November 4, 2009

Viator's Review: OTSRCSU Chapter 4

Bitterly Books is undertaking a chapter-by-chapter review of Ralph Nader's work, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. You can read past chapter synopses here. Past reviews can be read here, and Viator's columns can be read here.

For the complete coverage of
Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, click here.

Is Naderocalypse a satire?

We now have an answer to said question, courtesy of chapter four.

Its biggest event is Warren Beatty’s announcement of his campaign against the “calculating cyborg” who is outwardly “Mr. Universe.” In a spirit of fairness before he throws down, Beatty confronts the Austrian movie star over what appears to be the single issue of his potential campaign: raising taxes. He notes the hapless Austrian’s pronunciation of “Caddyfawnyuns.” He engages, as Bitterly noted, in generally hamfisted and outright stupid dialogue.

But what of the Governator? Why is he so darned stubborn, inviting the wrath of Warren Buffet/t and his constituents? Why indeed: "I really dislike taxes philosophically- I meant what I said on the campaign trail. You wouldn’t want me to break my word, would you?” (125)

As passages go, this one is actually pretty moving. Arnold loves his wife, he wants to keep his word, and good lord he meant what he said to get elected. Would that all our politicians were so scummy. So really, why does Warren respond with weasely equivocation and cutesy play-banter, and yet he’s the hero here?

Warren Buffet/t, chapter one: “[The world’s] inhabitants have allowed greed, power, ignorance, wealth, science, technology, and religion to depreciate reality and deny potential.” (15)

Max Palevsky, chapter two: “Insurance companies talked about risk management as if it meant the best way for their computers to get the most profit out of existing risks.” (47)

Warren Buffet/t, chapter three: Sun Microsystems Co-founder Bill Joy is “the antidote to these techno-twits who are imperiling us with their contempt for the ethical and legal framework necessary to contain future Frankensteins.” (78)

Ralph Nader, chapter four: “Arnold personally flung open the door. Outwardly he was Mr. Universe, inwardly he was a calculating cyborg.” (125)

Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cyborg. Literally.

This is the point where I was going to include the results of the embarrassing amount of time I spent adding up whether Warren Beatty’s proposed tax hike would fix California’s 2006 budget deficit as Nader claimed, sketching out math demonstrating that he actually believes life in the United States is equivalent to that in Equatorial Guinea. The joke is indeed on me, and Naderocalypse is the mirror. I was calculating with cold, impersonal numbers, trapped in a system that has indeed depreciated reality.

Arnold does not understand why refusing to flip-flop, raise taxes and even love his wife is villainous, because he is programmed that way. And we laugh along at Nader, because that’s how poisonous capitalism is: we calculate instead of acknowledging truths.

And there you have it. The question of whether Naderocalypse is a satire asked the wrong question. It is an allegory.

...but enough about that. Let’s find out what the gods have been up to.

Price-Epimetheus opens with his typical display of incompetence: he proposes telling the Wal-Mart board of directors what they're going to do in advance, along with a strangely dactyllic verse boasting of their strength (with a total budget of $15 billion) and Wal-Mart's feebleness (with assets of $160 billion). He follows up this astonishingly short-sighted threat with a call to Leighton (LEE-ton) Clott, CEO. Later we learn that his entire strategy to take on his corrupt offspring is an elaborate plot to inform Wal-Mart executives of everything he is doing. No wonder Price is a failure at safe-sex practices.

The public relations aspect of the battle confirms an ongoing strain of xenophobia: his cadre of anti-Wal-Mart billionaires are incensed by a “recent memo” from the retail giant to suppliers that “required them to meet the China price either by reducing costs (i.e., cutting wages and benefits) or by actually moving to China.” (131) It is notable that Warren Beatty shares this extreme nativism when he demands that the California Assembly stop “the indenturing of California to New York City’s giant bond creditors.” (125-126) (“O Enlil! What has my city done to you? Why have you turned away from it? The ship of first fruits no longer brings first fruits to the engendering father, no longer goes in to Enlil in Nippur with your bread and food portions!” -Lament for Ur)

Turner-Loki sneakily proposes a return to old-time religion to stick it to the suits, claiming that "not a single religion had approved of such a perverse channeling of peoples lives." (113)

Diller-Marduk indeed closes the chapter ominously. He also enumerates his conquered empire, his but for the niggling matter of the maturing of the leveraging bonds: "twenty-five television stations, two cable channels, thirty AM radio stations, ten FM radio stations, one satellite radio station, and links to associated websites." (138) His army assembled, the god begins to assemble his generals, the "on-air talent and off-air investigative experts."

Back in his lair, Soros-Thoth reviews seven reports on various bits of the economy. (“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?’ But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.” -Revelation 5:1-3) Each report’s “breaking” is powerful, causing him to get “angrier by the hour.” The review has a certain poetry. unfortunately broken up by Nader’s prose: Soros’ mouth goes "dry with astonishment" (food), he is "taken aback" (financial services), he “really wanted to take a shower” (taxes), and he feels "a pang of self-reproach" (elections). Worst of all, Soros discovers that tax loopholes he has been using, his divine prerogative, are being stolen by “the wealthy to shirk their taxpaying responsibilities.” (119) If we go off the biblical inspiration for this passage we note that 144,000 are saved from Soros’ wrath. So far Nader notes that the number is actually 2,000 x 435, or 870,000. We await the reconciliation of this eschatology.

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