A friend of mine sent me a link to a 1946 film Despotism produced by the Encyclopedia Britannica Films. I’m not sure how or why he came across this film but it was interesting to see the simple style of an “educational” film of the era. He asked what I thought and I replied.
With the war just over, Truman in office and the death of Roosevelt still fresh there was a strong utopian movement. Communism was not the evil threat it would become in the fifties. How to keep from falling back into another world war was on everybody’s mind.
The even distribution of wealth was not looked down upon as an ideal as it is today. So this film takes a simplistic propagandistic view of democracy vs. despotism. But it makes a few good points that are relevant today.
These quotes are from the film.
“The spread of respect and power in a community is influenced by certain conditions which many observers measure by means of the economic distribution and information scales.”
“If a community's economic distribution becomes slanted, its middle income groups grow smaller and despotism stands a better chance to gain a foothold.”
If wealth is power, the concentration of wealth in the upper 1% has increased dramatically since Reagan coming to office.
“Look beyond the legal formalities of an election in measuring a community on the power scale to see if the ballot is really free.”
Anyone want to open up the Florida election results again?
The film goes on to talk about education and dictating to young minds.
“See how a community trains its teachers.”
"Bear this in mind. Young people cannot be trusted to form their own opinions.”
“And when teachers put such training into practice, despotism stands a good chance.”
The intimidation that many school boards are using on teachers to teach creationism comes to mind today.
Where are we today? We have an administration that came to power in a questionable election. Has insisted on tilting the judiciary towards the religious right, willfully lied to the people to start a war, is trying to change the constitution to define marriage according to their religious views and recently manipulated the legislature to press a right to life position in the case of Terri Schiavo.
The assault on Social Security is the battle to dismantle the programs that Roosevelt put in place. When Bush talks about the “ownership” society he is describing a society that truly evolutionary in that it will be all out survival of the fittest with no social programs.
It’s a silly film but it has some lessons that are being unlearned.
Just my opinion.
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