustainable" didn't work in Alice's Restaurant and probably won't now.

Also, the film totally ignores India's ascension as an incipient superpower (to judge by this movie, India got crushed by the Raj and was never heard from again). Also overlooked: that China now holds massive U.S. debt and undercuts America's manufacturing ability severely — exactly the method of operations the colonial powers used on victims in their conquests. So our comeuppance may be nigh after all. See you in the rice paddies.

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