Behind the CURTAIN OF BLOOD – [Arundhati Roy’s phrase] – Bruce Petty’s Global Haywire

Cartoonist and satirist, Bruce Petty wrote, directed and animated Global Haywire (2007). What he wrote is a cartoon story. It is an allegory about the rationale of the West, personified in the figure of Vince, Leonardo da Vinci.

Vince receives the wisdom of the East, which at the time, contemporaneous with the historic da Vinci, is more highly developed in every respect. The East is civilized. It is above all, in contrast to the West of the middle ages, a tolerant and heterogeneous society.

Vince, a simple draughtsman, designs a freedom machine, a machine to reach freedom. The machine is elaborated as an analogue for Western civilization. It has an A deck and a B deck. Vince, the rationalism born in the cities of the Renaissance and developed over the Enlightenment, steers the freedom machine. Assisting in this system of guidance, more often to the mission’s detriment than to its advantage, are leaders both sacred and secular.

Bruce Petty wrote the allegory for a purpose: to explain global haywire, that the world’s gone haywire, by offering an adequate image of it. This retro-fitting of the allegory is all too obvious in the first half of the film, until we more or less catch up with ourselves, because the primary division is between East and West, therefore European and Arab, therefore Muslim and Christian.

Mona, Vince’s love interest throughout the cartoon story, serves as analogue for this other. She also personifies the imprint of Eastern culture and civilization on the West at a crucial time in its development.

Chinese, Indian and other Asian cultures do not feature so much except in colonial interludes, like the ‘narco-trafficking’ the British engaged in in order to manage the submission of both Indian and Chinese cultures and civilizations.

Africa, like these others, is not so much sidelined as enrolled as sidekick. On the one hand we have the old Arabism and on the other the new Europeanism, including its predilection for colonising and incorporating vast swathes of the human world. The British, we are told, made warfare a science in its wars of conquest.

The virtue of Bruce Petty’s writerly schema lies in its ability to handle and not reject the implants of Bruce Petty, the director: the voices alongside of Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Gore Vidal, Arundhati Roy, a handful of students, inter alia. These voices give the film legs.

– Bruce Petty. Vince is the guy on the left.

Bruce Petty, the animator, is somewhere near Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, and his countryman, Michael Leunig, and countrywoman, Mary Leunig, Michael’s sister. The weakest conceit is that of having a panel of experts in some kind of Monty Python annex made up of cartoon caricatures, which, we are told, are so necessarily, and filmed actors.

The film is divided into chapters as reports are delivered to the panel and findings are made by them. They are our chorus and spectate for us on a world gone haywire.

The film works but not as satire and is less humorous than heuristic: muscle is given by this simple division of A and B decks, by the notion of the West embarking together on Vince’s great freedom vehicle and assigning the East to the lower decks.

The upper decks found easy advocacy in Darwin’s survival of the fittest. The lower decks had Marx as their only advocate.

We reach a point of revelation. Haywire, the phenomenon, is going to be explained. The agents who preach biblical fundamentalism to B deck are the same ones who have installed a neo-conservative guidance system or autopilot. For the first time Vince’s freedom machine can fly blind. And blindly.

How, the panel asks, did this happen? Vince, they discover, is a traitor. He disguised himself as a market force. The Enlightenment project is betrayed. Rationalism disguised itself as a market force, successfully locking out democratic processes, the power of an informed populace, by rationalising, risk-managing, debt recovering, tax evading, etc. The masses abrogate their powers for the sake of a rationalism which was intended to liberate them and ends up enslaving them.

George Monbiot is called on to sum up. What is wrong with the world:

Those who run the world claim to do it in the name of democracy but actually theirs is a dictatorship of vested interests. It’s a dictatorship in which the poorer nations of the world have no say whatsoever.

Take the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, it runs on that time-honoured democratic principle of one dollar, one vote; the bigger your financial contribution, the bigger your votes.

The rich countries make all the decisions. The poor countries are completely frozen out of that decision-making process.

Noam Chomsky chips in, is cut in with this obvious, brilliant, critique, axiomatic of a corrupted capitalism, just as George Monbiot’s statements refer to a corrupted democracy:

Business would never permit the economy to be run on capitalist principles. That’s inconceivable. It’s too harmful to their interests. The IMF’s a good example.

So, for example, on capitalist principles, let’s say if I lend you money and I know that it’s risky so I therefore insist on a higher interest rate, and I make a lot of profit from lending you money, and then at some point you can’t pay the debt, on capitalist principles, that’s my problem. But the IMF wants to make sure it’s your problem.

In another context these statements might not lead to the simple and necessary principle of global economic domination that if you owe me money and can’t pay and I can hold you accountable – and that holding to account can be legally upheld – then I can cross the issue over: I will take your voting rights, your right to participate in global decisions; and only as part payment for what you owe me. Hence, economic ‘rationalism’ translates to the concentration of political power in fewer and fewer hands.

What is to be done?

George Monbiot’s four proposals (verbatim quotes in inverted commas):

1. Democracy must be the system under which the world is run. “At the moment the world is about as far from democratic as it could possibly be.” A democratic system needs a directly elected representative assembly – a parliament;

2. A radically reformed and democratic United Nations;

3. Shut down the IMF and the World Bank and replace them with the economically democratic International Clearing Union as proposed by John Maynard Keynes in 1943;

4. Create a Fair Trade Organisation to reverse effectively the mandate of the current World Trade Organisation, ensuring trade is used as a means of “economic redistribution rather than as a means of economic concentration.

I recommend you see Global Haywire. The DVD has extras, like a brief and excellent explanation of why satire is not available at this time, and the short animated film, Australian History, quoted in a post past.

I think each of us should make this movie. And make it again and again. As long as it takes.