The Ten Best of the Year

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It’s that time of year in the Westernized world, where the most recent jaunt around the sun clocks over according to the Gregorian calendar, and summaries are made of the most recent passage, 10 best or 20 best lists are made for films or plays or books, and promises are made to behave better in the coming year.

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The listings seldom include the proviso, the “10 best X that I saw” and even less likely that they include the bracket of why one saw X. In our world that would say “… of the X that the capitalist money/profit-oriented system allows me to see” or more exactly “forces” one to see. Capitalism, like Pope Gregory’s church was, is an all encompassing system, and in general for those within it most of its basic structural elements, and how they work on an individual, are invisible. Hence things that make very little or no money are in effect worthless, and rendered invisible.  Just as, for example, is the racism when a “poor” (in the USA often read, “black”) neighborhood gets gentrified, and the hip entrepreneurs move in a “revitalize” it, doing “good.” That all or most of the black folks who lived there seem to disappear is not racism, but rather the mystical magic hand of the market, aka, capitalism. Money, which is not mentioned, is perceived as neutral – it doesn’t see color, it only sees, um, more money.

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And so the list of films cited in this season invariably are those offered up by Hollywood, or various – often government subsidized – foreign films, which almost all meet certain criteria:  they cost a fair bit to make, they cost a fair bit to market; they come with name stars, often very big name stars (who happen in this system to make a very lot of $$). They often involve a lot of costly EFX, CGI, or wizardly camera pirouettes, lighting, and other flashy attention grabbers, as well as the SOP of sex and violence. The lists cast a veil over the truth, which is that what is given public exposure through this system is thoroughly conditioned by the needs/requirements of capitalism. The viewer is expected to accept that someone being paid, oh, 10 million dollars for their “work” acting for 6 weeks or 3 months is all OK. Or that a major league director, like a Spielberg or whomever would be his current equivalent (sorry I don’t track this much), would be paid similarly. Interestingly I bet most “liberal” viewers who perceive themselves as “hip” or “alternative” or whatever nomenclature they use to set themselves apart, and who would severely tsk tsk, say, a monstrously over-paid CEO, would not bat an eye at the money actors (or singers or sports folks, etc.) make. So seductive is this system, it tends to make us forget such things. Or, for many, it makes them yearn to be in the same shoes – to be beautiful/handsome, have lots of nice things, be famous, be rich.

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The clever thing about capitalism is that it reduces the world to an abstraction, which magically transmutes itself into real things. At the center of it, those who shuffle the actual money (which these days need not even bother to be printed up on paper with numbers on it) – the bankers, financiers, traders, hedge funders, etc., seem to always end up with the most money. Curious that. (Note that these persons have magically materialized as Donald Trump’s cabinet choices.)   And along the way it manages to erase all moral qualms: if it makes money, dang, it must be good, because things that aren’t good don’t make money. That’s how it is in such a system. You could sort of say, capitalism is a system of demoralizing.

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And so we’ll get our ten-best lists of myriad things, more or less all of which are leveraged by fame, fortune, hewing to conventions, and could be cited as perfect examples of how capitalism warps the minds of even the smartest among us, who will palaver over this or that film/play/book and never mention a word about the narrowed constrictions which actually produced the list. What is “good” is what you can see; what you can see is severely dictated by “the market,” what you can’t see doesn’t exist.  And it is all in an odd way carefully planned to be that way.

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It is precisely the way in which a Trump arrives as your new President, who often himself lists things from one to ten.

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