Monday, February 27, 2012
Day 89: Collapse
"I don't deal in conspiracy theory, I deal in conspiracy fact."
There are typically two criteria on which I'll decide whether or not I want to watch a documentary, the subject and the director. If I've never heard of the director, then I'll base my decision solely on the subject matter, and if the subject matter sounds unpleasant to me, I may have my mind changed by who directed the film. Such is the case with 2009's Collapse. I watched the trailer for it two years ago and it scared me so much that I said to myself, "I will never watch that film." Then I saw that it was directed by Chris Smith, who directed my favorite documentary in history, American Movie. He's directed some other great stuff since then like Home Movie and The Yes Men, but nothing in the content of those films can prepare you for what awaits you in Collapse.
While researching a film about how the CIA actually supplied drugs to the lower class citizens in Los Angeles in the late 1970's, Smith came across Michael Ruppert, a man who was a police officer in South Central LA at that time, and had notoriously taken on the CIA in an attempt to expose this scandal. What Smith got from Ruppert instead, was a soliloquy about an entirely different subject. Ruppert says that he was first alerted to a concept called "peak oil" in late 2001, and this concept has now consumed his life. Essentially, everything in modern society is either made by or dependent upon oil to keep society functioning in a normal way, and the theory of peak oil says that once crude oil extraction and oil production reach their peak, it will inevitably drop off and crash, leaving society in chaos.
He presents several compelling arguments, such as the population boom, to show that our world is dangerously close to imploding; And not just if we continue at our current rate of consumption, it will implode period. There's literally nothing anyone can do to stop it. It's an absolutely terrifying concept because the viewer knows in their heart of hearts that even if this guy is crazy, his point about society being so thoroughly dependent on oil is an undeniable fact.
So is he crazy or is he the second coming of Nostradamus? Well, he correctly predicted the 2008 economic collapse way back in 2005. His timing was off, he predicted it to occur in 2007, but when it occurred, it was right in line with what he predicted was going to happen, not just in the United States, but across the globe. This is the main point used to bolster his intuition about peak oil, and the one that the film continues to come back to to lend credence to his more dire predictions for the future.
The film is, for all intents and purposes, a soliloquy, except for a few interjections, presumably by Smith. The film is shot almost exactly like an Errol Morris film, even including the black-out cuts mid-interview, and it goes to show how effective that style is for this particular kind of documentary. Smith's interjections serve as a counterpoint to his arguments at several points, the most notable of which is when he asks Ruppert about "human ingenuity" and whether or not he discounts that theory outright in regards to a possible solution to the looming crisis. Ruppert then goes off on a completely unrelated tangent and Smith brings him back with the question again, and the first cracks in the facade begin to show. The title of the film refers not just to the total collapse of society Ruppert is predicting, but also the collapse of a human being that we're witnessing. He makes a vague reference to his girlfriend or fiancee "betraying" him, and how it's just him and his dog now, walking around, counting how many smiles they get from people on their daily walks.
Is this guy a whack-job? Maybe. But the points he's making are hard to ignore and even harder to forget. Yes, he's in a bunker of some sort during the course of the interview. Yes, he gets emotional and begins crying a few times. Yes, he begins talking about President Obama and then stops himself because he comes to a sudden and emphatic revelation that he doesn't feel like revealing. Yes, there have been people saying that there was going to be a total collapse of society many times in the past due to our dependence on foreign oil, but it has yet to come to fruition. Even still, it's a thoroughly unsettling affair because there's a kernel of truth in everything he says.
Michael Ruppert may be a prophet or he may be as crazy as a loon, but he's talking about things that are very scary. He's talking about a business that keeps a lot of rich and powerful people in this country rich and powerful, and that gives us all the more reason to think that everyone in power in the world would be trying to discredit this guy and make people believe he's crazy, and that's the truly scary thing behind all this. It's a frightening film, scarier than any bullshit horror movie you could watch. It will chill you to the bone whether you believe it or not because it gets at the core of what's really scary about the world we live in. This is an essential film and I emphatically recommend it for everyone. This is the kind of thing we need to be prepared for because whether or not his prophecies come true, the things he suggests could make us all more responsible citizens, friends and neighbors.