When Injustice Becomes Law, resistance Becomes Duty. -- Thomas Jefferson.
#Whilewewatch is not a film you walk out of saying you "like" or "dislike." This is a film you feel. If you're not moved by the disturbing images on the screen in front of you, you're simply not alive -- or you're in the 1%. Spielberg routinely spends hundreds of millions of dollars, and several years of shooting special effects-laden extravaganzas, all in an attempt to try and tell the kind of story that will hopefully evoke the range of emotions this film stirs simply by pointing a lens.
Anger. Shame. Disgust. Fear. Pride. Hope. Even laughter. Watching the film as it unfolds, and watching scenes of everyday people, from all walks of life, united in a common cause -- the demand for Change -- is quite an inspirational and moving experience, to say the least. It makes you want to run to Capitol Hill, grab every single one of them by their over-starched white collars and say, "You're done. Now get lost."
The Declaration of Independence states: Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive..., it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.
Offshore corporate tax loopholes, bank bailouts that became bonuses, Congress's legalized insider trading act, mortgage fraud, Citizens United, etc., etc. These are just a few of the poisonous elements our spectacularly flawed leaders have allowed to seep into the fabric of our democracy. And they must be abolished.
Surprisingly enough, it's actually quite simple. You want to fix health care? Take away the luxurious health care plans our congressmen and women currently enjoy, and everyone in the nation will be fully covered within two weeks. You want to stop complacency? Put term limits on our representatives. No one in this country works for two years and retires with full salary and benefits. If it wasn't so horrific it would be laughable.
Out of the multitude of disturbing thoughts #Whilewewatch produces, perhaps none is more unsettling than this:
The day after 9-11, when New Yorkers literally crawled from beneath the rubble and once again took to the streets of our wounded city, it seemed like everyone was your brother. Across the nation, the feeling was the same. Wherever you went, the sense of "We're all in this together," was overwhelming. The entire country came together as one, both democrat and republican, to support our president, and everyone had everyone else's back.
OWS is a direct result of the antithesis of that; it's what happens when we don't have each other's backs. Yet, at its core, all it's really saying is, "Treat us fairly. Do what is right. Protect our rights and our children's futures." Seems like simple, common sense. It also sounds a lot like the rhetoric every campaigning politician spews forth, then, almost always, abandons. The harsh answer to Rodney King's poignant question, "Can't we all get along?" is, "Yes, we can. But, unfortunately, it takes a catastrophe of global proportions to make that happen."
The one person who comes off the worst in the film, even worse than Rudy Giuliani, is Mayor Bloomberg. I liked and supported the mayor during his two prior terms running the city. I even supported his bid for a third. But, watching the arrogant billionaire sitting in a quiet town hall meeting and telling the press, "If they really want to change things, they should stop standing around and go get jobs," left me speechless. The fact that the mayor of New York couldn't see the change as it was happening all around him, and the fact that he took thousands of people 'just standing around' to mean they were stagnant and lazy, caused me to question the mayor's character and motives.
The NYPD doesn't come off too good, either. Portraying the men and women in blue as the "King's Soldiers" was tough to watch, as my grandfather was a cop for forty years. Nonetheless, the shoe seemed to fit. When my grandfather retired in the late 70s, the department's idea of a grand send-off was a five-thousand dollar/yr. pension that died when he did, forcing my grandmother to live off whatever remaining savings she had for the last years of her life. In the past twenty years, improvements have been made to the police pension fund, and the way the dept. now treats its own upon their departure is much better than it was back then, yet I couldn't help but feel that, at any minute during the film, one of the bullying cops was going to exclaim, "I'm just following orders." It was only a few years ago that the starting salary of a New York City cop was a mere eighteen-thousand dollars. I believe it's now way up there near twenty-five thousand, so if they're not part of the 99%, who is? And yet, there they were, just following orders.
One of the main topics of discussion at the film's conclusion was the mainstream media's mantra that the mission of OWS was "vague" and "unclear." Nothing could be further from the truth. Alan Capper, president of the Foreign Press, read aloud several quotes from foreign media sources, i.e., London, and even -- believe it or not -- China, in which, it was clearly obvious the entire world's foreign media understood what the U.S. media has mostly chosen to ignore or feign ignorance about; that the mission of OWS is to promote and inspire real, democratic change in every facet of our political system.
The movement's mission was summed up best by Jesse LaGreca of The Daily Kos, who stated, "There are many issues at stake; job creation, higher taxes for millionaires, bringing those responsible for the economic fraud perpetrated against the American people to justice, etc. This is not something you can get across in a ten second sound byte. This is a process of change that will take years. And it just started four months ago."
A process of change, indeed. If nothing else, what OWS, and its national and global spin-offs, has succeeded in doing, is, it took a series of widely held, but somewhat scattered, ideals and beliefs and turned them into a tangible, living force you can actually touch and feel and be a part of simply by turning on your computer. Director Kevin Breslin should be commended for putting together a cohesive collection of the chaos. But, as he, himself, states: "I just showed up and pointed a camera. They did all the work."
Some of the film's lighter moments include: A man claiming he created his press pass "at Kinko's"; The line of protesters, whose job it was to film the police, referring to themselves as "The 'Coparazzi;'" A man with a paper mache Fox News TV camera stating, "Fox News is fake news, so why not use a fake camera?" And, several dozen occupiers wearing plastic, goatee facial masks, tipping their hat to the film V for Vendetta.
The heaviest moments come, of course, in the numerous scenes of New York's finest dragging, macing, and arresting the protesters for simply staying when they were told to leave. One person commented, "We came in peace. The police showed up to riot."
The interesting long-term effect will be to see if OWS can turn into Occupy Washington and harness its power into choosing a candidate for the 2016 election the 99% can really believe in. If that happens, OWS will have proved an overwhelming success.
#Whilewewatch was directed by Kevin Breslin and produced by 8 docos - Karen A. Brown Associate Producer and featured contributions from Tim Pool.
Follow David Fagin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nikchapman