Jamie Johnson, The One Percent – I watched this film sometime in the middle part of last year when it became available in the queue on Netflix. I guess it was right about the time of the beginning of the #Occupy protest began in New York. I wrote out a few assumptions regarding the film then I quickly stowed it away for publication later in my drafts. Somewhere along the lines I lost interest in the review–I basically put a pin in it until I could fully understand the “message” Jamie Johnson, the director for this film, tried to convey. It just did not resonate at the time.
Recently, I had an interesting email exchange by a financial guru who informed me that my ‘spam’ message that I wrote in the comment section of the unsubscribe box was ignorant, his words, and I quote:
“And I enjoy correcting those who make ignorant assumptions, that’s why you’re poor and bitter.”
My desktop delivery system was the culprit; it sent several of the same emails at one time. However, the words “poor” and “bitter” were used, instead of inquiring why I had unsubscribed–which would have been more appropriate. I was taken back by his response mostly because I did not expect a person of “wealth” to respond unprofessionally. One would think of the professional responsibility of responding appropriately in this meager instance. I began to wonder again: does having tremendous wealth create sociopaths? Or is it just a misunderstanding on my behalf of the privileged?
The film is not as content rich as I would have liked, but not surprisingly, Johnson’s minimal investigative efforts only partially reveal that the world’s economy is in the hand of a small group of individuals who make economic decisions that affect us all. The One Percent documentary does have its strong points; an opportunity to peek into the exclusiveness of the very rich–there are special conferences that only the wealthiest attend–and how wealth and power also influences politics.
Johnson’s attempts at being fair, it seems, to chronicle the rich divide–those who inherit their wealth; the poor as a means of mediation on wealth and poverty. Interestingly enough, he interviews a few of his friends who live along the divide, one such friend being Nicole Buffett, granddaughter of billionaire Warren Buffet (who was not happy about her participating in the documentary) prefers to live a simple and comfortable lifestyle. Whereas Cody Franchetti, a wealthy Italian noble, reveled in the interview and openly admitted that he enjoys being better than everyone. His family’s wealth goes back a few centuries and took pride in telling others of his wealth and how he never had to work for it.
Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinkos, worked hard for his tremendous fortune and represents every bit of the “America Dream.” He stated that he only like to give money to people whom he felt are trying to better themselves–then later on remarked that he gave a homeless man a dollar in order for him to leave.
Milton Friedman’s ‘magic thinking.’
Johnson also interviewed Milton Friedman, one of the 20th century’s leading economists, about the unfair distribution of wealth of society. Friedman railed against governmental regulations that hampered entrepreneurship and markets. Ronald Reagan and other government leaders begin to remove the many restrictions and regulations that prevented markets from proceeding in a more profitable manner. When Johnson asked why the wealthy were not taxed efficiently–or attempt to curtail the profits of those at the top–Friedman considered Johnson’s statement as ‘socialist.’ The ‘trickle-down’ economics Friedman proposed and implemented in the Reagan administration truly benefited the top 1%. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a free market society, however, it is wrong that the growth in wealth is grossly disproportionate to the majority.
With the poor out, the wealthy moved in.
In Chicago, the closing of the Cabrini Green projects was also referenced. The much desired high-rise neighborhood was closed down and demolished due to the closing of the local schools and parks. Johnson disclosed this as an effort to force the disadvantaged out of the area, which implied that the poor were being ‘relocated’ so that the wealthy could move in.
Eventually the film progressed as Johnson stumbled about trying to find any elitists to discuss their wealth on film. Finally, he was able to discuss with his parents, and how they were able to get to where they are in wealth. Both parents responded to the documentary with an air of disapproval in maybe thinking the film will be preserved as disrespectful of his familiar background. I seen Johnson’s inquiry no different than his father’s own attempt at documentary film-making.
The One Percent doesn’t have any cinematic gracefulness about it–also doesn’t have a comprehensive point of view of the topic. What remains as a result of his “research” is the economic gap in this country and around the world has widened, with the wealth and control remaining in a few hands. This is a reality that is impossible to ignore.
I wonder if Mr. Johnson still has the same sentiments he originally explored in his film–or was it was his one time attempt to show the world that he is sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged 99%. Maybe he has “grown up” and realize what is elitist America and all is much more difficult to resolve than he suggests. Some things are bigger than any of us can imagine.
As for my “email fiasco,” the financial guru responded in regards to my open apology on Google+–that I didn’t personally apologize to him via e-mail.
I’ve simply decided to let the situation ride on that assumption.