Monday, September 5, 2011
On "All my sons" and the western culture
Yesterday I spent the evening in the theater, watching "All my sons" again (in Hebrew). The first time that I watched this play was in the age of 19, I have tagged this play as the best theater play I have ever seen and the actors who played there as the best actors I have seen on stage. These two assertions have not changed over the years, it is still the best play I've ever seen, and the actors who played first time I saw it are indeed the best actors I've seen on stage. The actors played yesterday are good, but not in the same league of the two giant actors from the past.
"All my sons" is now in Israel plays to the popular sentiment. It talks about taking the greed, and making the "business' and profits in the center of the universe. In this play it takes it to extreme. shipping damaged airplane parts to "save the business" and causing many people to die is considered as extreme behavior, but the principle of putting profit in the center, is one of the cornerstones of the western culture. Israel is now experiencing mass demonstrations with the slogan "the people demand social justice". In Saturday night there was the biggest demonstration that the country has experienced. This wave challenges the western culture thinking, talking about "swinish capitalism", where cost of living for much of the population is too high since a relatively small group of people who are very rich, control most of the branches of the Israeli economy, with monopolies or oligopolies, and keep the cost high.
Maybe in a social utopia, big corporations would say: "we earn a lot of money, we can give up some profit in order to raise the standard of life for the common people, either by offering some cheap products if they are in the retail business, or sell directly to common people, or if they sell to such businesses, do it indirectly, by reducing price and in return ask them to reduce prices of some products to the end consumer, or if the customer is a government, use the reduction to offer more social services",
Of course, social utopia has nothing to do with reality, the companies work in the real world of Wall Street analysts, executive bonuses linked to accounting metrics, and stock prices. I wonder how many companies that would face the Joe Keller's dilemma from "All my sons" -- do something morally wrong, or risk losing the business, would resist the temptation. No wonder that Arthur Miller's play was accepted in unease in the USA in the 1940-ies, and earned him the title of communist. But I think it is good as a food for thought.