July 25, 2009

Looking for Michael B.

Summertime for me usually means reading Tom Stoppard, but let’s face it: There’s nothing like Shakespeare to help you understand the mind of a despot.

I’m talking about Richard III, though I’m sure anyone who knows me probably thought I meant Michael Bloomberg.

When Al Pacino came out with his documentary Looking for Richard in 1996, he had spent four years poking around the soul of that hideous king. The film is fascinating if you’re looking for insights into the psychology of New York's ruling class.

Take the remark Vanessa Redgrave makes in the film, that "those in power have total contempt for everything they promise, everything they pledge,” and then review the list of Bloomberg statements about running for a 3rd term:
"The people themselves have twice explicitly voted for term limits. We cannot ignore their will. They want the openness new faces bring. And they will get it. We will not go back.” (2002)

“I would oppose any change in the law that a legislative body tries to make.” (2002)

“There’s no organization that I know that would put somebody in charge for a long period of time. You always want turnover and change. Eight years is great. You learn for four years. You can do for four years." (2002)

"I think it would be an absolute disgrace to go around the public will." (2005)

"I always thought term limits were a good idea. I am not trying to overturn term limits." (2008) [credit to www.youreadisgrace.com]
Contempt, yes. There's also the greasing. For example, the Independence Party — “Asked if the mayor had pledged a specific amount of money to support the party this year, Salit was understandably coy. The mayor had assured them that ‘ample resources will be brought to bear,’ she said with a smile. In Bloomberg talk, this is always a seven-figure number.” Or the people who find real estate projects a piece of cake these days — look at image 2 in this link when it zips by, which shows how they're planning to build 4 big towers in the Coney Island acreage that’ll block the sun for the next 200 years.

Barbara Everett, a Shakespeare scholar Pacino interviews in the film, suggests that "Everybody may have a price, but for a lot of people there is a fundamental decency. It takes quite a long time for them to reach that point. The action of the play, the sense of exciting movement, is Richard's finding the point" — or in real time, the moment the pandering and corruption stops.

Bloomberg may be getting his kicks from straddling the line between legal and illegal, moral and immoral. He certainly doesn’t need the cash.

Richard, Everett continues, is "bound to be left alone, because nobody can love the king beyond the degree of their own egoism, or perhaps their own goodness. There’s going to be a point.”

Well, New Yorkers are sure waiting a long time for that point, the one when enough legislators and council members break away from the mayor’s contemptible grip to vote for something relating to public education that makes sense. It hasn't happened up in Albany, and it's not happening down here either. A few perhaps, but not enough of them.

Says Richard when Buckingham asks him to make good on his promises:
"I’m not in the giving vein."
Neither is Bloomberg. He’s locked out parents and educators for eight years, and if he’s handing them a few crumbs this past week, it’s because he was forced to. He wants that third term.

Al’s producer, Michael Hadge, suggests Richard is a man who in the end “knows that he does not have his own humanity. That he’s lost it, that he has let the pursuit of power totally corrupt him, and that he is alienated from his own body and his own self.”

To my mind, so is Bloomberg, else how could he as a Jew compare anything going on in the Senate these days to the failed policy of appeasing the Nazis. That’s losing your own self big time in my book.

At the end of the play, King Richard comes to terms with his self-loathing, and he doesn’t hide behind a cloak of insanity when he openly convicts himself in Act V, scene iii:
"Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.

I am a villain.

Every tale condemns me for a villain.

And if I die, no soul shall pity me.

Nay, wherefore should they?"
I think Bloomberg’s not there yet, because he’s still an arrogant son of a bitch. But as Everett says about Richard, "Although he’s frightfully clever, he’s at the same time like a kind of boar who has subsumed into himself all these frightful animal images. And all the rest have got to do is hunt the boar, and that’s what they do. And they get him."

We’ll never be able to “get” Bloomberg for the crimes he’s already committed against half a generation of NYC school children. But we can get him OUT, for as Richmond puts it:
"England hath long been mad and scarred herself." (V, v)
Not one shred less than New York, methinks, when scoundrels rule and people beflower the paths they tread.

1 comment:

  1. you are an extraordinary writer & thinker!!! I appreciate you! & your wisdom & for not becoming a total HERMIT & allowing us to be with the WISE WORDS YOU SPEAK...

    ah! Shakespeare! Thanks!!!