Tetragrammaton with Rick Rubin - Eugene Jarecki

Episode Date: February 28, 2024

Eugene Jarecki is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning director of dramatic and documentary subjects. He has won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival twice — for Why We Fight in 2005 and ...The House I Live In in 2012. His other films include the Emmy-Award Winning Reagan, The Trials of Henry Kissinger, Freakonomics, and The Cyclist. In 2010, Jarecki’s online video, Move Your Money, spurred a nationwide initiative to support local banks over larger institutions. As the founder of The Eisenhower Project, Jarecki aims to demystify U.S. foreign and defense policies, a mission furthered by his book The American Way of War. His most recent film, The King—which explores the complex legacy of Elvis Presley against the backdrop of American society—was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Music film of the Year and 2 News and Documentary Emmys, including Best Documentary. ------ Thank you to the sponsors that fuel our podcast and our team: Squarespace https://squarespace.com/tetra ------ LMNT Electrolytes https://drinklmnt.com/tetra ------ House of Macadamias https://www.houseofmacadamias.com/tetra

Discussion (0)
Starting point is 00:00:00 I'll say without, with no embarrassment, my older brother Andrew was a hero to me. He was six years older, and he was a theater director, and he was an unbelievably beautiful theater director. And I was so inspired when I would go to see his plays. I just wanted to be just like him. So when I got to university, it seemed like a, maybe not a very original choice, but my godfather, Melvin Van Peebles, who had also inspired Andrew.
Starting point is 00:00:49 Melvin had been a theater maker, he had two huge Broadway shows, and then another in my childhood, I was his little assistant, and I became his stage manager on a Broadway show that Melvin did called Waltz of the Stork. And prior to that, he had done Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death,
Starting point is 00:01:05 which is one of the most anthemic pieces of work about Black America that I've ever encountered. And he did Don't Play Us Cheap, which was also hugely powerful. And my life was shaped by a theater maker in many ways in Melvin.
Starting point is 00:01:17 And then my brother echoed that and gave it shape in the body of a pudgy white Jewish kid. Because it was hard to make the leap to be Melvin in a lot of situations. was hard to make the leap to be Melvin. In a lot of situations, I used to go out with girls and Melvin, I've gone out with a girl or two in my life. And Melvin at that time would give me kind of like
Starting point is 00:01:35 father-son ladies advice, but I don't think I can say that. I mean, I'm not like some super handsome black dude from Chicago, like, I don't think that's good. Trust me, he'd say. So I muster up the courage to say some relatively I mean, I'm not like some super handsome black dude from Chicago. Like, I don't think that's good. Trust me, he'd say. So, I muster up the courage to say some relatively like kind of bold thing to a woman and my teens or my, you know, I'd say something to somebody and wouldn't go over that well. And I'd go back to Melvin, I'd say, Melvin, that thing blew up in my face.
Starting point is 00:01:59 That terrible idea you gave me. He goes, what would you say? And I tell him what I said. And invariably, I changed it slightly, you know, to cater to the audience, you know, to tone it down a little bit. He'd go, well, I can't, I can't help you. That's not what I told you to say. You put the very ingredient in it that doomed it. He was wonderful about it. Well, with theater, I didn't know how to replicate him. What was going on in your house that allowed you and your brother both to go into theater?
Starting point is 00:02:24 Yeah. interesting. So it was by inspiration and rejection. We come from a rather specific social mode in the middle of the 20th century Jews coming from Europe to America and being very from Europe to America and being very politically drawn toward the struggle of black people in America. So Jews saw, we heard them singing, go down Moses. We saw a people that were being treated as slaves.
Starting point is 00:02:56 The Jews had a slavery in our history. We saw a people trying to get voice and being ostracized and ghetto-wise and all these things that echoed the Jewish experience. And I say, we meaning my parents before us. So when we come along, my brothers and I, we're all children of flight. We're all people who have been taught to think, don't get too comfortable. It can turn and all. Your parents came from Europe? My father.
Starting point is 00:03:20 Your grandparents. My father came in 1939, fled as a child. Yes. Berlin and Stettin, Germany, and went to America. And my mother was born in Brooklyn. Two parents who had themselves fled the czars of Russia in an earlier pogrom. As such, the kids in my family are all taught, your children a flight, it can change in a heartbeat.
Starting point is 00:03:41 And the way you prepare for that is to be vigilant even if you're comfortable And you can't be vigilant about boo-hoo. I have a comfortable life of a white Jewish kid So they were like who are the people who need our brotherhood? Who are the people who need our care and it was overt from birth? It was in our breakfast cereal that our colleagues in the American story were black people. And that is why the civil rights movement was so heavily infused by Jewish partnership with black America. It's why the first founders, the first people running the NAACP were Jews.
Starting point is 00:04:16 It's why there was a tremendous venture of blacks and Jews in America. And it's something that people should study more because when those two groups were together, it was a tremendous bulwark against right wing intrusion against civil rights. In other words, that voting block, and look at how Jews voted for Obama overwhelmingly, there is a long history to the black Jewish struggle and a great tragedy in the way it fell apart. Beautiful book by Jonathan Kaufman called Broken Alliance. That how it fell apart.
Starting point is 00:04:49 Cut to as a kid, I'm growing up with a very politically charged backdrop. I have the incredible fortune to meet Melvin Van Peebles when I'm a child. And how did that happen? He got to know my parents in New York and he came to our house one day. I was a little kid. I saw a black guy. I ran up to him with a basketball and said, hey sir, you play basketball?
Starting point is 00:05:11 Just assuming, like pure innocent racism. And he laughed his ass off and went out to the basketball court with me and I played Hoop with Melvin when I was five, I think. And he took me on as a project. He saw something in me. He died last year, so I don't talk about it that often. Anyway, we all have somebody who-
Starting point is 00:05:39 No, but it's a tribute. I mean, tell me about Melvin. Yeah, he's one of the greatest people. How old was he when he passed? He was 90, it's just about to be 90. And he had a great life. The best. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:05:53 The best. And one day when we were younger, Melvin became very, very close friend of my mother over time, in addition to helping me. And this sums up everything about him. He was playing tennis with my mom one day. And my mom and he really liked to play tennis, but Melvin's out in the tennis court.
Starting point is 00:06:10 Melvin always knew in those days it was quite an anomaly, black guy played tennis. There were pictures of him when he was a kid and tennis whites, he loved that. He loved the irony of it. So he was playing tennis with my mother one day and they got done with the game and he came huffing and puffing to the side
Starting point is 00:06:24 and he said to her, Gloria, are you playing your hardest out there? And she said, no. He said, I didn't think so. Why not? And she said, well, in Brooklyn, my father told us, don't beat men. They don't like it. And Melvin said to her, well, this man does. And he changed her life.
Starting point is 00:06:45 He opened up the spectrum of who she could freely be. He did that with everyone around him. He was an encourager, an emboldener. I try to be that because I'm trying to live up to what he gave me. So he emboldened me to think I could do a lot of things. That's beautiful. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:07:04 So lucky to have that in your life. I mean, I don't know who I to think I could do a lot of things. That's beautiful. Yeah. So lucky to have that in your life. I mean, I don't know who I would be. We wouldn't be sitting here. I wouldn't know what I would have ended up being. He is the most formative. My parents are extraordinary, and I draw so much from both of them. Melvin, in a way, took those raw materials, and in a way that someone who isn't your parent can reach you more freely
Starting point is 00:07:27 Almost by design. He happens to then also be a brilliant intelligent designer and he did tremendous work on me with an endless degree of patience and Tolerance and Togetherness so why never why do you think he did that? He was a born educator He's a folksy person
Starting point is 00:07:53 he loves to sit and chat and Shoot the shit and past time and even though he fought so many battles about race and identity in his life It's an extremely humorous person loved person. He loved to play pranks. I remember the feeling of his cold hands on my feet, because we shared an apartment in New York. I'd be complaining about my tough life as a 22 year old kid trying to be a movie maker in New York. He's just come back from a 19 mile run.
Starting point is 00:08:21 He's been up for two hours running, and he comes in to wake me up with his bony cold hand on my feet Suddenly telling me it's cold outside. I've already been out. You're still in bed But he would never make you feel bad about that He just pranked you up and it kicked you into gear and made you approach battles with humor Beautiful. Yeah, he's he knew how to be a long-distance runner for justice, not a sprinter. And I've been a long-distance runner for everything that I've tried to get done in the world.
Starting point is 00:08:51 I can really go against a little bit as a filmmaker. Wonderful. So, Melvin is so many things, and because he's popularly understood to be an uncompromising motherfucker when it comes to matters of race and representation. He was making sweet back at a time where people say, how the fuck did you get, where did this come from? And he said, I just was making the things
Starting point is 00:09:16 I didn't get to see, because no one was making things for Black Outs. Did he invent Blacksploitation movies? Yeah, and it's a funny legacy isn't it? Because that doesn't sound like he invented a good thing, because Blacksploitation is. Yeah, and it's a funny legacy isn't it? Because that doesn't sound like he invented a good thing because Blacksploitation is by then the echo, it's let's commercialize what Melvin did in Sweet Back. Let's take what Melvin did, which was,
Starting point is 00:09:33 it's Melvin will say, I'm not a saint. I wasn't trying to make a piece of social justice art. He said, I made a movie I thought black people would wanna see. Yeah, and that he wanted to see. Yeah, and that I wanted to see. He said it's a great movie. Perfect. And a hero story, and he once said to me,
Starting point is 00:09:47 he goes, look, when Steven Spielberg goes into a movie office, they don't say to him, so what's the next project you're gonna make about being a white bearded Jewish guy in Hollywood? They say, what Martian are you gonna, what this, he's allowed to do whatever he wants. He said, in my case, it was always, we had to make the step and fetch it black guy movie. We had to make the thing that made white people feel it was okay
Starting point is 00:10:09 to have the system in place that they had. And in Sweetback, a pimp watches cops abuse a young man and the pimp kills both cops, then goes on the run across California with the police chasing him. Rambo's style, before there was Rambo, he defeats everything they throw at him, including killing a herd of dogs that they send after him. And then he gets over the border to Mexico, and he wins. The black anti-hero wins,
Starting point is 00:10:39 and he leaves the white cops foiled at the border. He was that in your face. And it was very popular and there was nothing like it. It was the highest grossing independent picture of all time in 1971, paid partly by people who gave him some private money and basically the streets of San Francisco. They let him, he had been a cable car operator
Starting point is 00:10:59 in San Francisco, so he used the whole community, people he knew from. Do you know how we got into filmmaking? Yes, yes, Yes. Tell me so Melvin as a young person was a very multifaceted thinker as a cable car operator He wrote a book about the cable car system of San Francisco called the Big Heart
Starting point is 00:11:18 Which is all about the operation of the cable car system like a beating heart and there's beautiful photographs and some amazing cable cars of the cable car system like a beating heart. And there's beautiful photographs of the operating of cable cars. Then he ends up going to, he goes into the military where he studies to be a, and is a celestial navigator within the Air Force. That brings him to Amsterdam. I think he goes to study painting in Amsterdam.
Starting point is 00:11:37 And after his painting study in Amsterdam, he ends up on the streets of Paris. Semi-homeless, I say semi, because Melbourne being homeless means he's sleeping with a different woman every night and therefore has about seven places to stay but doesn't have his own address, but can play the hell out of a kazoo because on the street he'd play the kazoo for money and a beautiful little short film was made by the French system at that time about him and he part-laid that into some, a kind of a role in the French culture at that time about him, and he part-laid that into some kind of a role in the French
Starting point is 00:12:06 culture of the time because he began writing for the magazine then called Harakiri, which became Charlie Hebdo. The men who were killed- Was this like the 1950s? Yes. And the men who were killed at Charlie Hebdo when that hate crime was committed against them, Melvin knew all of them, and there's beautiful old black and white footage of Melvin from the 60s with those guys late 50s early 60s being the amazing black American intellectual that they're putting on a huge pedestal as French people with really
Starting point is 00:12:36 warm race politics and really interesting race politics. So Melvin is writing his friends with Chester Himes and he's writing fiction for the guys at Harakiri, which is a satirical magazine, and he starts making little short films. And the most, the initial one is called Sunlight. And he makes two or three of those, and then he makes La Permission. And La Permission is called Story of a Three Day Pass, is already in your face. It's a black American GI, gets a weekend pass to go have some R&R, and he hooks up with a white woman in France. And guys at the base see him. There's a dramatic
Starting point is 00:13:11 situation that comes out of that. But story of a three-day pass gets admitted to the San Francisco Film Festival. So, Melvin arrives at the airport, and there's a lady there to pick him up, and she's speaking French to him because they know he's the French delegate to the San Francisco. He said, lady, I'm from Chicago because his name originally was Melvin Peebles. His middle name is Van, the word. So Melvin is not stupid. It's somebody who goes, that's a nice ring to it, Melvin Van Peebles.
Starting point is 00:13:39 So he started calling himself Melvin Van Peebles. So the San Francisco film festival thought they had a French guy coming in terms of a black American. So he penetrated the system and suddenly he was a name. And that led then to sweep back to watermelon man and to a career that was in your face. And I say that because you asked what was he like as a filmmaker, he was the opposite of that as a human being. It's very interesting. filmmaker, he was the opposite of that as a human being. It's very interesting.
Starting point is 00:14:06 The most tender person, knows everyone on the team, deals with people with incredible grace and humility. We'd come to a sound mix and Melvin would have some big clunky bag with him. And we'd meet the mixer who's like a Texan guy, not even particularly necessarily liberal in his thing or whatever. And I go, hey, Michael, so great to see you. I got your favorite Omaha Steaks. And he's coming with Steaks he knows the guy likes. He remembers from seven years ago that the guy likes, oh, and the guy,
Starting point is 00:14:38 you can see the guy melt with the feeling that someone has who usually gets taken by the roadside because he was the sound mixer, right? But this guy who's an illustrious filmmaker knows that without the sound mixer, a movie is dead. Melvin taught me that every trade mattered. He also taught me to learn every trade, because he'd done everything. He'd run the camera on sunlight.
Starting point is 00:15:01 So he taught me from a certain early age that, and he put people with me who protected me from being a fuck up. So he'd have from a certain early age that and he put people with me who protected me from being a fuck up. So he'd have a couple people and I'd say, listen, I know you like that hot new DP. And I saw as real. It's cute. Nice. You're going to use this old guy with his old World War two camera. Who knows what he's doing. He knows what he's doing and he will protect you from the fact that you don't know what you're doing yet. And the other thing Melvin did was told me
Starting point is 00:15:26 not to make films. When I was 21 years old, having watched him battle the system, he was already blacklisted by the time I'm in college. I get out of college and I go to him, I said, Melvin. Tell me what blacklisting looked like then. He just couldn't get a job because it was just thought, oh, you're gonna make trouble.
Starting point is 00:15:41 We've got a lot of other nice black eyes here. We don't need you stirring up. We love you, Mel, baby, but that thing you wanna do is too in your face. You know, the guy kills the guy in the end and you know, da, da, da, da. Or very often, I mean, the watermelon man story is the definitive one.
Starting point is 00:15:56 Watermelon man is about a white guy who wakes up one morning to discover that he's black. And it's a comedy about how that ensues and what a mayhem it is for a white guy to come. So they have a first meeting at Universal and they all sit down to talk about the project and the executives say, hey Melvin, who are you thinking for the lead role? Melvin said, I thought Gottfried Cambridge, the big black actor at the time. And they said, oh, that comes quite a surprise Mel. Well, what'd they think?
Starting point is 00:16:24 Well, we were thinking Jack Lemon. Well, Melvin said, but the guy comes quite a surprise, Mal. What'd they think? Well, we were thinking Jack Lemon. Well, they said, but the guy's only white for one scene. So you're gonna spend all that hair and makeup so that you can have a white actor be in blackface all the time? Why don't you just have a black actor and you only need to put him in whiteface for the first scene? Then he's just himself for the rest of the movie.
Starting point is 00:16:43 Da, da, da, da, da. So it's this unbelievably complicated situation and Melvin prevailed. But the, I guess in a sense what I would say to you is that that debate between Melvin and the studio about how your thinking should happen in a situation like that. Melvin took a, how do I put it?
Starting point is 00:17:09 He puts Godfrey Cambridge in whiteface for one scene. Only Melvin thinks you could put someone in whiteface when I've been watching you put people in blackface for all this time. They didn't want that anymore. Once they did it with him, they realized, this guy is seismically different from how we think. So by the time-
Starting point is 00:17:29 But people loved the movie. Yes, but he was trouble and black exploitation and other forms had already done Melvin light. And so it was possible to go to Melvin Light. There are musicians like this who are the real deal, and then we end up, Madonna is where we begin, and she's kind of wearing women's lingerie in public, and she's got those crucifixes on, and Playboy asks her once upon a time, I remember, I couldn't believe
Starting point is 00:18:03 it, her answer, they said, you're a confusing figure. Your name is Madonna, you sing about virginity and this and that, very religious themes, but you've got crucifix, it's also very pornographic, you've got crucifixes. She said, I don't see the problem. And they said, well, the crucifixes, don't you feel they have a naked man on them? And I was like, oh man, she's loaded for bear. So she's the original, a major intellectual figure, inventing a lane, I think it's Schopenhauer said, talent hits a target no one else can hit.
Starting point is 00:18:36 Genius hits a target no one else can see. But Donna saw a lane nobody had seen. X years later, what does the music industry do? You end up with Britney Spears. Not to say anything bad about Britney, is that actually a fascinating evolution? But when Britney first appears, she's just the lingerie, she's just servicing male tropes about women
Starting point is 00:18:56 with none of the complicated shit, none of what got her there. Melvin's the same thing. Melvin is an original, and it's easier to go with cola light later, because easier on the hands. By the time that happens, I'm 21 years old, I come to Melvin thinking, I'm embarrassed to say this, so disclaimer, I had a paternalistic notion that as a comfortable white connected Jewish person in America, I could now give back to him. I could help him past the blacklist.
Starting point is 00:19:29 If I became a filmmaker, this is incredibly arrogant, but if I became a filmmaker and gave back to him some of the helping hand he'd been tirelessly giving me, I like wanting to be helpful, but the notion that that was a design, I thought, because it just tells you how clueless I was about how I would struggle. My life was a huge struggle for 15 years.
Starting point is 00:19:48 I didn't get anything over, but I thought, well, that was easy. I made a short film, Hollywood will be calling, and I'll bring Uncle Mel in and get him a gig while I do Spider-Man. I mean, I literally thought something like this. So I come to Melvin with this scheme, having made my little short film. No, no, no. I came to him even before the short film that won some accolades at that time, I was 21.
Starting point is 00:20:08 And I come to him, I said, Melvin, I'm graduating in June and I'm gonna make a film this summer. Okay, I said, aren't you happy about it? No. So, didn't this is what we've been planning for? You taught me all these things, didn't you think I was gonna do this? Not now. I said, why not? He goes, you don't you think I was going to do this? Not now.
Starting point is 00:20:25 I said, why not? He goes, you don't have any stories to tell. What are you going to talk about? College? They don't even say, the cars, I went to Princeton. You cross roads, the Princeton cars stop just because you're walking across the road. I think Princeton kids, when they go out in the rest of the world, they get hit by cars all the time.
Starting point is 00:20:41 It's a complete bubble. And he said, you don't have anything to do. I said, well, what do you want me to do? Work on an oil tanker. And every time I went to you want me to do? Work on an oil tanker. And every time I went to him, he'd say work on an oil tanker. I then made that film. I disobeyed him. Most beautiful thing about him and it goes to how he made films and integrated that with
Starting point is 00:20:58 his humanity. The next time I came to him with a cut, he didn't say to me, oh, you're bringing me the film I told you not to do. He said, okay, well, what you gotta do now with this scene is blank, blank, blank. What are we gonna do about we, always the word we? Now what do we do? What's the thing?
Starting point is 00:21:14 He never faulted anything. But every now and then I would come to him and I'd say, Melvin, I made the film. It won a student academy award thing and it won, I went to Sundance. Look, I I'm going grab and I moved to LA Okay, what do you think I should do work on an oil tanker? So my Melvin. I've made the film I'll lose all the momentum what momentum you're on page 34 of variety. We'll show I think that's not bad But don't confuse yourself. Don't read your own press releases. You got growing to do that. I don't know
Starting point is 00:21:43 It was not until I failed spectacularly for several years compared to what I thought I would achieve that I came to him and he changed that He changed the slogan. I guess he figured it just changed it up. He said you got to get on a bus Bus so for the next bunch of months every time I talk and get on the bus come on the bus One day and he wouldn't let me take a train. He said, you have to take the bus to Greyhound. He had me go down to the Greyhound station in New York City.
Starting point is 00:22:10 He gave me 25 bucks and a backpack. And I got on the bus and the rule was, wherever you go, you find day work across this country. And if you can find day work and it pays from hotel rooms, sleep in a motel and get a good shower. If you can't find day work, get back on the bus because you can sleep on the bus and then get off at the next place.
Starting point is 00:22:30 So I crossed America because of that. How long did you do that for? About two months. What type of jobs did you have? A shopping center bagger. I did a lot of yard work for people because a lot of times when you'd come to a town there'd be an open call at the labor office
Starting point is 00:22:43 and you could just go do burning of stuff in people's yards and clean up their stuff. I worked for the Amish for two weeks. I got off the bus in Amish Country, breath-taking. I'm interested in Amish people. Me too, me too. I'd like to learn more. It's beautiful and complex.
Starting point is 00:22:57 Seem happy. Yes, as we think about the way the world is spiraling right now, I'm drawn toward life ways that expressed a rigidity once upon a time. Helen and Scott Nearing wrote The Good Life and then moved from Lower Manhattan to the main woods and became huge figures for many people in the back-to-the-land movement. They moved because they were war protesters of America's entry into World War I. So they were war protesters all the way back then, and it's always interesting to see the people who were putting on the brakes at much earlier times when we're thinking, how do
Starting point is 00:23:39 I put on the brakes now? The Amish put on the brakes a long time ago. We don't use elevators. We don't use cars. We don't use technology. The good news about it's like Rastafarianism, its Old Testament self-imposed exile from the runnings of a time that seemed toxic in Old Testament terms. Rastafarians, for example, hold to the idea that there's no such thing as private property. So the idea, I mean, there was in 1976 in Dominica, an island in the Caribbean, not the Dominican Republic, a law was passed that you could shoot a rasta
Starting point is 00:24:16 on site. So there's no secret to the fact that these groups that put on the brakes, it often ends up like Waco, It often ends up like Ruby Ridge, because someone says, this is not working for me. And the social management headquarters say, that's not in our standard deviation. We don't allow for that margin of difference. So the Amish interested me too, and I got off the bus in a world that was all Amish people.
Starting point is 00:24:42 And through One Hooker Crook found my way to living with an Amish family for two through One Hooker Crook found my way to living with an Amish family for two weeks, and the stories I could tell you from that experience. Tell me, I wanna hear. Okay, so to give you an example, I was fascinated by what they knew of the outside world. So I said there were two brothers.
Starting point is 00:24:58 Much or little? Little, little, but on a need-to-know basis. These kids don't even go past eighth grade because you don't need anything past eighth grade for what they're doing. So they see no reason in dazzling you with a lot of hocus pocus that doesn't thresh the wheat, that doesn't keep the cows,
Starting point is 00:25:19 that doesn't hold the family together and doesn't serve their religion. hold the family together and doesn't serve their religion. So much of today's life happens on the web. Squarespace is your home base for building your dream presence in an online world. Designing a website is easy, using one of Squarespace's best-in-class templates. With a built-in style kit, you can change fonts, imagery, margins, and menus, so your design will be perfectly tailored to your needs. Discover unbreakable creativity with Fluid Engine, a highly intuitive drag-and-drop editor. No coating or technical experience is required. Understand your site's performance with in-depth website analytics tools.
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Starting point is 00:26:47 Squarespace makes it easy to create and customize a beautiful website. Visit squarespace.com slash tetra and get started today. Is it a religion? It's a religion. It's a religion. Yes, it's a religious sect. And for example, in our country... It's a Christian religious sect? Yes, it's an Old Testament Christian religious sect.
Starting point is 00:27:07 And understand it this way, the Mennonites are a different variation, a different interpretation of the same direction the Amish are in, but the Mennonites can drive cars. So by the time I got to Amish country, the Mennonites drive the Amish around. So they get along with each other, they coexist, But they have a different set of beliefs and rules. Yes. And the Amish are in a fuzzy space as I encounter them because they are having to deal with modernity. They can't survive the milk price doing it the old way they do it.
Starting point is 00:27:36 So how do they do it? So for example, I came there and I worked on the threshing wheat. And that means that we were gathering the wheat from the field and then bringing it to a thresher. Well, that trip to get to the thresher was far because it wasn't on the farm because the church locally, the leadership of it had decided, okay, we got a problem, sticking to the old ways we can't even eat. So how much can we bend toward what's happening and what they decided was we can have one threshing machine that we collectively use.
Starting point is 00:28:05 This is the kind of thing we all should be thinking. This is carpooling. we can have one threshing machine that we collectively use. This is the kind of thing we all should be thinking. This is carpooling. This is a shared economy. They were doing it long before we're only doing it because it's being slammed on our head that the whole world's on fire. Duh, you think we ought to slow down our rapacious use of everything?
Starting point is 00:28:23 The Amish were against that for their own reasons in a sort of Calvinist self-denying way that seemed correct to the asceticism of that faith. So, when I go there, what that's also doing is closing their mind a bit. You know, closing your mind a bit is good. You know better than anybody that meditation, the hardest thing I would struggle with if I tried to meditate in the way that you do is the dealing with a barrage of thoughts and mind wanderings. They've been in the business of don't go there or the beautiful thing about meditative practice is as I see them evolving for Western people
Starting point is 00:29:00 today. And that's all I can know about it because God knows what's real. But I know what I'm getting filtered to me through friends and guiding light people is, yeah, your thoughts may wander. Don't get mad at yourself when they do. Just let them come back and just note that it keeps happening and it might happen less in the future and that'd be information for you about your own kind of mindfulness. There's a mindfulness that came out of that Amish faith that is probably similar to Wade, those traditions of mindfulness in the East came organically too, because if you're in touch, I mean, there was a beautiful phrase by a Native American chief in T.C. McLuhan's book, Touch the Earth, a masterpiece, Marge McLuhan's daughter about Native American people and their wisdom. It's a about Native American people and their wisdom.
Starting point is 00:29:45 It's a compendium of Native American wisdom. I promise I'll send it to you because I love Touch the Earth. And in it, a chief says, the native man squatting in his teepee, smoking his pipe and contemplating his role in the larger universe was man at his highest state of advancement.
Starting point is 00:30:06 Ever since the arrival of Europeans, we have been stunted in our growth. So I step off the bus in Amish country and I go and live and work with these people and I start to to plumb the depths of what they know and don't know. I think a little bit like a prurient fascination, but it evolved into something deeper. So one night by the gas lights that are burning over our heads and making a noise like gas burning and hot as blazes and garish light, it's not cozy little house on the prairie. This is hardcore gas burning, somehow that's okay in the faith. So we're talking and I said, you guys know who Bill Clinton is? Because he was president. One
Starting point is 00:30:54 of them said, does he live here in Apple Creek? And by the way, if anyone hears the words Apple Creek, yes, this is the same Amish town where 20 years later, a man saw children in the corn throwing pebbles at his car, and he opened fire with an assault rifle and killed them all in the corn. Apple Creek is the site of a massacre of Amish people by the English because the Amish call us the English. They said to me, you're English, we're Amish. That's how they understand their role in our history, in the nation's history.
Starting point is 00:31:29 And so he asked about Bill Clinton. Does America exist for them? Well, that was the next one was. You'll love the answer. He's the perfect question. Does he live here in Abba Creek? No, that's not exactly it. The other brother said, I know,
Starting point is 00:31:43 he's the president of the United States of Ohio. This is a little bit like that. I think it's a Gene Roddenberry story where they go on a time travel thing in the past and somebody accidentally dropped something off the ship and it changes the course of history is like that thing. I was like, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say in here. Like, I don't know what a little knowledge could do in here. But one of them says to me, you know, I left for a while. I did rum-schpringen. Rum-schpringen is when they go off on their own. The filmmaker Lucy Walker has made a masterpiece called Devil's Playground.
Starting point is 00:32:14 It's one of the most beautiful documentaries ever made. I'd love to see that too. It shames what I did with the Amish because all I did with the Amish was be and live and work among them but I didn't get to know what she got to know. She went really deep. But I'll say for the record that what I did get was beautiful. We sit and one of the kids says, yeah, I left the farm. Where'd you go? Down the road. He'd gone like four houses down. I was like, that's it? Well, that was the first time. Okay. Okay. And there was another time? Yeah. Where'd you go?
Starting point is 00:32:46 Kansas. Okay, you went all the way to Kansas. Wow. And how was that? Where'd you go? Well, there was some other Amish in Kansas, so I started there and I was living among them, but they were much freer. They did more things than we do.
Starting point is 00:33:00 Like what? Well, they saw movies. And I said, do you see any movies? Yes, he said. Like what? Well, they saw movies. And I said, do you see any movies? Yes, he said. And the brother started leaning forward in his chair because he doesn't seem to have ever heard this story. They don't talk that way.
Starting point is 00:33:15 So he's willing to talk to me because he's fascinated by what I think is interesting about him. He doesn't know why I find him interesting. He said, yeah, I saw this movie. I said, what movie? Witness. Well, that's this movie. I said, what movie? Witness. Well, that's a movie about the Amish. It's a Hollywood movie with Kelly McGillis and Harrison Ford or something. I can't remember who it was, isn't it? So he says, I saw a witness. And I said, amazing, what did you get from him? For the next hour and a half, he told me shot by shot what he had seen. He knew every frame of witness. He knew
Starting point is 00:33:47 every line like a man in a desert with a drop of water. He knew everything. And the brother was completely transfixed by this story of this Amish kid who's in a bathroom of a bus station when a murder happens and get to the end of the story and it's amazing. I'm in awe. I loved hearing it again. The brother is fascinating We're having a great time He says me can I ask you a question? said, how did they know To have the cameras there when the murder happened
Starting point is 00:34:18 I said, but you know, I mean no murder. It's a movie. Well, I saw that I saw the murder. He said I mean, no murder. It's a movie. Well, I saw the, I saw the murder, he said. So, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, that's not real. Yes, it is. And the Amish boy was there. I said, that boy's not Amish. Yes, he is. He's an Amish boy. He's, he's, he's, the, and the men were English who came. I said, no, they're actors. Do you know what an actor is? No. I said, it's a pretender. I said, okay, take today. When we were threshing, what was I wearing? I said, okay, take today. When we were threshing, what was I wearing? He said, we gave you clothes, because they gave me an Amish hat,
Starting point is 00:34:48 unbelievably uncomfortable Amish shoes, who made a wood and overalls and stuff like that, and a shirt. And I said, so we were out in the field and I was dressed like Amish. Am I Amish? No, he said, you're English. I said, but I was dressed like Amish.
Starting point is 00:35:02 That's a movie. So I don't even know how. Do you know if they have fictional stories? Yarns not outside of the retelling. You know how very often the Bible ends up being like, and then this happened, and then this guy brought a goat to someone, so, and then there was a drought, and then they found, I think, it's like that.
Starting point is 00:35:23 They just have tall tales, yarn spun about their own stuff. Anything more than that would seem like dancing with the devil in a way. Like when Bach was playing that chord, and it was satanic, and you couldn't play that chord, and it broke a wall open in music, and it's the power chord today. It's the same thing. You start going into that stuff, you're getting off the reservation. So I had a groundbreaking time.
Starting point is 00:35:51 Your inner experience of it was, this is different than anything I've experienced before, hard to believe that this is happening. When you left there, was your feelings like, I wanna spend more time there? I feel like these are my friends, or did you feel like these are crazy people? I don't wanna be around this.
Starting point is 00:36:08 I definitely was already thinking that the standard operating procedure of the world in its capitalistic, classist, racist monstrosity was really, really painting me psychically. So to see people who were outside of it, even if in a slightly bizarre way, because their seclusion has side effects. They're working together with a good outcome. Incredible community. We used to, we'd thresh in the field and this huge wagon would come pulled by a tractor on certain
Starting point is 00:36:46 days and by a horse on other days and that depended whether there was a menonite with a tractor. So, but in most days it was a big horse, kind of cold-blooded horse. That thing would come empty with a giant jug. You know when you put a jug of water in the freezer and it ends up being half a block of ice and half some to try this water, that and it would sit there melting and we would all drink icy cold water while doing this thing. And then we would fill that wagon back up with hay with the water jug at the bottom of it, empty now.
Starting point is 00:37:18 It would go back and it would come back, the jug was full, the thing was empty and the threshing was going on and our job was to load those in huge amount of hay, huge amount of wheat. And the collectiveness of that action with those people was stunningly beautiful, chain gang. You felt the camaraderie. Yeah. I've seen the watermelon workers in Florida, the African Americans who still live in virtually a slave condition in Florida.
Starting point is 00:37:45 And despite the indignities of the way that they're asked to work and break their backs, that we have summer watermelon, those guys have fucking camaraderie. And so there's a camaraderie in the self-imposed exile that the Amish have that is also very beautiful. And I felt very drawn to understand better the examples. It's why I linked it to Rostfrinism because I'd been very drawn to Rostfrinism through the way in which Bob Marley from the tiny island he was coming from rocked the world. He was the most famous man in the world. There were 75,000 people living in Jamaica. This guy was more recognizable than Elvis. And that power of a resistant idea.
Starting point is 00:38:30 I've grappled with Rastafarianism over the years because it has problems. It's deeply sexist. It's got issues relating to that. I think... Everything has problems. Everything has problems, right? So with the Amish, I was taking the good with the... I don't even want to call it good and bad. I was taking the this and the that. And there was a lot of this and that in it. And Melvin is the reason I have an availability to countervailing viewpoints.
Starting point is 00:38:58 And I've learned more and more to check the extreme arrogance that I had when I was younger, when because George W. Bush was unleashing trillions of dollars to kill little people who had done nothing to America in a foreign country, I felt my operating procedure in response to that was either to assassinate him, but then that is both illegal and morally self-destructive because you're no better than he if you also kill because you think there's a reason to kill that's better than his reason. All despots think they're benevolent. So when I couldn't kill George W. Bush and see a moral totality in that, then I would make the film
Starting point is 00:39:52 that by any means necessary tries to stop this thing. And then I'm in the editing room thinking, do I lie? What if I came across evidence that really they were behind 9-11? What would I do? Would I be so captivated by my point, because I know what we're doing is wrong? What if I know what we're doing is wrong, but then I find out that the victim is wrong too? Would I allow that?
Starting point is 00:40:16 And my whole career has been the moments where I have to allow that, where I have to let my discoveries be inconvenient. And I'll give you an example of that. The most beautiful one in my life that I think changed my politics. I was talking to a beautiful person in a prison in Oklahoma who is a murderer. So it begins with a beautiful person who murdered a man during a meth transaction and shot him in the head and killed him. LMNT. Element electrolytes. Have you ever felt dehydrated after an intense workout or
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Starting point is 00:41:32 Drink it in the sauna. Refreshing flavors include grapefruit, citrus, watermelon, and for a limited time chocolate medley, which you can enjoy hot formulated with the perfect balance of sodium potassium and magnesium to keep you hydrated and energized throughout the day these minerals help conduct the electricity that powers your nervous system so you can perform at your very best element electrolytes are sugar-free keto-friendly and great tastingals are the stuff of life. So visit DrinkLMNT.com slash Tetra and stay salty with Element Electrolyte. LMNT. Can you tell me any more about the murder beforehand? Like what happened leading up to the murder?
Starting point is 00:42:33 This guy had been on meth for several days. His name is Larry. We lovingly call him Larry the Neo-Nazi. He was a neo-Nazi. He'd been on meth for several days and then he came into a dope deal with this guy and he thought the guy was shorting him in some way and things flew out of hand and he took out a gun and shot him. And he's serving life in Oklahoma in what's called the walls in Oklahoma, the roughest
Starting point is 00:42:55 prison they have. And I spent a lot of time with Larry and I fell in love with Larry fundamentally. He's one of them. I'll send you a video of him. He's one of the most beautifully spoken, thoughtful people. As soon as I met Larry, I knew I was looking at what Elvis Costello in Oliver's army called a white N-word. And I only use that N-word trope because Elvis himself has expressed disquiet with the fact that he has a song that has the n-word in it. But why did he put it there? He put it there because race is a huge factor in human history and the
Starting point is 00:43:31 oppression of peoples. In the modern era, we are all the n-word unless we are controlling the world. And a smaller and smaller group of people are controlling the world and they have set us against one another to distract us while they rob the commons. They're robbing the treasuries of the world, they're destroying the world, and they're keeping us fighting about pronouns and gender and race and all of the other toys that they throw on the counter for us to play with.
Starting point is 00:43:58 So Larry the Neo-Nazi was an unbelievable glimpse into the beautiful, majestic terrain inside a convicted white supremacist Nazi murderer. I had to deal with that. At the end of the interview, I said to him, having learned a lot about his journey, I said to him, I don't know if you know this, but I'm a Jewish person. Did you know that? And he said, I didn't know that.
Starting point is 00:44:25 And I said, do you care? Not anymore. I said, once upon a time, once upon a time, I would have walked away from you. I said, now. Said, now I figured we probably got more in common than we got different. We both want a home, family, and our piece of the American Dream. I want
Starting point is 00:44:47 everybody to have that. This guy speaks this way. I didn't write this shit. I'm literally just, it's burned in my memory because it was one of the most beautiful things anybody ever said. Larry threw me a giant inconvenience that day. I come in there and I'm making a film called The House I Live In, which is a look at the drug war in America and how it is a form of genocide basically against black people. And the more time I spend in it, I realize that
Starting point is 00:45:13 because nobody spoke up for black people, you remember what Pastor Nemoller said. First they came for the trade unionists and I was not a trade unionist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the communists and I was not a communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the communists, and I was not a communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Jews, and I was not a Jew. And so I said, and he goes, I don't know.
Starting point is 00:45:29 And then he says, and when they finally came for me, there was no one left to speak for me. So I'm now sitting with a man, and I'm realizing that more and more there are people like him who are a white N-word. They are getting the same shake that black people got and nobody stood up for them for the longest time. And I say to Larry, in the middle of this anti-prison movie that I'm making, the prison system is like concentration camps. It's throwing people in for the profit of an elite few. It's a monster that feeds on human beings. And I say to Larry, what's it like for you to have been in here?
Starting point is 00:46:06 And he said, well, being here in this prison is probably saved my life. And I said, how's that? It's probably the best thing that happened for me in my life. Giving me a chance to think about who I am, what I believe in, what my goals are in life. Out there it was pure mayhem. I couldn't. And I suddenly realized, Dostoevsky said, you can judge any society by the quality of its prisons.
Starting point is 00:46:33 What does it tell you when a guy says, what's the quality of our society that you want to judge? It's better in here than out there for someone like me. So all of a sudden I'm talking to Larry and I'm learning that he is saying to me, before you make a movie that vilifies the prison system, you gotta go much deeper than that because this is just a convenient symptom,
Starting point is 00:46:58 low hanging fruit for you. You gotta go really deep on who's controlling this situation. And a story emerged from that, where I would speak to prisoners after I spoke to Larry. I learned from Larry to speak to prisoners differently. The way Larry understood that prison was better for him, which a white progressive guy like me could never even find the guts to say,
Starting point is 00:47:20 because it sounds like I'm endorsing incarceration. Larry wasn't, Larry was saying, it was that fucked up out there, family structures destroyed, neighborhoods destroyed, Walmart's built, where there used to be community centers, towns that now have been gutted of the real resources that headstart a child,
Starting point is 00:47:38 in deference to the predation by corporations and the government and drugs. All of it, you flood the streets with all the toxins you can so the natives will fight among themselves and then you can have bigger police budgets. And I spoke to Larry and then I made a speech a day later and it was the first time I ever made the speech that way because I was speaking in a lot of prisons.
Starting point is 00:48:02 I miss those days and I'm drawn back there. So I made this speech and I said to the prisoners, you know in America today, I understand how relevant race is. I see you all sitting here. You got Chicano guys over here. You got your skin head Aryan nation guys over here. You've got black inmates over here and a bunch of riff-raff over here,
Starting point is 00:48:28 some gender fluid, you've got all kinds of stuff going on here. I said, you guys all think that you're in some gang fight with each other for advantage. The truth is, I can see all of you as a group, you're poor people. I could tell you're poor people from two miles, you're poor people, and the system is laughing at you. Cause it's got you fighting with each other so that you don't stop and wonder, it's not that I'm a pen of sheep and he's a pen of goats. Who's the shepherd?
Starting point is 00:48:59 Who's got us in here? There's this adage I keep hearing lately about the jar with the red ants and the black ants. If you put red ants and black ants in a jar and you kind of, you know, leave the lid a little off, they'll just climb all over each other, just mill around like ants do. Busy body talking to each other in some pheromones, whatever. The moment you close the jar and shake it, the ants go bat shit at each other. They eat each other to death.
Starting point is 00:49:25 And they never ask, who's shaking the jar? That was what I started to be able to say to prisoners, because Larry had taught me that it was not about race anymore. It had been about race when black people needed the rest of society to say, this is apartheid. And we didn't. So now it's coming to your neighborhood. And now you, Larry, are in here with no distinction from the black guy next to you in the next cell.
Starting point is 00:49:50 Stop fighting with him. Form a group here and stop letting the system divide you. And isn't that everywhere right now? So it was an interesting thing when the Occupy Wall Street movement happened. Because the Occupy Wall Street movement was everybody versus the elite. That's what it was against the banking system, against the financial system. And somehow it morphed into today's black, white, left, right thing, which is a completely different and outdated issue. The original Occupy, they were onto something.
Starting point is 00:50:29 And it seems like maybe the powers that be figured out a way, maybe through financing, to change the focus of that, to get everybody against each other again, to get the poor people against each other again. Yeah, that's Shakespeare said, busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels. And in that day and age,
Starting point is 00:50:49 the way you confused the public was with, there's a boogeyman from elsewhere coming to our shores. In these days, it's cleverer. Remember they always said, isn't the age of Facebook and Etsy and eBay, isn't that gonna be harder to make war? Well, yeah, people know a lot more about each other. There's McDonald, I think it was Tom Freedman said there's a Golden Arches rule, countries
Starting point is 00:51:12 that have McDonald's will never have war with each other, that kind of idea. There was an idea at the dawn of this mega capitalism, this turbo capitalism we're in, that it would be peacemaking. Well, we're seeing that that hasn't been the case case, hasn't been a day without war since it started. But what I do think is true about it is that it is harder for Russian people to think that they should be bombing Ukrainian people than it was before the internet. You're saying Russian people? Russian people.
Starting point is 00:51:40 Yeah, Russian people. They're not bombing. It doesn't matter. But what I'm saying is when a country has to get its soldiers from the populace, there's draft, but there's also been historically a tremendous amount of rallying patriotism if you look at sports teams and the way they're built about nations and the way we all think about national fights. We are all programmed to be very nationalistic.
Starting point is 00:52:03 Americans come to visit me in Germany and you can't believe how much they talk about all the kind of German stereotypes. If you talked about anything in America with that kind of stereotype, people say, you can't talk in those kind of, but they have no problem with Germany because once upon a time it was the other. Well, now the other is harder to construe
Starting point is 00:52:20 as an international threat, because we know the world much more. It's not so foreign to us. Players on soccer teams come from countries construed as an international threat. Because we know the world much more. It's not so foreign to us. Players on soccer teams come from countries, you want me to bomb. And I already saw their mom in the commercial kind of thing. Well, so then how do I generate a sense of boogie man?
Starting point is 00:52:36 It's more local. That guy's coming to take your job. Those gays are coming to change your child's perception of gender. Those abortionites are coming to invade your moral architecture. Tell me about the prison industrial complex. Yes. I think if people understood how the prison industrial complex works and what it is, it
Starting point is 00:52:58 sounds so technical, what is that really? They would understand more of what's happening across American life, far beyond just the prison system. You can trace the outlines of industrial complexes in virtually all American industries. There's a pharma industrial complex. There's a banking industrial complex. There's a military industrial complex. There's an insurance industrial complex, it goes on and on. The prison version of it and the military industrial version of it are instructive each in their own way on how American life is disfigured. These are disfiguring forces.
Starting point is 00:53:38 Walk me through exactly what they are. Okay. So, let's start with the military industrial complex because to be fair, it's where the term originated. And it was oddly enough. Eisenhower. Eisenhower, a Republican president who had been the heroic general of World War II, becomes president in the wake of that and discovers quickly that the country America became through the victory of World War II is a very different country
Starting point is 00:54:06 than the one he had studied at West Point, a very different country than the one that we idealize in our white people's dream life about the history of America. You know that lovely white picket fence country that forgets the death of the red man, that forgets the enslavement of the black man and the death of the black man by droves and black women and children. That fantasy is a million miles from what Eisenhower, a very honest person, discovers in the Oval Office. He discovers that the defense sector has exploded. It has become a defense sector.
Starting point is 00:54:44 There was no defense department before World War II. And now suddenly there is a defense department. Suddenly there is an air force. Suddenly there is a CIA. There are so many instruments of government that had never been there, about seven of them, the National Security Council, the National Security Advisor. All of these are posts that the director of the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, those are all posts and institutions that aren't in the Constitution that were needed in wartime. That's the military industrial complex.
Starting point is 00:55:16 We emerge from World War II, newly powerful, effectively a colossus astride the world and empire. And as such, that sector, that one that victory, is now put on a pedestal, and everything in American life comes through that, and we are told. You know those Airstream trailers? That's recycled B-52 metal. You know that toaster oven you got? That was devised in the military for quick bread making out on the field. You know that we're always told that everything. Gil Scott Heron has an unbelievable song called Work for Peace about the military industrial complex. Best song, everything Gil Scott Heron does is incredible. This is double incredible. And in the song, he has two amazing lyrics.
Starting point is 00:55:59 I mean, as many, but one says about the launching of the Gulf War, not the Iraq War. This is already the Gulf War long ago. He says, they brought us potbellied generals as luminaries. Two weeks ago, I hadn't heard of the son of a bitch. Now all of a sudden he's legendary. This idea that only the military can tell us about what should happen in war, when meanwhile, isn't it the non-military that thinks about peace? Isn't it the non-military, the people of clerical people, the people in the cloth, people in human rights people, hospital workers, doctors, teachers, shouldn't they have a say? At the height of the Iraq war, fairness and accuracy in reporting the Iraq war, Bush, W's war, at the height of the Iraq war, fairness and accuracy in reporting did a study of all the
Starting point is 00:56:49 major news outlets, and they saw that in the lead up to the Iraq War of 400 broadcasts, 393 featured military representatives, generals, admirals, colonels, et cetera, seven contained anti-war voices. These are all unelected people. They're unelected people, but they are the people who represent the joint venture between the capitalism of a media system, the capitalism of a weapons-making system, all of those capital interests, what Eisenhower called private pressure groups, meaning profit seekers warping the system, and those in governance who do their bidding. So this goes back a long way, but basically what Eisenhower was saying was, the defense
Starting point is 00:57:38 sector is warping American policy by creating boogeyman threat after boogeyman threat that keeps us from enjoying a peace dividend. The war was won. We should have gone back and turned our swords back into plowshares, but we didn't turn our swords back into plowshares. We're told to keep them as swords, and now we got to turn them into guns because the Russians are coming.
Starting point is 00:58:00 So the military industrial complex warning happened out of Eisenhower's mouth because he was afraid of what? He was watching the Democratic candidate who was running against him, John F. Kennedy, who was out on the campaign trail being a hawk and accusing the former general Eisenhower of having let America fall behind the Russians in missile production, the so-called missile gap. So he was accusing Eisenhower of being soft on crime, basically soft on the Russians. Eisenhower was secretly spying on Russia.
Starting point is 00:58:34 He knew we were ahead in missile production. He knew what Kennedy didn't know. He couldn't reveal that to Kennedy, but he even broke that rule to just shut him up because he saw what this fear mongering was doing to making America rattled in their boots about the Cold War and ready to keep spending for more and more missiles and bombs and planes. And Eisenhower called Kennedy's people in and showed them the secret U-2 photographs and they said, oh, we had no idea. That's incredibly revealing to us.
Starting point is 00:59:02 Two days later, he was back out on the campaign trail. Eisenhower is letting us fall behind the Soviets and missile production. Eisenhower saw that the defense people could warp American judgment and warp Americans' understanding of the world by making them live in a constant state of fear of a boogeyman for which you need an endlessly rising defense budget. That's the military industrial version. Welcome to the house of macadamias. Macadamias are a delicious superfood. Sustainably sourced directly from farmers. Macadamias, a rare source of Omega-7, linked to collagen
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Starting point is 01:00:55 It's siphoning money for the rich. And in terms of who they bomb, why do they pick the places to invade? Gil Scott Heron said, so they make so damn insane a worthy adversary. So they figure out how to make Saddam into the adversary of the week. And when he's done, they find a new adversary. They got to the point where the acronyms and adversaries, she's starting to wonder whether these were playing.
Starting point is 01:01:14 It's never actually about these are bad people doing bad things. It would be extreme to say never. I don't think Saddam was a lovely man. It's also true. You know, when someone's lying to you, they'll very often throw also truths in? This is also true. There's a lot of truth there. Most good lies incorporate some truth. It might have been a good idea for a collective way of saying Saddam Hussein shouldn't be a despotic leader, but then we'd have to say who are the other despotic leaders that we support? We once supported Saddam tremendously.
Starting point is 01:01:45 So the deeper conversation we don't get into and the military and industrial folks keep us at the superficial level of, you know, for example, Putin invaded Ukraine. We see that. We can see that Putin is a multi-billionaire, bloodthirsty motherfucker. Okay, done. We get, that's a monster. The number one word that fairness and accuracy in reporting determined that kept appearing in all coverage of Putin's invasion of Ukraine is the word Unprovoked. There are many things it is. It is horrible. It is war criminality. It is many things, but it ain't
Starting point is 01:02:23 Unprovoked. Explain. On his own Putin is a motherfucker and is raping and pillaging. But Putin is not America. We have 860 military bases in 130 foreign countries. He has something like 12. I don't know what he's looking for. I don't want to conjecture. He doesn't have the track record of war that we have. We killed something toward a million Iraqis and now suddenly turned
Starting point is 01:02:45 to him and say, how did, did you see George Bush's mistake? He made a faux pas about this. W. Bush was recently make a speech and he said, this terrible and unlawful invasion of Iraq, I mean, Ukraine. And then he caught himself and I have to say, adorably for a killer, he said, oops, well, same difference, I guess. Yeah. And then he said, I'm 75. Yeah. It's very endearing.
Starting point is 01:03:09 And I'm, I'm a forgiving person. Yeah. Yeah. He was part of a system that ran a war that killed a lot of people. But if he's come to understand the folly in that and the tragic folly in that, he understands something that people don't who say unprovoked. Tell me the provocation. The provocation is the long story of NATO and Russia and the way in which countries neighboring Russia are more and more armed and trained and aided and abetted by NATO
Starting point is 01:03:40 in a way that Putin feels is violative of the way the deal was struck to end the Cold War. Does it seem do you think Putin's position is unreasonable based on the deal that was struck before and based on what NATO was doing? I think that he is unreasonable and those who are provoking him as well are unreasonable. It's not this or that and it's not what came first. Putin is not a girl scout that we're provoking. Putin is not a girl scout that we're provoking. Stalin was not a girl scout that we provoked. We were looking for an enemy anyway. He happened to be an unbelievably terrible enemy. Putin is an unbelievably terrible creature, but we would be very remiss if we didn't do the math on what we are doing that is pushing the world
Starting point is 01:04:23 toward that kind of calamity. Because that is real stuff. That's not a joke. That's not some Robert Kennedy conspiracy theory. I give you an example. In the November before the March invasion, November before it, there is a large story in the Wall Street Journal that says maybe a war in Ukraine is worth the risk It's not he ate it. What does that even mean that if we provoke Putin by doing the red line crossing that we're doing
Starting point is 01:04:53 He will probably fuck himself up He'll probably overstep because it's almost like he's compelled to because he's leading a country where he said to his people I have my red, and I've said it several times, and they keep crossing it. They're gonna run him out of town if he doesn't, if they cross the red line on a huge level, letting Ukraine into NATO, arming Ukraine, doing all this stuff. So he is seeing the world his way, and his way is to see it as, I am an innocent, and I represent the good people of Russia, and I am provoked, abject bullshit. We want to act like he's a boogeyman. We are good people of conscience.
Starting point is 01:05:30 Forget about the fact that we just boned a million people over the past 30 years without any provocation. I've never apologized for it. There were no WNDs. We're putting depleted uranium in the lives of children. No, we're good guys and he did this untoward. Of course we're involved.
Starting point is 01:05:43 And once you accept that, you'll lead back to the military industrial complex who is in the business of always needing a worthy adversary. And so now we've got this guy to be the worthy adversary. But if it wasn't him, it would be someone else. It would be someone else, and that doesn't mean that he's a good guy. That's the point. Nobody's a good guy. Okay.
Starting point is 01:06:02 In this story, nobody's a good guy, correct? Nobody's a good guy because at the end of the day, the operators of the world treat democracy like a cute narrative. The Enlightenment offered up to act as a fig leaf on the age old story of the powerful abusing the masses of less powerful. And so they basically say, Major Barbara has an incredible speech about this,
Starting point is 01:06:37 where he says, basically, oh, don't talk to me about the government of your country and all those little toys you feed the public. I'm gonna go back to my counting house now and call the tune. Pay the piper and call the tune. Well, pay the piper and call the tune. Major Barbara is a vision of the military industrial complex.
Starting point is 01:06:54 It is the real conversation is happening at the adult table and it's driven by money. And all the rest of you are toying with pronouns and democratic ideas and illustrious stories and beautiful ideals. Well, I believe in those fucking ideals. They are making a mockery of it because they have the power economically in a deregulated world. I was sitting outside the other night and I watched Elon Musk's evil enterprise of Starling go over my head. Why do I say evil?
Starting point is 01:07:24 Because I believe the people of the world should have had the right to vote on whether they want the night sky Elon Musk's evil enterprise of Starlink go over my head. Why do I say evil? Because I believe the people of the world should have had the right to vote on whether they want the night sky to have his moving stars in it. But we're just told that somehow Starlink is for our collective benefit because we can chat and share idiotic TikTok videos more quickly. So of course the night sky should be sacrificed for billions of people who don't even use this technology, whose belief systems rely upon the sky being a certain way. It's a beautiful story about a Tuareg warrior who watches a moving star in the sky and his
Starting point is 01:07:55 entire belief to satellite. He's just never seen one. I want to stipulate that the only way the military industrial complex can get its macabre trick over is by having a stranglehold on public officials whose lifeblood is the money they get in a broken election system, they need the money of certain corporate powers, and those corporate powers turn our public officials into pleaders on behalf of whatever sector is at hand. So the military industrial complex figured out something called political engineering, and it sounds techy, but it's really fucking interesting
Starting point is 01:08:42 and scary. The B2 bomber famously had a piece of it made in every single US state. The idea of that, where you say, how can you build a plane and you're gonna ship the parts from all these states, that can't be very efficient, it's not. The only thing it's good for is making sure that when the review time comes,
Starting point is 01:09:03 do we need the B B2 bomber? Should we be spending tens and tens of billions on this program when we don't even have an enemy with an Air Force? Is that a rational use of public money that isn't going to schools, head start hospitals, old people, our values? Every person in that Senate, every person in that Congress is getting a piece of the action in their state. So voting against it would mean voting against jobs back in the district. So they figured out how to politically engineer systems so they keep getting ridiculous sums
Starting point is 01:09:37 of money. That was the way of the world until political engineering sharpened its blade and figured out, what the hell are we doing? We don't need the whole country. We don't need to get all the people in the Congress of the Senate. All we need to do is get the 12 people who sit on the appropriations committee that's side of the money. So, all of a sudden, the B2 bomber was only made in 12 districts.
Starting point is 01:10:03 And then some people noticed that and said, we are being politically engineered to the profit of select corporations and select high net worth individuals. And the lifeline of certain political careers is being made by that funding. That's how public policy is being warped. That is why the military industrial complex is an example of how you end up in a world
Starting point is 01:10:23 where the majority of Americans support abortion, but laws are being passed all across the country, according to the wishes of a loud minority, because the American system is being warped to cater to that loud minority. Why? Because they like this 1% of people with very extreme views? No, because that 1% is what wins you elections if you're the Republican Party And I'm not a Democrat, so I'm not telling you from the other side I'm telling you as a person who looks at this broader system The Republican Party and Democratic Party both do the same thing
Starting point is 01:10:56 But the group that the Republican Party is successfully pandering to is a group of people who have very, very extreme social views about race, gender, abortion, et cetera. The pandering to those groups is part of the political engineering process because what you're doing- Who are the people on the other side pander to? They pander to the groups that service virtue signaling parts of the population. They pander to the extreme left that are dealing with identity pronouns and things like that. Doesn't make light of the belief systems of either of those groups of people, but there's a reason we're hearing so much about them.
Starting point is 01:11:36 We're hearing so much about them because they're tie breakers. In an equally split country, you're hoping to get that splinter group on one side or that splinter group on the other. And the version that the Republicans run is one where what they are doing is saying, we want Republicans to control the country because if they do, we wealthy people get lower taxes. For that, we're going to support candidates who pander to people with really extreme views that we don't even share ourselves.
Starting point is 01:12:04 Donald Trump had many abortions happen on his watch in his life. Probably more than we know. He's not an anti-abortion person, but he's totally happy to pander to the anti-abortion crowd to get that 1% that gets him in office, and then he and everybody like him who want lower tax rates get that stranglehold. A different version of that is happening on the other side, but that is one that where you can see the profit line very clearly. You're arguing that the right side is setting up a scenario that leads to less taxes for
Starting point is 01:12:37 rich people. If the government is corrupt and bad, why is more money for the government a good thing? Well, because it's blurry to call government corrupt and bad. Why is more money for the government a good thing? Well, because it's blurry to call government corrupt and bad. Reagan vilified regulation in American life. Regulation is why bridges don't fall down. OSHA regulations are why workers are protected if they get hurt on the job. Cigarette labeling on packaging, thanks to Ralph Nader and others, is why that's there. Seat belts in cars. You know, if we're driving down the road and I have an accident and I didn't have my kid in a seat belt, that kid didn't have the power to protect himself. I'm endangering a child. There are
Starting point is 01:13:15 reasons for dignified and meaningful regulations as part of the social contract of a society. What the military industrial complex and other industrial complex did. Do you trust the government to do that? Do I trust it more or less than people who are unelected profit seekers? Probably unbalanced more. Does that mean I think it's super competent? No. And you know why?
Starting point is 01:13:39 When I got out of university, I thought all the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people like me were all going to go into things like public service and it turned out there was a giant sucking sound to McKinsey and all these other rapacious firms whose basic job is to teach an army of young people how to rape the world and pretend that it's in their interest, that they were asking for it, that it's somehow the economic system that's the equivalent of capitalism. Democracy is not capitalism. They are utterly different. And in fact, there was that slogan when we were growing up, have it your way at Burger
Starting point is 01:14:11 King. And what they mean is you can go into Burger King and unlike McDonald's where it's a set item that comes to you out of that hose somewhere with the pickles already on it and whatnot. Burger King said to you, you can have pickles. You can say, I don't want the mayo. Hold to this, hold to that, hold to this. You can have it your whatnot. Burger King said to you, you can have pickles. You can say, I don't want the male. Hold to this. Hold to that. Hold to this. You can have it your way at Burger King. Meanwhile, Burger King was owned by Pillsbury at that time. Pillsbury, which was polluting the river systems of America, poisoning America. You weren't having it your
Starting point is 01:14:37 way. They were royally fucking you as a human species while pretending that having it your way, you can entertain yourself with the pickles and the relish and whatever else. The issue here is that corporate power invades the public commons, corrupts politics by buying it off and then points to that politics and says, look, it's corrupt. Therefore, no need to change it. And I would say boycotts, strikes, the word sabotage comes from an age of workers. It's the same as the word clog. Clog and sabotage are the same. It was when you took your clog, you took your sabol, and you would put it in the gears
Starting point is 01:15:19 of the factory, a shoe, you'd stuff it into the gears of the factory to stop the machine from operating. As Mario Savio said, you've got to throw yourself upon the gears of the machine and say, until this is fair, the machine is going to be prevented from continuing to operate. So I believe that the people are the force that represent the people's future. And what happens is corruption comes in and then keeps us giddy distracted guessing over the kind of question You asked well, are they able to do it? I don't know we suck most of the brains out of regulatory agencies Reagan killed the I'm asking because I don't have any faith in the system
Starting point is 01:15:56 That's why I'm I get that and the trouble is unless we take a leap of faith to trust that good will come from a fair regulatory approach. Why was Elon Musk allowed to put those things into the sky without an international discussion about the sky being a public commons? Just because he's so rich? Just because he's got momentum on his side? No, because we all want the starlink. Right. So that's the thing, exactly. And so the funny thing, when I made my Elvis movie, Alec Baldwin at the end of the movie, he's sitting in Elvis's car and he turns to me and he says, you know, this all started with Reagan, he said, because Reagan said to people, do you want a new swimming pool
Starting point is 01:16:41 or should these kids over here get testing for AIDS? And Baldwin looked at me and he said, you want the swimming pool, don't you? And then he looked at me and he said, and you should have the swimming pool. That moment where Reagan allowed us to not care about our fellow man, that is deregulation because regulations have always protected the weak from the strong. That's the only reason they're there. That is what they represented after kings and queens were raping the masses. Democratic movement stood up and said, you shall not continue to treat us this way.
Starting point is 01:17:17 We will have collective bargaining. You won't gouge us into the ground. So regulation is the product of the tension between humanity and the corruption of leadership. It always has been. What we're in now is a vicious cycle where that leadership has so corrupted the game that we have lost faith. But as with any beautiful sports story, right, when Rocky is completely lost faith is when he's got to take that one last leap of faith. We must be able to see the potential for people who I do think give a shit to resist. And it's for that reason that we are moving into a time where the wisdom, younger people, I have two kids, their generation is smarter than we were.
Starting point is 01:18:08 They know a lot more. They know what gaslighting is. They know what greenwashing is. They know the perverse mechanisms that power has long used to trick us, to separate us into sheep and goats. They know those things in a way that I didn't know them when I was their age. What's come with that though is they're also quite nihilistic. So you want to say to them, but don't you see that in what you know compared to what I knew, there's a reason for you not to be nihilistic because there's growth in you. You're already a 2.0 over my 1.0. So the idea that it's corrupt this way, it's only corrupt the way it is right now, that's an echo of the white patriarchy
Starting point is 01:18:51 that we've been living in forever. And the white patriarchs are terrified that they're losing ground and they are. In short order, white people won't be the majority in America and that order is like a whale flailing on its way down. Donald Trump is a death rattle of white male supremacy. And trying to grab on, how many laws can we change
Starting point is 01:19:11 to keep us back in the 1860s? How much can we keep the electoral college still representing the slave holding state? How much can we make it? Wyoming voters, a Wyoming voter has something like 14 times the voting power of a California voter because Wyoming is bolstered by the way the electoral college system works. It's an insanity that stems from agricultural agrarian slave times.
Starting point is 01:19:34 White male supremacy legislation is trying to hold that world and freeze it because they're so desperate that it's going away. But that's our opening. They're desperate for a fucking reason. Get the memo. They're desperate. That is where we have latitude to change the game and the discouragers will come from the places that say,
Starting point is 01:19:53 but it's like this. Martin Luther King said, don't tell me about the continuation of something by telling me it's always been there. Systems change and they change when the rubber meets the road on the way it is. So the question now, for example, will the environment, will climate change? So we've bitten their systems change and they change when the rubber meets the road on the way it is. So the question now, for example, will the environment, will climate change, and the
Starting point is 01:20:10 chaos that it's unleashing, will that bring us into a moment of real potential for change? Will there be a silver lining to this horror that says, for example, if I go on a show, it's happened over several years, if I go on a show, it's happened over several years, I would go on to talk to some people, you're a dreamer. And I'd say, really, I'm the dreamer? You're running a world into the ground, it's on fire.
Starting point is 01:20:34 I'm saying you probably ought to change course. You're saying, release the hounds and double down on this. And I'm the dreamer, I'm a realist. You're a fucking dreamer. And your dream is a nightmare for everybody That is clearer now to people than it ever has been before in the vivid images of the world on fire The world flooded places that used to be sanctuaries are now gone Places like Venice won't exist, etc. When that starts to happen
Starting point is 01:21:01 Will you still be able to fool people into the complacency that color television started with and then became now TikTok, that you can distract them with the materialism of a consumer appetite and you can keep scaring them with boogeymen and stimulating all their addictions. Pray on their porn addiction. Pray on their, and by porn I mean the pornography of every situation. The fact that we listen for the crash at the end of a screech when we hear it on the road, that we have some weird fight or flight, old
Starting point is 01:21:34 lizard brain, perian level. You can work that shit, you can work people against their neighbor. Is that going to keep working when everything is an emergency? I had an emergency in my home state of Vermont and everybody was out the next day to help me. So it's a, I think something good is happening in all of this horror and then becomes, is it fast enough? What may fall within the sphere of tetragramatin? Counterculture, tetragramatin, sacred geometry, tetragramatin, the avant-garde tetragramatin, generative art, tetragramatin, the tarot, tetragramatin, out of print music. TETROGRAMATIN, biodynamics. TETROGRAMATIN, graphic design.
Starting point is 01:22:28 TETROGRAMATIN, mythology and magic. TETROGRAMATIN, obscure film. TETROGRAMATIN, beach culture. TETROGRAMATIN, esoteric lectures. TETROGRAMATIN, off the grid living. TETROGRAMATIN, alt spirituality. TETROGRAMATIN, the Canon of Fine Objects. Tetragrammaton, Muscle Cars.
Starting point is 01:22:47 Tetragrammaton, Ancient Wisdom for a New Age. Upon entering, experience the artwork of the day. Take a breath and see where you are drawn. and see where you can say the system here is working? Well first of all, yeah, I mean there's always individual efforts that are pointed to as almost test cases from countries. Portugal's policies on narcotics, Portugal's drug response to the global drug war was wildly successful based on science and based on a real understanding of addiction and had tremendously strong results unimpeached
Starting point is 01:23:55 to this day, an embarrassment to the other systems that said it could only be the way that they do it. You've seen the onion headline that repeats itself after every school shooting. The onion only repeats one headline and they do it every time there's a school shooting and it says no way to stop this. Says only country where this happens. Well, Portugal showed us how you could change narcotics policy. How did they change it? What did they do? They don't make it a criminal justice matter. They make it a matter of public health. It's addiction. You need counseling, not to be locked up.
Starting point is 01:24:27 You need to be helped to become a taxpayer rather than pushed into a box where you become a body from which profit is drawn until you're dead. And they're an example. The experiment in universal basic income that went on in Finland is an example of something we're gonna be headed toward, which is what is gonna happen when 50% of the global population is no longer employed. What do people do?
Starting point is 01:24:54 We've had industry for so long, we don't even remember what it was like to just wake up in the morning and grow your own food. And most people don't live where they can grow their own food. And most people live in societies that even make it hard for them to Gather rainwater let alone grow their own food Are there other systems besides
Starting point is 01:25:11 Drug reform in Portugal that we can point to of things that work well the universal basic income experiment in Finland worked It was very interesting and had lessons that blew people's mind universal basic income is basically the idea that if you have people Who are out of work like that, you will do better as a society if you give them a base level of income, basically like expanded welfare. But what do enemies of welfare always say? Well, if you give people things,
Starting point is 01:25:36 then they won't- You're signaling it out to people, right? Yeah, they won't work for themselves. What the Finns discovered when the experiment was done was, when you compared giving people nothing, with giving people a certain modicum income. The people who got a certain modicum income did more self-starting than the pure hungry because the pure hungry became demoralized and less desperation. Yes.
Starting point is 01:25:59 So, moderated. Don't give them everything. If you give somebody everything, everything, everything, you'll ruin them. If you give them nothing, nothing, nothing, you rip the soul out of the equation for them. If you find a middle, a third way, a mindful, science-based, education-based, enlightened bit, we've had a war on enlightenment and education because it's inconvenient to the powerful to take on the information that would lead to better systems that would profit the powerful less. There's no way to argue with the idea that trickle-down never happened. The promise of modern-day
Starting point is 01:26:33 capitalism was that the rich would get richer and it would lift all boats. That is not what is happening. The richer becoming astronomically richer and the class gap is growing to a point where ancient Rome, British Empire never dreamt of. We have the widest class gap in human history in exactly the age that promised us a great equalization. It was a lie, and it was a lie well-crafted and delivered by the wonderful Ronald Reagan and his best Auschuk style. And it's crept behind our critical judgment, our common sense because
Starting point is 01:27:06 there's no common sense in the world that says that a group of executives sitting around a boardroom where there's a fiduciary duty to make money for the stockholders are actually thinking how do we help poor mama granny so and so in Wichita. They're not thinking about that at all. We saw what Enron did to those people. That's the boardroom. That's the truth, Ayn Rand. Go fuck yourself. That's the truth, Ayn Rand, go fuck yourself.
Starting point is 01:27:26 That's the truth, Milton Friedman, go fuck yourself. Now maybe they were innocents who didn't know, but we know now. Yeah. What you're describing are not racist policies. These are policies against poor people. They're against, yes. And they're policies actually to just profit at all costs. Yeah.
Starting point is 01:27:42 Oops, there's poor people. Listen, we got to do what we got to do and money makes the rules and blah, blah, blah. They always have a slogan for it. You ask other positive areas. Portugal is one in terms of drug reform. Finland is a good experiment in universal basic income, a model of what it could look like. And everywhere you look around the planet now, Gar Alperovitz wrote a book called America
Starting point is 01:28:03 Beyond Capitalism, and it talked about just in American terms, but globally it's even more impressive, the ingenuity and the inventiveness with which shared economies have emerged, the speed with which, you know, if you visit, for example, a city like Berlin, forms of transport that are less wasteful than a large, clunky automobile are proliferating like crazy. Are the impact studies done on what all those batteries mean and what all those discarded scooters are amounting to in a pile of mess?
Starting point is 01:28:35 Probably not a lot, but it's hard to argue with getting across town and burning the tiny amount of energy needed to carry one human body rather than getting across town and carrying a 3,000 pound vehicle. So those little developments, a lot of them coming from the technological sector, they are very promising. I believe that what is happening with alternative energy is fucking mind-blowing. The problem is that the virtue signaling is getting out ahead of the real gains that are being made and they're distracting us into complacency. So someone drives their electric vehicle,
Starting point is 01:29:10 thumbs up to you that you're thinking it would be good to get us out of the headlock that the petroleum industry has had us in. But have you really looked at the impact study because you're driving a coal burning vehicle? Until further notice, the dominant energy source for your electric vehicle is coal. So if you're driving a coal burning vehicle. Until further notice, the dominant energy source for your electric vehicle is coal. So if you're driving a coal burning vehicle, have you stopped to think about whether you're ready to be virtue signaling or should you say, it's one step
Starting point is 01:29:34 to get the electric car. Now let me turn my continuing, passionate obsession on this into what are we doing to get out of the petroleum sector? What are we doing to get out of this kind of... And how much electricity is lost between where it's made and before it gets to the top? That's a huge part of it, is that we have dumb grids all over America. The most unsexy topic that Christine Hawquist, who runs an energy utility in Vermont, has made a popular notion among some people and it should grow, is that every time we hear about something that's going to fix the world it's usually brought to us by someone selling us that new product, that new electric car, that new wind turbine, that
Starting point is 01:30:12 new solar panel, when as you said just looking around this room the energy that is being burned in some plants somewhere to power the microphones that we're using, to power that this can get out there, 75% of it is lost between the plant and the ultimate installation where it's being done. That 75% is a leaky, shitty grid. Doesn't sound very sexy, but it's like if your mother said, you wanna go out, that sounds sexy, sounds fun,
Starting point is 01:30:37 clean your room first. You gotta clean your room first, but it's not very sexy. So it's, I think all of us who have the opportunity to do so. And I fault myself for being nowhere near satisfying in what I would consider to be an accountable standard for myself. We always have a reason, oh, when I'm done with this project then I'll really check my footprint.
Starting point is 01:31:00 Loser, that's not a possible way to think that, but it's very easy to fall into that because modern life is busy, there's a lot to get done, there are bills to pay, it's complicated and we're easily distracted. And here I fault myself and also would say guilty as charged, but here's my guilty with an explanation. You always have these hopes and dreams about bettering your footprint, bettering the way you participate in this equation and it's hard to get to because it's one giant add-on. And why is it happening? Because deregulation allowed massive centers of power to rape the public commons, and it's a lot
Starting point is 01:31:36 to ask the human race to stand guard against forces at that level of intensity, when in fact those are the same forces, you know, this supposedly radical set of thoughts I'm expressing are going to go out around the world on the interweb. So in other words, my revolutionary thought can only go on, don't plug this pulled, I live at the pleasure of the grid. Chuck D's thing about the grid that's going on right now. Chuck D, one of the greatest living Americans, could not have it more correct when he says what you're going to do when the grid goes down. My entire uvra, everything I've ever done in my life, can only be shown to people so
Starting point is 01:32:17 long as the great masters of the Internet continue to let it be shown. You go try to look at some stories right now about American crimes in the past 20 years on the internet, purged. You want to look at the crimes of Russian oligarchs, things you could find, 504 error, no longer found, file no longer found. Soon enough, if I make a good enough movie, I'll think it's good if they'd say file no longer found, if they'll pull a plug on it. So there's a weird condition in modern life which is even to think radically. And later on, when I wanna send you a note about this, because I love talking to you,
Starting point is 01:32:50 I'll send you a note at the pleasure of the technology system that is raping us as we speak. And is it some evil doer somewhere? No, it's an unstudied collective thrust in a direction that needs mindfulness. And it is not having mindfulness applied to it. Mindfulness is a catch word that is being used in the yoga classes that the executives
Starting point is 01:33:15 at those technology giants are using because it makes them feel better for the morning and they get to virtue signal before then going to work in continuing standard operating procedure. Sorry for getting excited. I asked you about theater and movies about an hour and a half ago. First question I asked. Yes. Tell me about the difference between theater and movies.
Starting point is 01:33:38 I'll be asking you that. The difference between theaters and theater and movies? Yeah. Tell me about the art forms, how you see them as different. I think there's an analogy that would speak to you about the difference between studio music and live music. A play is a raw continuation of the oral tradition that dates back to tribal life, to skits and plays and morality parables and music and the log drum and the talking drum and the history back to cave
Starting point is 01:34:18 paintings of representation by the Homo sapien of the thing that Harari talks about in sapiens, that we traffic in myth and we traffic in things that aren't there. Something extraordinary about the human being is the way in which story, all the way to love, all the way to friendship, all the way to loyalty, all the way to team spirit, all the way to self-sacrifice. There are so many narratives that are available to the human being that we don't think other animals necessarily quite engage in. We might be judgmental. Lions may go through self-sacrifice. We just don't know what it looks like. Dolphins might be talking Shakespeare to each other, and we don't, and we think we know because it doesn't sound like us. It's kind of stupid what we do. We anthropomorphize this.
Starting point is 01:35:05 But in a very fundamental sense, plays continued the long tradition of folk theater, people sharing the stories that gave them identity, community, and a sense of a moral architecture of a crime will get punished or vengeance leads nowhere or an eye for an eye, basic tropes in that way. And what brings them to life is a collective experience where a group of players organized by a director and potentially some others, ultimately the producers in the modern era, have kind of empresarioed an event that is definitely a direct relationship between the live performer, some script, and the audience and their reactions. And the reactions shape the performance and the performance starts catering to the reactions and playing off of each other. And in that moment, the human in the audience
Starting point is 01:36:12 is invited to apply what is being talked about on the stage to themselves because when they cough, the stage has to stop for a moment. When they cheer, the stage gets adrenalized. They're part of it. They're in the demos, is collective at that moment in the live theater performance, in the same way that the best concerts of our lives are these unbelievably transcendental experiences between a star, between a band, more, more a band, more a band. Let me scratch that. Fuck stars.
Starting point is 01:36:46 And this individualism shit that America sold the world, because the most beautiful things are the bands. They're the groupings of people. I watched Stuart Copeland a couple of weeks ago talk about Sting. He talked about the day he met Sting. You know, all these bands always hate each other when they get older. They're rolling stones. Don't talk to one another, but they're not. Not Stuart Copeland. Stuart Copeland talks about
Starting point is 01:37:08 sting with the same love he felt for him the day he met him. He glows for Stuart. He tells you in the interview, he's not arrogant. He's just always been sting. He's always had a golden light around him. Gorgeous guy, brilliant guy, crazily talented. And he says, and he can play the bass and sing at the same time, which is already amazing. And then he said, and he had an amp. And none of us had an amp. It's the most beautiful interview, but he's seething with love for sting. I raise this because that collective feeling that bands represent, you check an ego at the door
Starting point is 01:37:49 and you become more than the sum of your parts. I was listening to your extraordinary work with Paul McCartney and the beauty of how he talks about how he and George and he and Paul, what they brought to the table and out of that mosaic comes beauty. Well, that's a statement to all of us about the strange mosaic that we're all a part of. Theater definitely does that. Movies are like a studio album, potentially deeply controlled by the director who doesn't leave it up to Jesus on opening night. On opening night, when I was a theater director, I used to say my last moment with this play
Starting point is 01:38:27 is the dress rehearsal. After that, all bets are off, because audience comes, the actors run away with it. Changes. I'm irrelevant. I don't have any role and I can go out and have a coffee. With a movie, I can control and manipulate every frame and the actors are
Starting point is 01:38:46 instruments within that what started for me in a very auteur way. What is happening now is changing that. As if to say, you know, you see some of these once upon a time only studio bands that start to perform, like Donald Fagan performs these days. He's unbelievable. He was performing even before Walter died and Steely Dan would never perform. Skrittie Palletti would never perform. Then all of a sudden you see Green Gartsite out in the world like being a person. You're like, wow, he's a quite endearing person. But the studio experience was such a control freakery of the late 90s, the 2000 things
Starting point is 01:39:22 like that. I think Napster, and you know this better than I do, but I think Napster blew apart the kind of nearly slavery, you remember Prince's cheek, the nearly slavery control that the record companies had over artists, and all of a sudden, in that free-for-all, live performing came back, and bands that were incredible live
Starting point is 01:39:44 suddenly were hugely on the rise. So weirdly, a blow to the music industry in a way that I think has led to real damage for performers in one way in terms of like the way Spotify treats artists, etc. I get why people are deeply unsettled by that. But I also understand that the band collectivism from the jam bands, all those incredible music came back and stopped being a phenomenon of the studio only. There's beauty in that. But of course, none of this are just fixed rules. My filmmaking now, in the current project that I'm engaged in is a deeply collective activity. There's a term in Latin, primus interparis,
Starting point is 01:40:28 leader among equals. I strived when I was young to live up to something a guy said to me when he saw me directing when I was young. I was directing a play in Berlin when I was like 26 years old, it was a Shakespeare play. This old stage manager was watching, he'd been part of the Eastern Bloc, he'd watch theater, he'd watch Grotowski and other.
Starting point is 01:40:48 And he said he was impressed by me. And I said, why? He said, Primos Intipatus, you're a leader among equals. And I thought, man, I fucking hope that's true. Anyway, I want to be that guy. I spent, because I don't think I really was like, I think he caught me on a good afternoon. I tried to be that afternoon for my career.
Starting point is 01:41:06 I didn't get there until the last few years if I'm there yet. But if you walked into my room, you would think poor Eugene, there's like 12 people in this editing room telling him what to do. Isn't he the director? And I'm at the editing machine.
Starting point is 01:41:21 I often run the machine. And the truth is, I believe that when we're making concerned work about the human condition right now, I mean, if you're making a love story or comedy, you could be an auteur. There are many of them. Wes Anderson can be an auteur. Woody Allen can be an auteur. All those people can be a toros. I am not an auteur, and I don't want to be an auteur, because I think that misunderstands that the
Starting point is 01:41:47 problems of the world are collective and the solutions will have to be collective. What happened to poor Barack Obama, for example, is that America, as soon as he got elected, we were so fed up, pained by Bush and the embarrassment that it made the country. Everyone said, thank God he's in, he'll save the day. No single human being can do that. And we all sort of leave the job unattended when we assume that some individual's gonna save it. So that's why I corrected myself earlier when I said a star on the stage.
Starting point is 01:42:19 I'm not so interested in the star on the stage. The band on the stage, the audience rises up, there's a dialogue between the band on the stage and the band in the star on the stage. The band on the stage, the audience rises up, there's a dialogue between the band on the stage and the band in the arena. And you realize it's a big band. When a band, as you sing along with their song and over the 20,000 people are all singing, we can't get no satisfaction. Now you have a public saying, we can't get no satisfaction. So movies and plays in their traditional sense differed in that I would have said de facto movies are the province of an autour, but they don't have to be that way and in fact more and more in the same
Starting point is 01:42:55 way that contracting in the world is becoming less about hierarchical contracting and more about collectivist, worker-owned, America Beyond Capitalism kind of share structures. Equally, too, we don't have to pay Hilton Hotel Corp. We can share each other's housing because mine's empty there and you can go stay there. We can go stay there. I think there is similar development happening in creativity where technology is, and I don't just want to use that word technology. No, I mean it really specifically the way editing technology for example on a film works is you can try in a non-linear
Starting point is 01:43:30 Way many different versions of something so if I have 10 or 12 people in the room I have a focus group for how a wide cross-section of the public might see my movie and at the end of the day I'm not making something for no one I'm making something to express something to a wide public to promote a certain idea of a discussion that should happen. I'm trying to advance the public discussion by getting some smart people into a movie and put some interesting drama and some events
Starting point is 01:43:57 and some nice music and I hope you enjoy it and therefore keep thinking about it. If I want that, I need that group of people in the room to basically genius-proof and idiot-proof what I'm doing. All the way from, I don't even know what you're talking about too, that's boring, I knew that a year ago. Okay, well how do I find the middle there without making what Salvador Dali and Boonwell called an exquisite corpse, right? Because you'll end up with an exquisite corpse if everyone just says, here's an opinion, here's an opinion. Okay. But movies can be made now, in my view, without the auteur top-heavy sclerosis that came from the era where unbelievably talented
Starting point is 01:44:36 people like Coppola and Scorsese and Kubrick and others, they're incredible. I live and die by them. But that was then. And I don't know that that's the mode right now. I think it's far more interesting to imagine movies made for a public commons by a micro of the public commons. Are you ever surprised by what the room tells you? You walked out of one of my movies once. I did. And I was unbelievably moved by it.
Starting point is 01:45:04 And you told me afterward that the reason you had walked out was because the information in the film was so dark. It was too upsetting. And that you were so upset by it. Yeah. And it- I watched about half of the movie and I felt like I can't feel like this anymore. It's too much.
Starting point is 01:45:20 And I walked out of there wondering, and I think it was extremely therapeutic for me, is that what you're supposed to be doing? Are you upsetting people in an unproductive way? Are you so impressed that you came upon me, Mimi? Are you Eugene, so impressed that you came upon this dark information, that you're sharing it with people and you're telling yourself the public needs to know this but really what you're doing is scaring them into paralysis into depressed paralysis because it's a possibility I think I'm not the typical audience. I know that and I walked out with that too. I was like, okay, but he's Rick Rubin
Starting point is 01:45:57 He's not like really sensitive like I can't watch harm. I can't watch anything. Yes, but you exist in the population Yeah, and I can't just say oh,, but you exist in the population. And I can't just say, oh, I only make movies for people like Eugene who like, you can light a match near me and I like fire, right? So it taught me something that I also learned when I took ayahuasca. I took ayahuasca, I don't know if I'm arrestable for that, but I took ayahuasca proudly.
Starting point is 01:46:24 It's natural, I think. About 10 years ago, natural, yes but I took ayahuasca proudly natural about 10 years ago natural. Yes I took I'm sure wherever you took it in the country is where they gave those things It was extraordinary. I had no experience with mind-altering Substances prior to that was kind of a geek and I go from zero to ayahuasca. I didn't go to like zero to marijuana I went all the way to like a thing that is like a eight hour psychedelic, incredibly interesting trip that I'll say nothing humorous about except that it was just full of humanity and full of depth and full of psychedelic enlightenment for me.
Starting point is 01:46:56 And one of the things that happened was that I had been offered a blanket because they said my body temperature would drop during the ayahuasca. And I'm too cool for school. I was like, look, I never get cold. I got a sweater on, don't worry, I'm fine. They'd also offered me a bucket in case I threw up because it's quite a thing. And I was like, you know, I got kind of an iron constitution.
Starting point is 01:47:20 I'll be fine. They also offered me a bedroom. They said, you know, at the end of the night, you're going to be a basket case. We don't want you driving home. And I was like, you know what, I got the hotel, I'll be fine. I said no to all their offerings. And they all said, oh, by the way, and the bathroom is, and I was like, you know what, I never have to go.
Starting point is 01:47:40 Like a camel. I can go weeks without taking a leak. I'm fine. I'll be fine. I don't know whether I was insecure that I was doing it. I wanted to peer cool. Like maybe I thought they were just coming to me like the geek in the room and they're like, do you need training wheels? So I was like, I don't want training wheels. So the evening starts, cut to at a certain point, about 10 minutes into the thing. First of all, I tell myself,
Starting point is 01:48:00 this drug is not going to affect me. I bet I'll be the only geek in the room. No effect. tell myself, this drug is not going to affect me. I bet I'll be the only geek in the room, no effect. That's the last thing I remember. 30 minutes later, I woke up and the whole room was vibrating and with psychedelic colors and sitting there like you are now. You look like a Mayan tribal monster coming at me with fractals.
Starting point is 01:48:19 Okay, so I got my ass handed to me by that. Found it extraordinary. I could hear conversations across the room whispers as if they were in my ears or what's going on here. All of a sudden, I have to be. And I think to myself, you idiot. These people told you where the bathroom is. You could, I don't even know if I could stand up.
Starting point is 01:48:39 It's like you wouldn't even know where the bathroom is. They're going to ruin the whole ceremony for everybody, fall down a flight in stairs or whatever. So I started laughing. And then I remembered that the first time I ever went to a yoga class, it was with my mother. And we both kept giggling the whole time because we couldn't get that strap around our foot. And every time I saw that she couldn't get the strap around the foot, I'd laugh every time she saw her. We were giggling, ruined the yoga class for everybody involved. And I thought, my mother always laughs through adversity. She lost her sister. She lived during the depression. She's lost other loved ones. She's
Starting point is 01:49:13 a very sensitive person. She watched black people blown away in front of her in the civil rights movement. She saw the wars and she laughed at us. And I was thinking, maybe it's a Jewish thing. So, anyway, I had this long conversation with myself about laughter in adversity. Well it was right around then that I got really cold, just like they said I would. My body temperature plummeted. I had taken off the fancy sweater that I had, so now I was just wearing an undershirt and I had said no to the blanket. I start pouring around in the dark to try to find, because all the lights are off, I
Starting point is 01:49:48 try pouring around in the dark to try to find, and I find my sweater. And I've never taken LSD, but people who've taken LSD told me, there's certain things you touch. You feel like you're touching the vulva of Mother Earth, like you're like home, you've returned to the womb, it's the most beautiful thing. So I reach my sweater, I touch the sweater, man, I almost had an orgasm just holding this sweater. I'm suddenly holding this unbelievably beautiful voluptuous cashmere thing.
Starting point is 01:50:13 It's a beautiful sweater. I have to say it's a really rich, beautiful, so exactly the kind of sweater that a comfortable, white, virtue signaling privileged person would own. But if he's Eugene, he always noticed that the labels had made in Malaysia. I'd always noticed that this where I remember when I bought it, my first film had come out in England. It was a success in England and they had a big screening of it and the very next day I went to the Ralph Lauren shop and I bought this brown cashmere sweater. It
Starting point is 01:50:43 cost more than any clothing item I had ever bought by a lot. It was $700, effectively, half price, so $350. But I knew it was $700 originally. And then I always used to see this purple, beautiful label made in Malaysia. So when I reached for the sweater on the ayahuasca, all of a sudden I was holding it, and I was thinking, you're gonna make out with this sweater? You're gonna put the sweater on? You're cold. So I start to put the sweater on, I put it on. And you know when you have a sweater on
Starting point is 01:51:13 and the sleeve goes a little too long for your wrist and you can hold it, it's very comforting. You put your fingers in and you feel like Simon and Garfunkel in the wind of the New York streets and feels really nice. So I was holding the sweater there like that. And all of a sudden sudden something pushed back. There was a hand in my sweater and I closed it again and it pushed back again and I closed
Starting point is 01:51:33 it again and I kept going back and all of a sudden I looked and in front of me, straight in front of me was the Malaysian girl who made that sweater. And I burst into tears and I thought, I think I'm fighting for social justice. It's all these films I'm making, but I'm a fucking clown. Man, I'm not helping anybody. She'll never feel the effect of any of those films. Just thank her for the sweater. So I was crying and thanking her and I hugged her and I kissed her and I thanked her for the sweater over and over again. And it utterly changed my politics to understand that there is a way of going about social change.
Starting point is 01:52:15 And what I had been doing at that point was trying to change it from the top down. That young Malaysian woman Miraj told me that I was not speaking. Maybe Miraj. Right. Or Miraj person. That visitor told me that I had a mission to reach people with these movies at a ground level. That is when my room became a collective.
Starting point is 01:52:42 That's when my approach to this changed away from auturism and into something that is without pretending I'm a saint because I'm not, but a hopefully less arrogant place, more listening, more group, less Eugene. Are you ever surprised by what the people in the room say? When someone reacts, their reaction is your friend. When someone reacts positively, if they are speaking from substance, there's good reinforcement about that which you wonder if it's getting across. If somebody reacts problematically, there's very often an answer in it. If you're sensitive enough to listen. When Larry told me that prison was the best thing that happened to him in his life, I
Starting point is 01:53:33 could either pretend he never said that because I'm making an anti-prison movie and that's not very convenient to suddenly have someone saying it's good for me, or I could say what kind of a country you're living in when anyone could think that prison is better than what the country is like That's a much bigger lesson and a much bigger story your Concern about the heaviness of that topic for you meant that I think to myself is there a danger in
Starting point is 01:54:00 The way media is made I live in a system that doesn't allow a lot of radical voicing. Therefore, when I do get onto the deus, I do get on that soapbox, there's a tendency to say, this is my one chance, it's like network. I can't take, I'm fed up and I can't take it anymore. You feel like that. Well, that may be what's needed. And I'm all for the moments in history when Mario Savio says, there comes a time when the operation of the
Starting point is 01:54:32 machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part. And you've got to throw your body upon the gears of the machine. I agree with that. And I am oriented that way. But we're entering a new time when there's so much information flying around and so much noisy information. Tich Nhat Han, before he died, I had the privilege to be at his monastery. And Tich Nhat Han, the beautiful Buddhist-engaged monk from Vietnam, at his monastery, he said, you know, when there's a crisis, like let's say the boat is sinking and you end up on the lifeboat with a group of people, people on that lifeboat will be all doing all kinds of frantic things, blowing
Starting point is 01:55:15 the whistle, looking for the oars, strapping on all the life jackets, hollering and passing aircraft, whatever. If you sit quietly, people in the lifeboat will resent your tranquility, they'll resent your indifference. But you may be doing something deeply valuable to the people in that lifeboat. The dull, sit tones, the still waters run deep. Maybe there's something else going on here.
Starting point is 01:55:40 I think you have done that as a human, Rick. I think you had the option to be a cliched version of yourself as a juggernaut in the music business. There's an obvious path where someone like you kind of never puts on the brakes or puts on the brakes in a kind of virtue signaling, fakey, fakey way, and I don't think you strike people that way. I think you strike people as authentically trying to figure this out. And I think that the soapbox fervor that villainous forces caused me to have to engage in was a time. And now when there's so much noisy information, I need to check how to place the right thoughts with the right dignity, perfectly formed. The art of it is not, James Taylor said when they were young, they had bands and their
Starting point is 01:56:43 idea of soul was volume. It's not to just be loud or more outspoken or more shock you, but to texture it so that people lean in because you're actually placing out of the media circus that they've become accustomed to. If I can head in that direction, if I stay in media, because I'm not sure that I can convince myself any longer that media work is going to stop the fires from burning in a timely way.
Starting point is 01:57:12 And if that's not the case, then I should just go grab a shovel or a fire extinguisher and help in a more practical way to reduce pain. I try to figure that out myself. I don't know how to do that yet, but that's where I probably am headed. The coward Amisa's probably. But if I were to continue making media, and certainly in the mode I'm in right now, with the series I'm working on right now, which is very sensitive, with that kind of a project,
Starting point is 01:57:36 I am looking for the measured approach that isn't camp versus camp. Let me simplify this so I get your vote. Let me simplify this because it makes it easier with our fundraising to know who to send the email fundraising thing to and who not to. There was something you said earlier about finding the inconvenient fact that comes up when you're making something and I found that the documentaries that seem to have the most power for me are the ones that don't tell me what to think. They just give me
Starting point is 01:58:10 the information and the best versions give me all of the information from both sides and allow me to decide. And there's two phases in that because as a documentary filmmaker, which I've spent a lot of my life doing, I'm often told that people would like to not be told to think da-da-da. And then you go about it in the editing room secretly knowing that you've got really strong opinions. So are you lying? Are you hiding your hand? Is that deceitful or is that diplomacy? Is diplomacy deceit or is it empathy affecting your behavior so that you suggest to someone that there might be a pathway to think but you have the respect for them to know that asking them to make a hairpin turn toward what you think is disrespectful. They took a long time to get to the way they think about it. Marcel Ofall said of documentary making, he said, of course my films have a point of view, but I go out of my way
Starting point is 01:59:07 to show how hard it was to arrive at that point of view. We often say that when we interview people you go easy on your adversaries and hard on your friends. You let your adversaries tell it like they feel it, and your friends, you don't let them take shortcuts that where the world is simple like they want to make it sound. Those are good rules, but I often ask myself, I am far more outraged and pained than I let my films tonally represent. And is that deceitful? Is that clever communication strategy of getting, like somebody sits at an advertising table
Starting point is 01:59:41 and says, women don't like such and such. So we're going to market smoking to women in the way by saying like in the early teens, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, Ed Bernays, he came up with the whole concept of public relations. When he taught women on the streets of New York, he made it an event. He said to the papers, stand at the corner of 59th
Starting point is 02:00:01 and powering down and such and you will see women carrying the torch of liberty. And he had five famous debutantes in New York get to that corner and in the middle of the whole parade, they hiked up their dresses and they had a little garter on and then there was a pack of cigarettes. And they all lit up a cigarette and the torch of liberty, America's shining beacon was forever associated
Starting point is 02:00:20 with women smoking. Well, are my films, when I'm being mindful about how I'm communicating, am I actually just trying to get in your pants and use a clever way in? Or is it respectful of the distance you may have to travel to get there? And I think both are true, and in the hands of someone ethically accountable, you'll get to a fair place. But there's no question that the pushback from people in the room,
Starting point is 02:00:48 you know, when I made my Elvis movie, The King, it was after you had walked out of the house I live in. If you see the Elvis movie, it was shaped by the tonal adjustment, which is if you gave me a slight chiropractic adjustment of the way I was trying to make the road by walking, and it's in the Elvis movie. It's in the way it delivers encouragement for a discourse. And there were lots of things I cut out that were much more outspoken, and they felt great in the moment, but they didn't feel great in the overall. When the film premiered at Cannes, it was about 20 minutes longer than the ultimate,
Starting point is 02:01:26 the king that came out. And those 20 minutes had a lot of the previous iteration of me and a more measured, let people lean in and get there themselves happened in the later version. And that's where I got a lot out of that viewing with you and audience members over time. I was often noticing that I'd come out of, look how much I talk, shut up after a while, right?
Starting point is 02:01:49 Well, in an audience, for example, I used to make speeches and people at the end of them would come up to me and they'd say, wow, you're such a good speaker. Wow, you're so smart. And I said, well, was that the goal or was I trying to get them to think about prison policy? So I was making myself the spectacle. So I stopped standing on the stage.
Starting point is 02:02:07 I'd go to make a speech. I'd sit down, sound silly, but I'd sit in the audience and I'd say to people, what do you do? Oh, I'm not interested. I'm just a computer programmer. You're a computer programmer. Well, how racially diverse is computer... No, all of a sudden we'd be off into the racial diversity questions in the computer world,
Starting point is 02:02:24 rather than me making a speech from the stage that tells you that I have all the answers about race in America and hear the statistics and they're going to make you feel bad, and then you're going to go home and maybe watch John Stewart, maybe I'll take a drug, maybe I'll have some intimacy, maybe I'll breakfast cereal at night, whatever your thing is. But the thing with me was not going to be activatable because it was too caught up with me being the exalted deliverer of bad news. That was a mode in documentary, it was a mode in the news cycle, and I think we need much more textured discussion of things that are much harder to solve than that. How do you decide what projects to move forward with?
Starting point is 02:03:05 I imagine you have more ideas for projects than the ones that you execute. I do, and some of the ones that haven't happened are heartbreaking for me because they are more reflective of who I truly feel I am than the ones that represent a Venn diagram between that and what was achievable in the marketplace. So they said to Nabokov once that he was being hailed as the great American author, and he said, if only they could read me in Russian. And I often feel I never really get the chance to reflect in front of the public in the way that I'd like to as a creative person because there's a specific market niche for me of
Starting point is 02:03:52 what I can get over with. And so some of the more inspired things I've sought to do haven't happened, and I hope maybe for any day, but you're not going to get to all of it. I'm not 12 years old anymore. So I choose them based on a Venn diagram between vision and viability. Are you surprised by the movies at the end of them? Is the movie that you set out to make and the movie that you finished making the same movie?
Starting point is 02:04:21 They've generally taken on the inconvenient truths that I didn't know when I started. The Elvis movie is unique because I was making a movie about the death of Elvis as a metaphor for the death of the American dream and then his car came up for auction and I was already making the movie and then the movie became a road movie in his Rolls Royce across America during an election year and you would think I planned that. Like what a great idea to cross America at Elvis's Rolls Royce during an election year when Donald Trump is effectively vegasizing America and Elvis dies in the toilet. Right? Like, that was an unbelievable thrill of the land that, no, I was just making a movie about the death of the American dream in the body of Elvis, and then the car gave it
Starting point is 02:05:02 shape. So the movie at the end is completely different than the rest of the story. How did the first thought of Elvis and the death of America come? I'll tell you. I was making a speech about a lot of the kind of things we're talking about today. Where are we all going? What's happening to us? What happened to the country we were told about as kids?
Starting point is 02:05:22 I mean, forget about the fact that America never was that for the masses of people. Forget about the fact that women couldn't vote, black people couldn't vote. Forget about all that stuff. But at least the idea, Martin Luther King said, the long archivist rebends toward justice. America was the staging ground where, yeah, there were huge problems like the problems of old Europe, but they were being solved here. That's a beautiful thought, and America validly has
Starting point is 02:05:45 claimed to that. We can hold against ourselves what happened to the Native American. We can hold against ourselves slavery, post-slavery, the endless crimes of humanity, but we didn't invent those. We just lied about fixing them because we were fixing them and deepening them when two sides of our face. So looking at that country and talking with an audience one night, it was about the drug war and talking about the crimes against humanity that were happening in America to black people. I looked at her to see if people, and I noticed I'm talking about black Americans here. I'm in a room full of poor white people in Pennsylvania who've got their own version of this story and have their own incarcerated family members.
Starting point is 02:06:29 And I said, you all look the same way I feel, which is sort of heartbroken, that life isn't like we thought it was going to be. I said, it's like something went wrong. It's like we've all become the fat Elvis, like something that was once really sunny. So you just let it as an offhand comment. I sent it as a comment. And an elderly man came up to me after the screening and said, is that your next movie? I said, what my next movie?
Starting point is 02:06:53 He said, the fat Elvis, that's a great idea. So I started making a thing about the fat Elvis. Wow, and that's a great example of essentially crowdsourcing. It was a collaboration before it started. Yeah. It began in the mouth of somebody else. Beautiful. What were the other experiences of the bus trip? We really focused on the Amish.
Starting point is 02:07:11 Yeah. Tell me some of the others. A lot of it was what happened on the bus itself. One night while crossing Kansas, I had left the Amish and I was on my way across Kansas and I did some farm work in Kansas before going to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I did some farm work in Kansas before going to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where I did some work in a mine.
Starting point is 02:07:29 Sounds more exciting than it ended up being a mine in this day and age is not like an old coal miners daughter movie. It's more of an industrial task. And I worked inside a packaging area in the mine, Day Labor. But on the way across Kansas to get there, a woman got on between Kansas City and Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri. And I had taken a window seat and it was, there was only one seat left. I'm one of those people, I was like, no one in the seat next to me. Like for all my claims about collectivism, I look for the one seat where I don't talk to somebody
Starting point is 02:08:05 Wretched human being but there you go. So I get on the bus and I take the one seat that has nobody next to me and after some stops African-American woman tremendously obese came and she sat down next to me and she got into that seat and really filled out the seat and lifted up the armrest. Well, that was going to mean she was half in my seat. So I don't know that I put the armrest down, but I think I bristled them. Anyway, she left the armrest up and she starts filling up and she's really grumbling that I even exist.
Starting point is 02:08:46 She was really put off that I was occupying my seat. And so we settled in together for what was going to be a long haul. And I was reading Moby Dick. I had read Moby Dick before in my life and I was rereading it. And... Did you speak to her? At the beginning just, you know, very mild, but she wasn't in the mood to talk. Couple hours pass, there's a road stop, we get off, we get back on, things settle a little
Starting point is 02:09:15 differently. What are you reading? She said. And I said, I'm reading Moby Dick. She goes, wasn't Dick Gregory in that movie? Dick Gregory, the preacher? I didn't Dick Gregory. I even knew Dick Gregory. I was like, how did she come up with Dick Gregory? No, I don't think, oh yeah, I saw that movie at the Rialto. That had Dick Gregory in it. It's about that whale, right? I'm realizing she means Gregory Peck. So I said, you mean
Starting point is 02:09:42 Gregory Peck? Peck, Dick Gregory, that's right. It was at the Rialto. And I said, you mean Gregory Peck? Peck did Gregory, that's right. It was at the Rialto. And I said, oh, that's amazing. So you know, Moby Dick, that's wonderful. Did you like it? Yeah, I remember that movie. I remember seeing it. So we get to talk and we have a nice town hall in the movie.
Starting point is 02:09:56 And we go on talking and she tells me about where she's coming from, which was Jollet, Illinois, where she visited her grandson who was in prison. America sends young prisoners and older prisoners very often out of state to a prison not in their state so that their family members have trouble coming to help them, represent them, advocate for them. It's one of our Nazi-era-level crimes that we commit against people who we lock up, we make it impossible for them to have support. She had just come many states to Jollet, Illinois. She was going
Starting point is 02:10:32 back to Kansas and she was having to visit a grandson who was in jail there and she told me about how terrible it's going for him and how heartbreaking it is. And she told me a very heartbreaking story about her young grandson. And then she asked me more about the book, what I was reading. And I said, well, I'm actually in a scene right now where young Pip, the black castaway on the ship, the Pequod, who was like the little boy of a slave family who'd cast away on a ship, in effect, getting his freedom. That young boy, during the middle of a fracas with a whale
Starting point is 02:11:07 was knocked overboard and his little black head was bobbing up and down in the waves as Melville describes it with ever widening circles around him between him and the rest of the whalers now in the boat. And there was a question, were they even gonna go back and rescue him? Cause after all, he's just a little black slave boy. And so Pip is bobbing in the water.
Starting point is 02:11:28 And I was telling her the story about how when he finally does get back on the ship, he's been scared into, into madness, that young Pip is never the same. After this incident, where effectively AHAB and the others willing to leave him for dead. And Ishmael is kind of a gas to this model. And you can see in it Melville's views of race in America, and you can see the lack of care, you can see the brutality, the—and I tell her this, and night falls. And I sometime while telling her the story of Pip, some cosmic parallel to her grandson was on my mind in some subtle way
Starting point is 02:12:05 It was hard not to talk to a black American woman about her black American grandchild while reading Melville's sleeve era whale Epic with the black boy drowning in the ocean not cared about by those on the ship And so that all was floating around the air without me saying anything about it. And all the lights in the bus are off because it's nighttime in Kansas. And you can see just the wide expanse of the occasional lamppost and occasional dotted farm going along. And she goes to sleep and she's sidled up next to me. And by now we are bosom buddies, just like Quig Quag and Ishmael in the beginning of Moby Dick. We are intertwined, she and I, as if she was motherhood itself.
Starting point is 02:12:50 And I loved being next to her. And she, I think, had gotten more comfortable with me being there. And I was reading and I read along and I read along and it was nighttime and she was asleep. Lisa, I thought she was asleep. And all of a sudden in the middle of the night with Kansas drifting by outside the windows, I hear her voice say to me, that whale killed that man, didn't he? And I said, yeah, he did. Then she went back to sleep. And I remember thinking, Melvin, how did you know where to send me? How did you know how to make me understand people who have a very different level of privilege than I've had?
Starting point is 02:13:40 So beautiful that you have to have those experiences. Unbelievable. Yes. It's unbelievable how the universe sets up these conditions that allows it to happen. Yeah. And provided that you're open enough to recognize it when it's happening, because there could have been a version of you who was just uncomfortable and didn't want to be there and not open to what is this at first seemingly unpleasant situation.
Starting point is 02:14:08 But before I congratulate myself for being a sensitive guy in that situation, remember that I come out of a background that gave me the privilege, and I don't just mean like economic privilege, the comfort of not being on the receiving end of brutality at all times that puts you on the defensive. I'm an open-hearted person because I'm a privileged person. I guess I didn't turn that into rape and pillage, and maybe I should get some points for that, but not that many. I mean, it should go with the territory that you don't go rape and pillage.
Starting point is 02:14:42 It should be standard that you don't judge people as you wouldn't judge a book by its cover. But in my case, I was really blessed by the way I was given the freedom to be free of a lot of isms, the isms that Bob Marley talked about, all those isms that represent isms and schisms. I didn't have those. I've been very blessed my whole life that we didn't have racism, sexism. We had, we had weirdly none of that. We were children of flight. We'd been losers for a day. We were suddenly on top. Don't get too comfortable, it could be over tomorrow and before we get to tomorrow, who else is suffering right now? And then as I got older and when you're doing the work, don't be paternalistic, you fuck,
Starting point is 02:15:33 you're no different than anybody else, you're just being helpful today. You're not in a better position, you're a better person, you're not stronger, not anything, you're just lucky right now. Use it with care and with humility and I've done okay at that. I've gotten as lost as anyone would. I've had arrogant times where I thought I had the secret to save the world and I'm the movie maker who's going to stop the war. I had all kinds of embarrassing delusions but as I've grown older I have a moderated sense of my role in the collective and I don't think I'm living it correctly.
Starting point is 02:16:07 I don't check in with me in 10 years. I hope I'm doing better. It's an interesting point you made about because you didn't grow up with controversy and because you come from an open-hearted place, there's a lot of the way the world works that doesn't occur to you naturally. And I would say that that's probably true for the majority of our ruling class. Would you agree?
Starting point is 02:16:30 Yes. And I think the danger of that is that that blindness can lead to some really unexpected, inconvenient, brutal outcomes. Yeah, let them eat cake. Exactly. I was talking to a screenwriter in Kingston, Jamaica. He was a brilliant young screenwriter and we were going to work on a Caribbean epic that I had wanted to get done.
Starting point is 02:16:55 It was a story from my childhood that had to do with colonialism in the Caribbean, white guilt. And I talked about the screenplay and he had shown me another thing he had written. He had actually written it for Rita Marley and he was a brilliant young white screenwriter from America. His name was Henry Miller, strangely enough. And I talked to Henry and I found him so smart. And for maybe the 15th time, if I care about somebody and if I like them, I'll tell them very, very openly what I care about and like about them. When I tell you how much I admire you, I'm not blowing smoke up your ass.
Starting point is 02:17:33 I actually want more of you to happen in the world and if you don't get positive reinforcement, what's to stop you from going? I guess nobody noticed. Well, I'll just go back and be a hip hop rapacious producer, money guy, like whatever, like I think the right choices need to get positive echo, you know? So I like to tell people. So I was telling Henry what a great screenwriter he was, and I guess I reached number 15 and he wanted to hear anymore and he goes, don't cast me up. I said, what?
Starting point is 02:18:00 Don't cast me up. I said, Henry, do you think I'm trying to get something from you? You think I'm trying to score advantage out of it. I genuinely just think you're incredibly Town that I'm just used to telling you enough for me So Henry his background had built him to not have That kind of receptiveness. I once met Danny Hawk, the genius social justice poet in New York, so genius and so special. He couldn't even, he was Mario Savio. He couldn't participate, not even passively in a system. And so he just kept the line and taught in prisons and did all this crap. And I came up to Danny Hawk. He'd made Jail's Hospitals and Hip Hop in New York,
Starting point is 02:18:42 which is one of the most incredible one-man shows I'd ever seen in my life, about everything that mattered in American life at that time. And I came up to him and I said, Danny, it's so great to meet you. You don't know who I am. I'm just kind of an upcoming filmmaker, and I have this idea that I could really make your Jail, because I saw you did some people for HBO, but that was only seen by the HBO crowd, and now I want to get you into movie theaters. He listened to my whole spiel.
Starting point is 02:19:05 I was going to make him the greatest thing since sliced bread and he goes, yeah, so you can make it, can you distribute it? And I was like, well, that's what that matters. Just make a great thing. And he was like, well, I've been through that. They control the means of distribution. It doesn't matter what you're going to make or yada, yada, yada. Good kid.
Starting point is 02:19:23 Call me back when you're further along, you know was he right I don't think so they made it wrong we don't know we don't really know I would have made something beautiful yes because I was so passionately in love with it that the jadedness that the system does teach made us not be a unit that I think I deeply was just invested in his vision and wanting a lot more people to be touched by it. And he was understandably watching the marketplace make mincemeat out of good intentions. So I get why he did it. But that kind of jadedness can really block great enterprises.
Starting point is 02:20:01 I can remember a situation in the recording studio once where a musician played a particularly mind-blowing part like The sky opened and came into the studio for this moment and then this person was walking through the control room later and The engineer in the room said oh that was really great and the artist looked at him and said, please, don't say that. Like, I don't want to hear that. And it wasn't a guessing up situation. It was, I'm staying in this conductive place. Yeah.
Starting point is 02:20:32 And any information I get from the outside is liable to pull me out of it. Yep, yep. There's a book called The Inner Game of Tennis. And it's all about the psychology of tennis. And in the book, the writer says, if you're ever losing to someone at a moment where you're both crossing the change sides at the net, say to them something like, your serve is amazing today.
Starting point is 02:20:57 What are you doing with that serve? It won't serve well again the whole game. Because you get them to think about it. And spook the whole thing, you know? Tell me about your experience in Guantanamo. The Guantanamo that I know precedes the Guantanamo we think of as Camp Delta with the war on terror. It's not the Guantanamo of that. It's a previous Guantanamo. America's had Guantanamo for decades and decades and at the time I went to Guantanamo, America's had Guantanamo for decades and decades, and at the time I went to Guantanamo, I went there because I was working- It's always called Guantanamo, regardless of where it is.
Starting point is 02:21:29 Guantanamo Bay, Naval Base is the naval base we have on the Cuban land of Guantanamo Bay, and the American government made a deal with the Cuban government of a previous era that gave us a kind of permanent lease on that piece of land, huge controversy within Cuba about it, because basically, as Cuba has been an adversary of America, it's as if Russia had a base in Pennsylvania, right? It's kind of extraordinary abuse of the international system, only made possible because America could nuke Cuba off the planet if they had an argument about it. So, it might make right. Guantanamo Bay, I went there because I was working for Jesse Jackson, the Reverend, who I admired greatly in a lot of ways, and I was traveling with him when Bill Clinton asked
Starting point is 02:22:14 him to go to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base where a large group of Haitian refugees had been brought because it was suspected that they were HIV positive, and they'd been brought and kind of quarantined at the Naval base. And Jesse Jackson was supposed to go down there and deal with the fact that they had gone on a hunger strike at the Naval base to protest that they'd been sent there when all they were doing was looking for asylum from the crimes in their country and the pain in their country. And here was a whole new pain.
Starting point is 02:22:47 And Jesse Jackson, in his inimitable way, read the situation down there and instead of doing what Clinton wanted him to do, which was to pass him by the situation, he joined the hunger strike. Well, I had cameras with us because I had gotten permission to film this and I had never filmed anything in my life. I was a stage director and I made one little dramatic film but I didn't film it, I wasn't guy with camera, I was just wanna be famous movie maker,
Starting point is 02:23:11 I wasn't like a real person, I was a pretend person. So all of a sudden I'm in a naval base and I've got cameras so I started filming. When we got back to America, I got a call from Don Hewitt at 60 Minutes. I didn't even know who Don Hewitt was. I knew what 60 Minutes was, I watched TV, the old television but I didn't from Don Hewitt at 60 Minutes. I didn't even know who Don Hewitt was. I knew what 60 Minutes was. I watched TV, the old television,
Starting point is 02:23:28 but I didn't know Don Hewitt and he called and he said, I heard you've just gotten back from Guantanamo Bay and I said, yes. And he said, you are the first person who's filmed in the base. I don't know how you got access. We've had great deal of trouble filming in the area you were in and things like this.
Starting point is 02:23:44 Could I see the footage? And I sold the footage to CBS and I'd never sold lemonade in my life. I couldn't get arrested doing anything but all of a sudden I'd sold something and I think that was an invitation toward documentary. Documentary really took a strong place in my life a few years later when a particular project emerged that I wanted to film, but it began in Guantanamo Bay. My whole career as a chronicler of life seeking answers, not necessarily just by telling fiction stories
Starting point is 02:24:15 begins in Guantanamo Bay. Wow, but it was just a random, yeah. That's wild. It was a random one. Another case of the universe kind of setting up the conditions to allow this to happen. Louis Pasteur, luck favors the prepared mind. I always admire my brother incredibly because there are moments in my brother's life where
Starting point is 02:24:33 he's gotten lucky, but that's not really true. Other people would have had the same thing passed by them and they wouldn't have spotted it. You have to have a certain orientation to seize on those moments. And that's where I say, I don't give myself such credit. I was raised and I'm very grateful to my parents and to my godfather and my siblings for creating a situation around me that made me sensitive without convenient isms that get in the way. How would you say your brother and you are different as filmmakers?
Starting point is 02:25:03 He's a documentarian as well, yes? Yes, he is. And you have a third half-brother? There's three brothers in my family, my brother Tom, my brother Andrew and me, and we do have a half-brother Nicholas. And Nicholas is also a filmmaker and very talented one. My brother Andrew and I are different in, first of all, he's six years my senior and taught me a great deal. So there are
Starting point is 02:25:26 similarities between us. In object matter, similar or different. Many of them are emulative. Well, it's interesting, he really does generally pursue individual stories of injustice. And he's very often focused, as he was in capturing the Freedmans, or he was in the Jinx, in stories of fascinating corruption. In the case of the Jinx, Robert Durst getting away with murder because he's rich, and the way that isn't that the American story. And so Andrew looks at the particular from which you draw the universal. I tend to hit, to grab onto universal systems. The military industrial complex writ large. The prison industrial complex.
Starting point is 02:26:09 My movie Reagan is about the craziness with which America has become Reagan's country in all these years and all the complexity in that. I choose generally topics that start universal and express themselves in the particular, my brother finds a particular story and just really use Christopher Walken's term, explores the studio space with it. He doesn't leave a stone unturned of what a topic had on offer.
Starting point is 02:26:37 He finds it all in a way that I find stunning. I'm a huge advocate of my brother. Have you ever done anything on the CIA or FBI or the intelligence agencies? No, the current thing I'm doing is about that. Great. Vastly. Great.
Starting point is 02:26:54 That's the first time I've. I can't wait to see that. Trespass there. Do you have a timeframe on when we'll be able to see that? Yeah, early part of next year. Oh, fantastic. Early part of next year. Fantastic.
Starting point is 02:27:04 Yeah. Would you say there's a theme that runs through all of your movies? Yeah, the tension between capitalism and democracy. It struck me at a young age that people were not distinguishing between capitalism and democracy. They thought having it their way at Burger King was democracy. When in fact having it your way at Burger King is really a token little gesture while Burger King has its way with you While corporate power shapes the world you live in you're not having it your way You're having it their way and they're distracting you by titillating your consumerist impulses and distracting you from the hijacking of Democracy by capitalism so a difference between capitalism and corporatism. Yes, I would say that capitalism didn't have to be corrupt.
Starting point is 02:27:49 It's that capitalism deregulated becomes cronyist and corporatist, and it stops having any intersection with the public commons. Don't forget that Mussolini, from whom we get the term fascism, Gentile, who writes the dictionary at that time for Mussolini in which the word fascism is introduced is the bundling of political and corporate power. Fascism is a bundle and the bundling of fascism of political and corporate power is Gentile's idea for Mussolini of where power lies. In the American system it's the same. We just didn't call it fascism.
Starting point is 02:28:24 He was a newspaper person. Outside of my pay grade, no idea. I only know that as a leader, he asked Gentile to write this dictionary. Gentile writes a dictionary, brands fascism, as a bundling of political corporate power, and we think, oh, God, those fascists, that's what we do. That is what American democracy is.
Starting point is 02:28:43 And Mussolini's fascism was an outgrowth of socialism. Very often it happens that way, that isms, this is where, back to Bob Marley, always back to Bob Marley, isms and schisms, when we endorse an ideology, you know, we talk about Marxism. ideology. You know, we talk about Marxism. Reagan was always very careful to talk about anyone who was a Marxist as a Marxist-Leninist. Well, Marx and Lenin are two different people. One of them is a social analyst. The other one is a, you could say, very corrupt leader. Okay. Well, the hijacking of Marxism into what becomes communism, a pornographic abortion of a system, has nothing to do with Marxism. Marxism is a diagnosis on what's wrong with capitalism.
Starting point is 02:29:31 So because communism hijacks it, it becomes incredibly convenient for the capitalists to go, well, we see where that ends up. Is there a thriving one somewhere in the world that works. As any ism that gets implemented and then takes on the characteristics of organization, invariably human corruption rises into view and did immediate. So it's anything that gets big. It's like what Jesus taught was one thing and then what the church did from that is a different big. It's like what Jesus taught was one thing and then what the church did from that is a different thing. It's the same. It's Madonna and Brittany. It's also Fidel Castro. You know, Fidel Castro, you can't have false staff and have him thin.
Starting point is 02:30:16 If you're Fidel Castro and you can take basically 12 men and overthrow a giant oppressive government, then when you get into power, you're not a girl scout. And you are going to start behaving like that which you overthrew. Now, is that the only way to go? I hope not, but history's examples are limitless of the well-intended social movement that comes to embody that which it decried.
Starting point is 02:30:53 I would like to think that we are students of history more than ever before. That might mean that we learn from history more than ever before, and it might mean that just as we now know what green than ever before, and it might mean that just as we now know what greenwashing is, so it's harder to do it on us, just as we know what being gaslit by somebody is, so it's harder to do it on us. Somebody make us feel crazy for thinking something that's absolutely correct, and just twist
Starting point is 02:31:17 your mind. In the same way, we might see coming the signals that this is not going to end well, that someone's language has to be put to the test, okay, but what will you do when you are in office? What can we hold you to account for, et cetera? Am I idealistic to view that that would be possible? I don't think so because so much of the world is not predictable right now. And I think that in the horrors that are surrounding us, that are happening, the peoples of the world and to the nature of the world, we have a chance to breathe new air into that.
Starting point is 02:31:56 And so I don't want to take it for granted that government can't work. Or I don't want to take it for granted that all systems become corrupt and even, because that's the road to perdition. Those who benefit from the status quo right now are the people who have invented all of the arguments of why it's always going to be this way. I was vegan for 23 years and I became a vegan based on the industrialized meat system being not healthy for the animals, not healthy for us. My assessment of the problem was correct. What to do about it was become a vegan.
Starting point is 02:32:33 That was the wrong answer because it made me really sick. I gained a lot of weight, I got really depressed, and I almost died. Now I eat regenerative farm animals. I'm much healthier and it's more in tune with the way the planet actually works. You've used the word capitalism a lot of times today as the problem and I'm wondering if capitalism or Marxism or socialism could get big and become as bad as our current situation. Maybe the problem is in capitalism, maybe the problem is corporatism and things getting too big. Here, I would offer this.
Starting point is 02:33:12 I share with you 100% the reality that the choices you made about your nutrition are illuminating about the way a fix can be a misguided step, even though the original intention was right. And I also share with you that you and I are people who have the comfort to shop at the perimeter of the supermarket when poor people don't even have a chance to go through meat or veggies. They're just going right to the processed food because it's cheap, and that's the story of our nutrition class system. And I only raise that because there is a pernicious notion of health at the center of that, even if the shopping market was smaller, even if it wasn't a chain, the basic idea of the pricing,
Starting point is 02:34:00 the basic idea of how human beings, how labor, how capital function, that is a skewed idea that has put endless growth, as we talk about getting big, on a pedestal. Greta Thunberg said, stop telling me your fairy tales of unlimited upward growth all the time. That's just something you've told us as if that's a given. The author who wrote Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher, who I think took his own life even at the end of it all, Mark Fisher wrote a book where he basically said, Capitalism's current MO is to make us think that it's the only system that was ever there. Well, in fact, for most of human history, there have been many other systems and isms.
Starting point is 02:34:45 This particular one has a recipe. First it has a recipe for trading all for profit. Profit is king and everything else stands in the way. And then, because we're clever, we're going to create some sales pitch called trickle-down that tells you it'll lift all boats. Let the rich get richer and we'll all be better. That has been disproven by history and yet we still talk that shit. So capitalism first and foremost is a profit seeking mechanism that warps our priorities. This does not tell you that socialism or communism, Marx is right.
Starting point is 02:35:21 Marx diagnosed this and he's right. He's not a political system, he's an analyst. The systems that were implemented after Marx, those have challenges, huge challenges. They entail oppressing of people because they say the state owns everything so you don't get the pride of anything you may. No incentive. There's incentive and it's no allowing for human beings
Starting point is 02:35:40 to have the feelings and the spirit. They haven't accounted for how to solve for that. To say to Rick Rubin, you're gonna have the exact same rights and the exact same money and the exact same means and healthcare and whatever else. As someone who doesn't necessarily bring the same talents, energy, labor or whatever to the table, you might think to yourself, I don't know if that's fair to me. I get why that's fairish sounding, but that guy doesn't seem like he's working and I'm ready to work 18 hours a day is there any accounting for that that was a nuanced
Starting point is 02:36:12 conversation that never happens instead they go we're the ones who say release the hounds fuck them all and these guys go fuck Rick Rubin and the one like him they shouldn't have any of these things and I don't think it's so important that they're so talented, but excuse me while I listen to some of the records he's made. Like so it's very twisted, it's a series of hypocrisies. Keep Carl fucking Marx out of this, because God loved that guy for having seen crazy shit coming and then his stuff got hijacked and turned into crappy interscope records. Sorry. But you know. How did Karl Marx turn into interscope records?
Starting point is 02:36:49 Well, it's like interscope taking your shit and making it into pop crap. Right? It's like Karl Marx had a cool thing going. And the Leninists and Communists turned it into another rape system. But with all this being said, I don't know, I don't want to necessarily just give it up to size, but let's go with that for the minute. Hypothetically, if you made size matters a concern, that's already regulation. So now we're negotiating. Now we're already talking in a regulatory way. And then the quick answer back would be, Eugene, show me how to institute regulation that doesn't become corrupt in itself and I'll say get money out of politics So you're saying there can't be regulation
Starting point is 02:37:29 There can only be if you if you actually money out of politics until you do that your life be awesome And that's that's that's a decision. Yeah, and that's a decision that'll piss off lots of people But well, they'll what it'll think it'll piss off the people in charge who will not allow it to happen. There's a great one. I was talking this shit that I talk about capitalism some years ago. And the granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower, former president, she came up to me in the end,
Starting point is 02:37:55 she goes, you keep criticizing capitalism. I don't think you're an enemy of capitalism. It sounds like you're an enemy of cronyism. Like people doing favors for other people and corrupting the system. Corruption. And I said, corruption. And I said, yeah, but Susan, show me a capitalist system
Starting point is 02:38:10 that hasn't become corrupt. There should be any system that hasn't become corrupt. I'm with that. And so I said, we're showing that thing. So I said, okay, but let me take it on. So the next day I made another speech. And at that second speech, I took on what she said. And I came out and I said, hello everybody, I'm Eugene, and I am a free market fundamentalist.
Starting point is 02:38:29 I think there should be a free market. I think people should be able to competitively play on the playing field as equals. That means I don't want corporate power that blocks mom and pop from building a better mousetrap. They have skewed the game so that, regulatory, they can get away with murder and the other guys can't get off the line. What you just suggested I vote for that. And that we could do, and that is like,
Starting point is 02:38:52 because the only answer somebody in power can be back is, no, no, no, I don't want it to be fair, I only want if it's unfair. Well, next, we already know where you live. You're afraid of competition. If you're not afraid of competition, great. There has to be a mechanism to allow society to be fair and not hijacked by the very people I watched Elizabeth Warren make some comments about this.
Starting point is 02:39:15 I have mixed feelings about Elizabeth Warren, but I'll tell you what I don't have mixed feelings about is the way she spoke to the billionaires of America. She said, I have heard that billionaires think I'm out to get them. I've heard them say that I'm there to take away their hard earned wealth. I admire your hard earned wealth. You had an idea, you had a skill, you had a good or service you wanted to offer, and you have done very well with that. I only want to reflect here that you probably were educated in this country's education
Starting point is 02:39:46 system paid for by taxpayers. You probably rode the bus to school on roads paid for by a taxpayer. You probably started first business and had a couple of people on staff who got certain benefits of loans and student thing or GI bail or whatever, taxpayer money. You had students who came up in your ranks and became the, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, she goes, you have scientists working, came out of our university systems
Starting point is 02:40:10 that are paid for by taxpayer money. She said, I'm only asking you to recognize how much has gone into as investment by the public commons your success. You're acting like you drove to work through the air and there was a no Regulatory world the entire world was regulated You weren't murdered because we had laws against murder to be able to become the person you became and now you want to say Hey, I'm successful and I'll close the door behind me
Starting point is 02:40:39 That is so twisted and fucked up and weak. I just don't believe it'll stand the test of time. The idealist in me thinks we will stop listening to hypocrites at some point. I think Trump is helpful. Trump is a helpful hypocrite. I have a question. Something I'm confused about. I can remember reading all these reports, books about the population explosion and that the planet can't hold this many people and it can't be
Starting point is 02:41:05 Managed and there's too many people and then I hear Elon Musk talking about we need to have more children because there aren't enough people Are they just looking at different stats? What happened? Elon Musk is an example of the modern phenomenon that the making of wealth is confused with the possessing of wisdom. I find Elon Musk clownish as a thinker. I watched Elon Musk and I'm a nuclear thinker, and I watched Elon Musk asked about his desire to relocate us to Mars. And someone quite normally pointed out that it's rather
Starting point is 02:41:45 cold on Mars and not so habitable. And Elon Musk with a straight face said, not a problem. We'll warm it up. How would you do that? asked the interviewer. And he said, you simply drop thermonuclear weapons on the poles of Mars. Okay, so news flash, history of science. Nuclear weapons, just because they're hot, don't necessarily heat things up. That's what a nuclear winter is. Many side effects can happen from a nuclear blast. That's the least of them. The idea that unscientifically he just throws off a comment like nuking the poles of Mars
Starting point is 02:42:21 so that we can all have a homestead there, tells you the depth of his thinking. But what Elon Musk did was succeeded with the electric car, ever since who killed the electric car, the incredible movie. We all know that there has been decades of obstacles to others who tried to do that. And Elon Musk arrived and did an amazing thing and more power to him for the corporate achievement he's conducted. But I don't wanna get out of my lane and pretend to understand the population dynamics of that. I can tell you that most conversations about where things are,
Starting point is 02:42:53 emphasize what we all are as human beings are supposed to do to fix our behavior, and de-emphasize the fact that better part of climate change is caused by organized industry, whether it's the pollutions from the various petroleum industries all the way to meat, all the way. Everywhere we look we see corporate power unregulated, running amok, and poisoning life on earth, and then we are told that it's because we left our light on. Does that mean we're exempt? No. Turn your fucking lights off. Get your own grid working. Look at your backyard. Look at your behaviors. If for no other reason that it makes you
Starting point is 02:43:32 much more leery when corporate power says none of that should apply to them. So we all are in this together, but the leaders of it are at the corporate space. The population numbers, for example, in Africa, look how populous Africa is. Look at what a tiny contribution Africa is making to global warming. So it isn't the bodies of people. It's what the organization of those bodies, usually very few of them, creating a massive footprint. America is wildly responsible. So the question then is, is the overpopulation crisis that we were
Starting point is 02:44:07 warned about, is that false? What the population enormity, seven billion, whatever we're at, what that enormity, it was four billion when I was a kid, I'm just one lifetime, that explosion, that exponential explosion to now, in the practices that humans engage in, in their use of power, in their use of resources. We have passed the point where we are now using more resources than there are. That's a death now, until further notice, until systems evolve or until we change our ways. Remember that the climate change moment,
Starting point is 02:44:45 most responses to climate change have been about, let me sell you a new technology that lets you continue to live life the way you've been living it. None of it says to you, are you living a meaningful life? Are you living an accountable life? Are you living a mindful life? What changes could you make in your life that would reduce this?
Starting point is 02:45:04 And by the way, not just blaming the victim, and over here we're also going to change the way we burn this gas. But do you need to consume as much as you're consuming? We're going to service some consumption, but while we reduce the strain on the central plant, are you changing your behaviors? Both need to happen. One, if you just told the people to do it, stop fucking, stop having babies, there's too many people, you're just blaming the victim and you're pretending actually away the real problem. But if you give everyone a pass and just say, it's industry doing it, well we buy from those industries.
Starting point is 02:45:34 In my phone sitting right here are the rare earths that poor African children are being enslaved for. And I'm using the phone, talking about human rights over those phone calls. Huh? for, and I'm using the phone, talking about human rights over those phone calls. So a big change is needed. I don't feel that I'm in any way where I want to be in it or where a moral position would be in it. Recognition value is something, but what have I done for that lately?
Starting point is 02:45:59 And I think that's a balancing act that is in the population question, because a population question written wrong is ultimately about it's the numbers of people. Well, there are lots of numbers of people in Africa, but without the industrial organization of corruption that European states, China, America, India have, they're not raping the world and their numbers are huge. Michael Moore last produced a movie called Planet of the Humans and Errol Morris directed a documentary about Steve Bannon. Both were disgraced, discredited and shamed. Is it possible to make an honest documentary today? I think that the impact of social media and quick fix very much endorphins servicing
Starting point is 02:46:51 content on the internet designed with algorithms and other technologies to exploit our addictions and feed us quick fixes, conditions the public to have a shortened attention span to look for, I mean, if you take it to its logical extreme, it's the emoji. Happy, sad, embarrassed, in love, da-da-da. Those are not nuanced understandings of the human condition, but they are the ones that corporate power has found sell the most. Get you, oh, I got likes.
Starting point is 02:47:24 Like, what is a like? There are many shades of how you feel about something in history. And when someone watches a movie, they're originally, they're watching something with many shades of what they, I might not have liked the movie, but I got, it really made me mad. Or I like, well, did you like it? Well, I don't know if I liked it. I, I felt in the deer hunter when he took out the gun, I couldn't bled and I felt so, I had to look away. But I saw it again because, well, you saw it when he took out the gun, I couldn't bled, and I felt so, I had to look away, but I saw it again because, well, you saw it again. I saw the movie Triangle of Sadness last year.
Starting point is 02:47:49 Talk to people about Triangle of Sadness. Jenny is one of the best movies I've ever seen. And people have, I mean, they hate it. They love it. I don't know if I can even see it based on the title. It's unbelievably funny and interesting. A real smart movie. About a lot of things that we're talking about.
Starting point is 02:48:03 I think you would find it very interesting, but I don't wanna say you'd like it, because that's like telling you give it a like. So the dialing down of content to quick emoji level opinions on how it services your mood or identity in the moment is creating a very corrupted and undermined landscape for the delivery of meaningful content. Because all of a sudden, if I want to make something that's longer than two minutes,
Starting point is 02:48:29 boy, you must be one of them. They're academics. Oh, that's going to go deep. Boy, I don't know if I have time for that. So meanwhile, no, it's a love story. It's a 90-minute film. This is nothing. It's cut in candy.
Starting point is 02:48:45 Not cut in candy when the alternative is 12 two-minute videos on a doom loop into the night where you go into a wormhole of endorphin triggering. That is, there's no way to ignore that. So when you say, can you make an honest documentary, one of the problems is you're trying to bring effectively medicine to people, if you're making social justice work like I am, and it's not just that they don't want to take their medicine, they're on a steady diet of speed, they're on a steady diet of crack, and then you're trying to bring them granola and quinoa salad. Well, I didn't want know, quinoa salad. Well, I didn't want to make quinoa salad.
Starting point is 02:49:27 I thought I was making a really cool thing here, but compared to your speed, it's quinoa salad. So then what am I gonna do? Gussy it up and make it more sexy, make it shorter, make the messages punchier, put the ending at the beginning so I go, wow, that's cliffhanger. There's all these pressures around me right now, but I don't want to pander to that. Okay, you me right now, but I don't want to pander to that.
Starting point is 02:49:45 Okay, you're a great guy. You don't want to pander to that 12 people who see your movie. Okay, okay, well I'll pander a little bit. I'll pander a little bit. How far do I have to go? And now there's a product and it's been forged by that conflict between meaning and the rapacious impact of capitalism on modern thought.
Starting point is 02:50:04 And there's no ignoring that. So my heart goes out to the Arles and the Michael Moore's of the world because it's not easy right now to try to represent fine truth. Well, wait a minute, you're aware that you're trying to share it with someone. So in the way to finding it,
Starting point is 02:50:19 you certainly want people to see it. So are you gonna leave that nuance in there? That inconvenient thing you found? Or are you gonna say, I'm the one that says, plant under the humans, I'm going to plant my flag there, I'm going to plant the Steve Bannon flag, no, no, you got big trouble with it. Okay, so I won't do that next time, okay, that didn't pan out because that was got a lot of not likes, you know, so I'm going to get likes, so I'm going to get likes, I think I'll make one on Bart Specker, I'll make one on Pamela Anderson, I'll make one on, because that's just more even.
Starting point is 02:50:46 I can go there. They're like a built-in contradiction. Well, that's not bad. Alex Kibbuti made a Boris Becker movie. It was totally cool. Pamela Anderson's movie's amazing. So that can be good, but it's a hard navigation to get there. Music you

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