Thursday, November 24, 2011

Moore vs Alger

Face it, you'll never be rich, Michael Moore (2003)

Although this article is 8 years old, I believe that it rings true today, especially considering the dramatic event happening with the Occupy Movement across America. Michael Moore is against capitalism, a system which exploits the majority so that the rich can gain more, and he makes it clear within his article criticising the portrayal of the American Dream. He references Horatio Alger as being a driving force behind such strong belief in a 'rags-to-riches' story.

We've been force-fed some mighty powerful "drugs" to keep us quiet... One of these drugs is called fear and the other is called Horatio Alger... It is first prescribed to us as children in the form of a fairy tale - but a fairy tale that can actually come true! It is the Horatio Alger myth... The message was that anyone can make it in America, and make it big.

Interestingly, Moore compares Alger's stories, which were intended for children, as being fairytales that adults still cling onto in this day and age. Comparing Ragged Dick as such makes it appear laughable that anyone could believe in the American Dream, especially the youth, for they are the generation growing up in a struggling economy where finding a job is a challenge to say the least. How is it possible for someone to believe that being honest and hard working is enough to gain you a living when those who are making it big are as (if not more) corrupt than criminals in prison?

... it's because we're still addicted to the Horatio Alger fantasy drug. Despite all the damage and all the evidence to the contrary, the average American still wants to hang on to this belief that maybe, just maybe, he or she (mostly he) just might make it big after all. So don't attack the rich man, because one day that rich man may be me!

The fact that big CEOs do not get punished for their crimes completely contradicts the Alger Myth and as such shows that a teenage boy living in New York City could not survive on the kindness of others, live a completely honest life, and end up feeling that their American Dream has been fulfilled, as is the case in Ragged Dick.

Criticism of Michael Moore's opinion has been highlighted more recently because of the protests he has attended as part of the Occupy Movement. Moore responds to these arguments by posting about Life Among the 1% (2011) on his blog. Within it, he states some ideas that are reminiscent of the older men within Ragged Dick.

"How can you claim to be for the poor when you are the opposite of poor?!" It's like asking: "You've never had sex with another man -- how can you be for gay marriage?!" I guess the same way that an all-male Congress voted to give women the vote, or scores of white people marched with Martin Luther Ling, Jr. (I can hear these righties yelling back through history: "Hey! You're not black! You're not being lynched! Why are you with the blacks?!").
Essentially, Moore is asking for his taxes to be raised because he can afford to give more for the good of the many. Similarily, Frank's Uncle within Ragged Dick gives money to Dick to help him in his life. However, Moore is not arguing for more hand outs to be given. He does not believe that by donating money to the poor, they will achieve a radical change in lifestyle, what he does believe, however, is that by lowering their taxes, and raising the rich's, that they will be able to live a comfortable life. Alger conveys the same message when he asks people to donate to children's charities, a message that tells his audience that it is not fair for people to struggle when a simple change in a system could enrich their lives.

The Alger Myth cannot be considered as truthful to a contemporary audience because it is very, very rare for anyone to become substantially rich, and it is even unlikely to believe in Alger's message of a respectable person will have a respectable living because the American Dream has failed for so many.

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