Film Review: Collapse (2009)

“Probably one of the biggest impediments I removed to critical thinking was I stopped taking Mainstream Media seriously a long time ago.”

“The love of money is the root of all evil…it has the potential to exterminate the human race.”

-Michael Ruppert

This movie may teach you more about the reality of International Relations (IR) than what you would learn in an IR undergraduate degree. The world is filled with lies and deceptions, and it is a stunning achievement that this film packed in so much truth and knowledge about politics, commerce, and sociology in its 80 minutes.

Collapse may be the most important documentary in recent memory. The thesis is simple: we are currently at the point where rapidly growing populations and their consumer and industrial demands intersect with dwindling resources required to fuel such growth. The most important resources of these is oil.

The subject of the film, Michael Ruppert, is a UCLA-educated journalist who began his career as a LAPD detective working in south-central LA. He gained notoriety by alleging the CIA dealt drugs in LA’s inner city. He became an independent journalist and activist, and predicted the recent American financial collapse a full 5 years before it happened.

Ruppert states that corruption is rampant. He states that his personal turning point was when he learned of an army officer who was “suicided”-murdered in a way to make it seem like a suicide- because he witnessed the CIA transporting tonnes of cocaine on military transport jets onto US military bases.

Ruppert predicts a macro socio-economic collapse that will cripple North America, if not the world. He is so serious, that at one point in the movie, he recommends viewers purchase plant seeds, which he believes will be the new currency after collapse. I’m not sure I agree that a collapse of the kind Ruppert predicts is imminent. I think the elites Ruppert rightly blames for the mess we’re in have too much invested for the whole house of cards to come crashing down. However, the substance of Ruppert’s argument is solid.

Ruppert’s main point is that we have reached Peak Oil. Since we have reached the point at which accessible oil reserves are rapidly being depleted, our world will struggle to either find remaining resources or adapt to a dwindling supply. Ruppert is skeptical that alternative energy are viable options. Oil, he rightly states, is in everything. From paint and plastics to the tires in your car, oil is the backbone of our entire industrialized society. So, we’re running out, which is true, and this will lead to difficult trade-offs. In other words, what goes up, must eventually come down.

Whether what some Ruppert of claims is true, is debatable. Some is probably unverifiable, or at least probably difficult to. Based on my limited experience in economics, however, Ruppert is on solid ground in opposing fiat money and the Federal Reserve. Corruption is indeed rampant, and political conspiracies, which are often ridiculed, mocked and slandered in a knee-jerk reaction (and if you’re one of these, see Arbenz/Guatemala/United Fruit Co. or Operation Northwoods) do happen. Ruppert claims the extent of the rot is so deep society will collapse. I’m not so sure. I definitely agree that political and economic corruption is rampant and a multi-trillion dollar enterprise, but I’m not sure it composes one of the pillars upholding the society we live in. I think they uphold the pillars of segments of society that must be brought down: the media, politics, and corrupt economics of crony capitalism and neoliberist managed (what currently wrongly is labeled as “free-trade”) trade.

Rupper cites von Clausewitz, who famously said that “war is a continuation of politics by other means.” Ruppert says politics is a continuation of economics by other means. The current economic system, he seems to be saying, is a corrupt fiat system of crony capitalism that is not grounded in practical laws of physics. In other worlds, the world economy is built on one big bubble, which by its very nature will eventually burst like so many of the fraudulent investments Goldman Sachs pushed onto the market shortly before the financial collapse.

Ruppert notes the recent unrest in Greece (which he calls a revolution, not just riots), Afghanistan, Pakistan, a “curtain of dispair in Eastern Europe”, Great Britain is a “basket case”, the drug war in Mexico, all of which he says is part of the collapse.

More ominously, he says, to punctuate this point, that the people who have run the planet to this point are “losing control.” Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, is not elaborated upon. In theory it’s a good thing, but Ruppert seems to be suggesting that practically speaking, many people will suffer and die as a result. Or, what he calls, “Social Darwinism.”

The film is fascinating; packed with history, economics, politics and evolutionary theory. It traces the ascent of civilization, and what I think Ruppert claims to be its present decline as well. Whether Ruppert’s morbid prognostication is true will remain to be seen. However where he is indisputably right is that the potential for macro socio-economic disaster is there. It already happened in the US during the financial collapse and the so-called “War on Terror”. Whether the whole world will go up in smoke, however, is a reach since I don’t think we’ve yet reached the level of international interconnectedness and openness required for such a domino-theory. In other words, anarchy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Greece, Mexico, are for the moment, hot zones that can be quarantined. Where Ruppert is right on point, however, is that we should be aware of the system we inhabit, and to be vigilant to ensure that human civilization doesn’t derail and obliterate itself. In a world were there is a fine technological line harnessing thousands of nuclear warheads, and when the most powerful people in the world have proven themselves to be belligerent imperialist warmongers, an economic system patently and transparently corrupt and closely controlled by a very tiny minority of the worlds richest countries, the potential for catastrophe is real, even if I try to rationalize and convince myself it will likely prove itself to be more fantasy than fact.

A+; a challenging, complex and potentially vital polemic on the gears and machinations that influence and direct the society we live in.

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