Let Your Life Be a Friction to Stop The Machine

A review by Walter Miale

This spellbinding film is a work of passionate militancy and rare beauty. A rush of breathtaking images wash you through the nightmare ---or is it the insanity?--- that has been inflicted on America and the world.

Let Your Life Be A Friction, by Paul F. Edwards and Larry Cotler is richer and more comprehensive than their six-minute masterpiece on the Alberta tar sands, ¡Stop the Megaloads Now!.

“One wakens from nightmare. From insanity there is no awakening. Whether Americans live in the one state or the other is the paramount question of this era.”

Searing narration enhances the intensity of the images, which fly by so fast you may want to see them over and over, or to pause them to look more closely.

“The vast, clanking medieval apparatus of Homeland Security that has sprouted like an enormous poisoned fungus since Nine-eleven, with its brutal police-state mindset, the odious Patriot Act, with its flagrant subversions of the Bill of Rights, the endless, fantasy-based terror peddling of the prostitute corporate media, with its clowns and harpies churning irrational fear and

anger in the uninformed----all this grim, repressive machinery is a ham-handed attempt to distract Americans from the reasons for, the real causes of, their injury, abuse, and repression.”

The history of America through the eyes of class struggle is penetrating and brilliantly articulated here.

Since the beginning, with the crimes against Indians and black people, Americans have been submerged in a mythology which leads us to believe that the "ruling class," as it was once called, is benevolent and noble. And we are subtly led to identify with what we take to be its unique goodness.

Now in the post-Soviet-Union, Bush-Cheney-Obama era, there is no commensurate power to offset the enduring and expanding growth of the Empire, which brought ruin to peoples throughout the Middle East, as it did to the peoples of the Caribbean, North America, Hawaii, the Philippenes, and Southeast Asia.

“And at home, what is it we Americans have been so complicit in hiding from ourselves in devotion to the perverse legend that has come to inhabit our souls like an incubus?

“It is millions of us with no work or hope in middle age, whose jobs and homes have been devoured by the sick fraud machine of Wall Street. It is the trashed, demolished weedlots of our inner cities crumbling in fire-gutted ruin. It is the many cities with industries defunct and factories dismantled and shipped overseas. It is our decaying and de-funded public schools, our bankrupt states and counties, our overtaxed and antiquated public transportation systems, our obsolete and dissolving infrastructure, our gigantic and irrational prisons horror, our cynical health-care con game, and over it all, the jackboot mechanism of our police state....”

The credits tell us this is ~A Class Warriors Film~, and the film has undertones and overtones of revolution. But the exhortation is not to war or violence, and the exemplary images given are of nonviolent action.


I have to say: the narration is prone to dubious generalities, and it is written in a style reminiscent of the militancy of another era, and not likely to appeal to those who are not inclined to agree with its premises and assertions.

“For 200 years, Americans have been indoctrinated with a mythology created, imposed, and sustained by a manipulating cabal, a financial élite that built its absolute control on the muscle and blood, ignorance and credulity, of its citizenry. It has now metastasized into the corporate tyranny that owns and controls America.” A cabal? That is, a conspiracy? Is this word a manifestation of a quasi-paranoid style, or is it accurate? Is the control absolute? (No.) Is “ignorance” a word someone who loves the citizenry would be unlikely to use, or is it right on?

Were the central purposes of the Constitution really “to defend private property and suppress mass democracy”? The Declaration of Independence, signed by rich men who came into possession of the country after mass murder and dispossession  of Indians and enslavement of Africans proclaimed the equality of all mankind. Was this a “monumental act of hypocrisy”?

I had long arguments with Noam Chomsky about his unwillingness to make his message about imperialism and its propaganda in any way more palatable so as to enable its broader dissemination in major media in the United States. I did not convince him, and he partially convinced me. But consider these words from Let Your Life Be A Friction:

“It is the millions of dead and maimed and raped generations of simple tribal people that our indiscriminate military juggernaut has left in its bloody wake in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. It is the bitter and appalling legacy of hate and repulsion, disdain and fear, which America has earned with its hegemonous villainy in every region of the world.” Is the “villainy” here tactless, or is it true? I think it is a word which describes the raging current of predatory violence in our history but which cannot be ascribed to so abstract and collective a thing as America. Sad to say, it and other such undiscriminating language (“America's so-called democratic process”), will lose, I think, the ear of many, and give rise to distracting and needless controversy.

For all that, it’s a masterpiece.