[OPE-L] What Would Jesus Buy?

From: GERALD LEVY (gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Nov 16 2007 - 20:00:08 EST

I was invited by a long-time friend and fellow activist named 
Barbara Lee to the opening today of the movie "What Would 
Jesus Buy?".  Barbara Lee, who I have known since 1990 from 
struggles in and near Tompkins Square Park for the homeless,
squatters, and street peddlers and against police brutality, had 
become in recent years a member of the Stop Shopping Gospel
Choir associated with Reverent Billy <http://www.Revbilly.com>
and she had a bit role in the film.
I was happy for the opportunity to escape for a couple of hours
(from a deluge of e-mail messages from one person with veiled 
threats of legal action) to watch this film.
Reverent Billy is basically a spiritual street performance artist 
and activist.  I had heard him before -- including just a couple 
of weeks ago at a memorial meeting for the slain journalist/
activist Brad Will who was assassinated by undercover police 
in Oaxaca, Mexico a year ago. Some of the philosophy of the 
Church of Stop Shopping is described at the following:
The movie is basically about ... political economy. The emphasis
is on consumerism in the US but workers' struggles internationally
and globalization (especially in the form of WalMart, Target et al)
are part of the script.  The poor treatment of workers in  Sri Lanka
who make Disney toys, for instance, is mentioned (including a story 
about how a union organizer had his knee caps broken). So, there 
is definitely a *very* serious side and series of messages to this film.
But, it is a very humorous,  entertaining - and oh so campy - film.
Mickey Mouse is, for instance, placed on a crucifix and described 
by Reverent Billy as "The AntiChrist"! This is done near the beginning
of the film but the meaning of it is explained as the film continues.
A hilarious film, but it also has its real life dramatic moments. (I
won't say what because I don't want to spoil it for those of you 
who watch the film).
Although not exactly up to Hollywood standards in that it is
a bit rough around the edges, I highly recommend this film.
To begin with, it is a very good expose of the culture of consumerism
and what it means for working people in the US and internationally.
If it were available in DVD (which it isn't) it would be quite
suitable for showing in some classes, including courses in 
microeconomics. I think students would enjoy it and it would
certainly stimulate discussion.  Needless to say, this is the right
time of year to see the film.  If you have a religious friend, taking
that person to this film might be a nice way of planting a subversive
seed.  On another level, I think the film should be seen by activists
who might pick up some innovative ideas from it about street 
performance art. Many Marxists - who often aren't known for their 
sense of humor or innovative tactics - might especially benefit from 
this: they might discover that political organizing can be *fun*! 
Although the subject is serious and Reverent Billy and The Church 
of Stop Shopping earnestly believe in what they are doing, there
is a kind of feel-good-warmth, humanism, and positive vibes to 
this film.  You can still be an atheist to enjoy it.  If you find
that it is playing near you, check it out.  I think you'll like it.
In solidarity, Jerry

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