I watched an average 2007 film SHOOTER tonight on DVD. Marky Mark’s always pretty good, playing that tough guy with a heart of gold character. Some interesting stuff about life as a sniper in the film (apparently all true according to the doco and Wikipedia, but I’ve got a mate based in the Middle East who knows this stuff who I’ll ask). Anyway, onto my point.

The top bad guy in this film is Senator Charles F. Meachum played fairly by-the-cards by Ned Beatty (who to me will always be “Otis” from the bad SUPERMAN movies of the 70s and 80s). in the film he’s a Senator who’s got a black ops organization running around doing his private bidding, killing villagers in Ethiopia to make way for an oil pipeline, assassinating an Ethiopian Archbishop who is about to reveal the truth when he’s about to receive an award from the US President, etc. The Meachum character has one great line though. When he’s facing off with Marky Mark’s good guy sniper character in the false climax of the film (there’s another climax coming a few minutes later…. I’ve got so many lines I could make here but I’m holding back… for the second climax… get it?? It looked like I wasn’t going to make a cheesy line but then I did… damn I impress even myself sometimes with my sneakiness), he (the bad Senator in case you’ve forgotten where we were) delivers this line to Marky Mark’s character “Swagger”:

Senator Charles F. Meachum: You got any plans after this? You have a rather unique skill set. I’d be interested in offering you a job.
Bob Lee Swagger: Work? For you?
Senator Charles F. Meachum: It’s not really as bad as it seems. It’s all gonna be done in any case. You might as well be on the side that gets you well paid for your efforts.
Nick Memphis: And what side are you on?
Senator Charles F. Meachum: There are no sides. There’s no Sunnis and Shiites. There’s no Democrats and Republicans. There’s only HAVES and HAVE-NOTS.

That’s certainly my perspective on the system of party politics we have in the West. We’re given the illusion of choice. Democrats or Republicans. Labor or Liberal. Conservatives or Labor. Channel Nine or Channel Seven. The Age or The Herald Sun.

There was a time when, if you were poor, you knew who to hate. You hated the King, the Queen, the Duke, the Baron, the Bishop. You knew the name of the rich guy who oppressed you, who owned you, the land you worked, who told you what to do and when to do it and beat you when it wasn’t done properly (or sent the guys to beat you).

Today those names are usually disguised by a ‘brand’. Whether it’s the brand of your political party or the brand of the media company who pimps them, you usually know the names of the brands but the average joe in the street doesn’t know the name of the person BEHIND the brand. And I’m not talking about just the CEO of the company – he (or she but usually still a man these days) is just the front guy. The CEO isn’t the person who really pulls the strings – that would be the major investors, the Board of Directors, the puppet masters, who hire and fire the CEO. And it isn’t the Prime Minister or President – again, just front men. And usually, these days, BLAND front men. Look at the guys who end up in these jobs – if you met them at a party, and you didn’t know who they were, how long before you made some lame excuse about having to relieve the babysitter to get the hell away from them? John Howard? Please. I’ve met lime jellies more interesting. Kevin Rudd? Come on. Nancy boy who, I bet, blushed all the time when he was taken to the infamous strip club in the US. George W Bush? A jock with a rich daddy who probably still puts fart cushions under the asses of his cabinet for a laugh.

The real power is smart enough usually (but not always) to hide behind a construct of front people, to maintain plausible deniability, like the mafia bosses distancing themselves from the guy selling heroin in the streets to the trail doesn’t lead back to them when the heat comes down.

We are given the illusion of choice though so we feel like we are free. The Land Of The Free and The Home Of The Brave. More like The Land Of The Duped And The Home Of The Sheep.

I started thinking about this today when someone criticized Cuba for not having a “free press”. Really, like the US, UK or Australia has a “free press”? We have a press that is owned either by a handful of rich white guys or is operated by the Government which is also, as it turns out, run by a handful of rich white guys who are good friends with the other rich white guys. You don’t think these guys all have the same interests? If you were an old rich white guy, what would your main priorities be? Helping the poor? Forgiving third world debt? Creating an international criminal court? No, your main priority would be staying rich. And if any of those other things contributed to your main priority, then all well and good. And if they don’t? Then they aren’t really going to get much play.

I’m reading a book on the Soviet Revolution at the moment, actually written by one of the guys involved in it, Raphael Abramovitch. He was a Menshevik, the minority party of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (the Bolsheviks, run by Lenin, were the majority party of the RSDLP). The idea behind the Soviet Revolution (a soviet was a worker’s local council, like a labour union) was that the power of government needed to be taken out of the hands of the rich (the minority) and given to the poor, the workers (the majority).

Which gets me back to the illusion of freedom. We have been taught in the West to believe we have choice, we have freedom, we get to vote our leaders in and out. Every four years we get to decide which rich white guy and his friends get to run things. And the rich white guys who own the media tell us over and over again in their newspapers and their televisions and their radios how lucky we’ve got it.

We’re free.

We’re happy.

We’re the good guys.

Aren’t we?