On Mar. 26, as part of the First Annual Film Series: Just Films, the Peace and Justice Department screened the 2013 documentary, “Inequality for All.”
Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Dr. Michael Minch, was present to introduce the film and answer any questions regarding it.
The film focused on the wealth gap, the major topic of 2011’s Occupy Wall Street movement. The narrator of the film is Robert Reich, the former U.S. Labor Secretary under President Clinton and Professor of Economy at Berkley.
Reich guides the movie through the decades of history up to present day with the authority of a scholar but also with some humor. His little stature comes because of his affliction of Multiple Epiphyseal dysphasia, or Fairbanks Syndrome. Reich takes his condition with grace and poise.
Reich’s goals in this documentary were to show what is happening with the nation’s wealth and income, why is it happening and is it actually a problem. “I want to shake your assumptions about the system,” Reich said to the students who filled a spacious lecture hall.
“Inequality” illustrates history’s trends through many onscreen graphs, which added color and understanding to the film as a whole. One of the statistics showed that 400 people in the U.S. have more wealth than half the population alone.
A key element of the film was the importance and detriment of the middle class. Specifically, the film examined a Costco worker named Erika Vaclav, who earns $21.50 an hour. Her husband, Robert, was a Circuit City manager who was laid off when the company was having economic problems.
The Vaclav’s bought a condo, but the economic collapse of 2008 caused them to lose their home. Although Erika makes much more than minimum wage and Robert is going back to college for his degree, they were still struggling to pay the bills.
The film ended with Reich speaking in a final day of class. “You don’t need to be elected to have an impact,” he said.
Professor Minch added a few words before the screening. He suggested the students go to InequalityForAll.com to see what they could do to have an impact. “We need to strengthen the power of labor, form labor unions and get money out of politics,” Minch said.
“The people who are in favor of regulations are those who are loudest promoting patriotism, but they are also giving the jobs to other countries,” Minch adds. “I find it ironic.”
“[The wealth gap] is the pinnacle issue of our time,” said Jeff Barbosa, a political science major and peace and justice minor. He would like to see this issue gain more interest and dialogue around campus to give it more momentum. With his major he plans on helping people and keeping the people in power in check. “[This film] should motivate you to action,” Barbosa said.
“Have a life plan and invest in yourself,” Minch said, regarding what students should do when they join the workforce. “Do something in your life that contributes to this world. Don’t settle.”
The Peace and Justice Department will cap off their film series with the Academy Award nominee, “The Act of Killing,” on Apr. 9.