Monday, November 02, 2009

Collapse: coming soon to a civilization near you

Michael Ruppert in Collapse

There are various homilies that I have come to value as offering useful assitance in life. "Never ask anything of a folly save what it accomplishes" is one. Another comes from everyone's favourite aged reprobate, William S. Burroughs, from his "Words Of Advice:" "Beware of whores who say they don't want money. The hell they don't. What they mean is, they want more money. Much more." The logic of this latter quote can be productively applied to Michael Ruppert: anyone who calls his publication (newsletter, blog, what-have-you) "From The Wilderness" absolutely craves mainstream validation.

If so, Michael Ruppert's moment in the sun - if he's ever going to have one - may be just around the corner, as a new documentary, Collapse - starting November 17th at the Vancity Theatre - brings his theories to the widest audience they have yet received. In the film, Ruppert is given close to 90 minutes to present an articulate, provocative argument for his rather grim prognosis for the world, once oil supplies run out - a view my Mom, still with limited language abilities since her stroke, summarized, most articulately, after we watched the film last night, as "Doom, doom, doom." (My father was more impressed - noting Ruppert's egomania but not being bothered by it, rather to his surprise). The film resembles an Errol Morris doc, right down to the Philip Glass-esque score; is concise; and director Chris Smith (American Movie) is reasonably supportive of Ruppert - though he does catch him in one rather embarrassing non-sequitur. A bit of illustrative archival footage aside - including film of a younger Ruppert in action - it's mostly just Ruppert talking (and chainsmoking with a conviction seen by few).

For those of you who don't know of him: Ruppert is an ex-cop and writer who has been doomsaying and engaging in provocative political muckraking, whistleblowing, speculation and prediction with fervour and passion for around 15 years, beginning with his assertions that the CIA were involved in drug sales in Los Angeles - which got him thrown off the force and, he says, shot at. He wrote one book embracing a variant of 9/11 conspiracy theory, which he has now apparently thrown out - having found the baby in the bathwater, which is the concept of peak oil. As we presume is now reflected in his more recent A Presidential Energy Policy, he believes - and it's hardly that marginalized or radical a view, even if there are many millions of people who have not yet seriously considered it - that we're headed for a global economic disaster, as known oil reserves run out and new ones cease to materialize. Ruppert doesn't place much stock in any of the most popular alternative sources of energy, doesn't see our society preparing itself as earnestly as it should be, and accuses various figures at the top of concealing the truth from the public and failing to respond appropriately to the true crisis that faces us.
Well, fair enough. "Even a broken clock is right twice a day" - a homily I have applied to Ruppert many a time; if his "connect-the-dots" logic is quintessential conspiracy-think, that doesn't mean he's wrong. The truth is, Ruppert doesn't even seem all that broken in this film... tho' there is one point where he starts sobbing, having made a pronouncement about how tribal values and family commitments are the things that will see us through these hard times, not the "rugged individualism" of the past. He apologizes briefly, saying "he has emotions" about these matters, before the tears start. I will leave it to others to say whether this is a) Ruppert's sincere and touching expression of feelings about the value of human community; b) a sham of the same, designed to make him seem sympathetic; or c) an eruption of self-pity that his own "rugged individualism" should be, by his own predictions, outmoded. It does suggest that the personal stakes Ruppert has in his views are fairly high; but if he has hearty ego investments in his apocalyptic pronouncements, that's also not necessarily to be held against him - the human ego can inform all manner of human behaviour, including the desire to save the world, or at least convince it that it's in deep trouble. By the end of the film, you almost want the world to collapse, just so Ruppert can feel vindicated...

In any event, the film is compelling. If you enjoyed any of Errol Morris' docs focusing on single subjects, or James Toback's Tyson, or if you're just of a grim apocalyptic mindset and want to be cheered by hearing how bad things could get, you should definitely see Collapse. It seems that Ruppert's own personal "peak oil" - the moment at which he will command the maximum amount of attention and respect he will ever get - is approaching. He would never be commanding this degree of attention were it not for the world's recent economic woes, which, he says had been anticipating for some time (along with dozens of other less vocal but equally intelligent observers of the planet). People are just scared enough that they may well be ready to embrace this once marginal figure. Maybe it'll even do the masses some good - beats the shit out of gobbling up crap like The DaVinci Code, anyhow. Even if nothing he says is that revelatory, having the bad news laid out to you by a man so passionate is not a bad thing.
Read more about Collapse, or view the trailer, at the official site.

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