Economics in Film
Men with Guns Essay
In Men with Guns, John Sayles depicts a feudal economic system in an agricultural South American setting. Using the travels of Dr. Fuentes, a concerned doctor from the city, to reveal numerous aspects of peasant life, Sayles shows the economic whirlwind in which these peasants are caught. Men With Guns demonstrates how the feudal economic system operates by revealing the economic and political power the rich plantation owners possess and lord over their lessers.
A cruel cycle in which the rich people maintain control and the poor people are trapped with no way to rescue themselves, feudalism is a hierarchical market system. The people with money in Men With Guns are the landlords, the owners of the plantations. These people obviously control the land that they own as well as the profit from the output their land produces, but they also control the government, the army, and consequently, the common people. This near omnipotent control forces the common people into a feudal relationship.
Unless the peasants work on the feudal plantations, they will starve. The army ensures their reliance on the plantations by kicking them off of all arable land, leaving them with no food and no employment. Committing themselves to the only employers in the region, the peasants are forced into a feudal relationship. They are held in this relationship by the army, which goes to extreme measures to maintain control of the peasants.
Maintaining feudal conditions through violence and intimidation, the army holds the populace in a constant state of fear. Guaranteeing that the peasants stay ill and in need furthers the necessity that they work to stay alive, but prevents them from doing so. This is the paradox of the poor worker, but one the army does not see. The army blindly kills anyone who tries to help the peasants, murdering all the doctors and priests that enter the villages. They do so to keep the peasants in need and in ignorance, to prevent them from learning another way of life. Lacking knowledge of the outside world ensures that the peasants will remain in the plantations, because fear of the unknown is stronger than fear of the known. Acting as feudal knights, the army forces people into the feudal plantation relationship using fear and intimidation.
Because the peasants do not make money or get food according to the amount of time they work or the amount of labor they produce, the managerial role of the army becomes a necessity for the motivation of the workers. Not a system of rewards, the feudal system uses only fear as a motivational device. Raping women, killing people at random, exhibiting brute force and omnipotent control over the country peasants, the army uses violence so that the peasants will work. Not a particularly effective technique of management because the peasants hate their superiors and are resentful of work, it is the only option open to the army.
The government, controlled by the wealthy plantation owners, supports this economic system. A pro-feudal government promotes a hierarchical caste system, ensuring that the wealthy become wealthier and the poor have no escape from their situation. This situation is advantageous for the members of the government, the landowners, and the ignorant public who benefit from the cheap produce and low labor costs. However, it exploits the poor country worker. The people who have the opportunity to initiate change, the people in the city, profit from this system and so do not attempt to improve it.
The hierarchal economic system, in which the feudal peasants are the base majority and the wealthy plantation owners are the top of the economic pyramid, denies power to the foundation of the wealthy?to the poor worker. The landowners control the wealth and the power, and consequently control the lower levels of the economic pyramid, specifically the government, the army, and the peasants. Because they lack help from the middle classes, the peasants are caught in a feudal whirlwind without any hope of escape. Dr. Fuentes, a representative of the middle class city-dweller, is presented in this film as ignorant of the plight of the country worker. As he discovers more and more about their situation, it becomes apparent that the only opportunity for change will have to come from the middle class. However, while the city and the country remain separated by so much more than locale, the hope for reform is scarce.
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