Jeff Dowd, the inspiration for The Dude in "The Big Lebowski," takes on the economy, war, oil and how movies can help.
JD: For what it's worth, I have to reflect on this now because I come from both my father and my step-father being world renowned economic historians and through osmosis alone I know a little bit about this and I happen to know a little more, there's only several ways economies ever come back. One of them is expansion, imperial (???), you know, they grow, so obviously you can have imperial expansion, you know, the empires of the world, the greater Dutch (???), well, you know, that's not going to work anymore, okay? There's not too many places to colonize (???), you know, countries protecting their resources more now. So, that's not going to work.
Another one is war. War, obviously, is what put everybody back to work after World War II. You know, the worst year of the Depression was not when it started, was not a few years after, the worst year was 1939. It was getting worse and all of a sudden, 16 million men had jobs, you know, the beginning of the war. Let alone the fact they manufactured, out of Oakland shipyards, You know, Kaiser shipyards in Oakland, California and them, they would turn out a ship a day. A brand new battleship was put out every single day. That's what you can do. But, war can't do that anymore because war is not labor intensive. Even with Iraq, you know, we got like 100,000, 200,000 troops. That's not 16 million people, you know, it's not putting that many people to work. I'm just talking economics in pure terms, I'm not talking about the tragedy, the absurdity of the war. And the equipment for war isn't even that much, which is why we have (???in Alabama, 50 jobs???) 400 techs on one particular plane, or something like that, because it doesn't really take that many guys to build a plane in reality. It really doesn't, okay?
War is not going to work to fuel economies, you know? The industrial military complex tries to develop, you know, jets, and things like that that aren't needed anymore, but, so war isn't going to do it anymore. I mean, like World War II, U.S. got in there, but Germany and Japan were rebuilt. I mean, come on, short of nuking someplace and rebuilding them, there's not going to be too many jobs there. That's a hell of a way to get jobs, to level a place, huh?
JD: You know the U.S. leveled 46 cities in Japan the size of Cincinnati?
LC: Wait, 46 what?
JD: Cities the size of Cincinnati were leveled entirely by U.S. firebombing in World War II. 46 cities the size of New Orleans, Cincinnati, and stuff like that during World War II were leveled, firebombed, destroyed. So you think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but most people got affected in Japan by their towns being burnt down. Anyhow, so yeah, war isn't gonna work.
The other thing that's happened is technology, times of innovative technological change that have been revolutionary, you know, whether it's the Industrial Revolution, the twin-screw ship which changed transportation, or the railroad. After the Civil War, there was so much track built during the Civil War that they all of a sudden started to have "national products." There were no national products before the Civil War. Before the Civil War, you know, if you lived in Chicago and you wanted a, um, I don't know, a comb or something like that, I don't know what's a national product, but there were no national products 'cause they were all made locally. After World War II, they set up national products, Palmolive Soap or whatever, and before it was local so that's just the train. And obviously the phone and the telegraph and the internet and all that stuff, cars and stuff, you know, so we're now at that age again. And where jobs are really going to come through is having systemic production.
So you look at it and you go, wait a second, let's look at the entire transportation system. Now, that's what we have to look at. We have to look at the global sense of that and say, well why is it that I'm been on a train in France that goes 211 miles per hour. They now have one that's about to go 320 miles per hour in Japan, etc. etc. and wouldn't it be cool to go from New Orleans to Atlanta in an hour. Fast, you know? Or whatever, two hours. How long would it take you to drive? And that may not even be that big of a traffic jam, you know? Try driving from New York to Boston or L.A. to San Diego. And, by the way, flying doesn't make a difference because it takes you longer, it takes four hours to fly from Cincinnati to Chicago because of all the security, the getting on the plane, the baggage and all that stuff. If you could take a train there, you'd be sittin' in Chicago in under an hour for an hour and you could stop in northern Cincinnati, or stop in southern Chicago and hit the downtown and you could do it all in an hour. And there'd be laptops and computers and whatever you want and it's cool as hell, so why aren't we talking about all kinds of cool transit alternatives, you know? Different kinds of cars, I mean I had this whole idea for the neighborhood vehicle. You know, it's really overdoing it to have a 3,500 pound car when you're going to the local super market.
LC: (laughing) Right. Overkill.
JD: Yeah, you should keep that car because it's cool and gets proper gas mileage and stuff, but who needs that to drive and do errands and pick up the kids and stuff like that? Why don't you have a little four person car that's solar, and this and that, like cool little French cars and stuff and are just as fast and they can develop them just as safe, you know, a neighborhood vehicle, and I got a story about that, but what I'm trying to say is that's what movies can be doing. Obama or anybody else can talk about it, but we can show that reality.
You know, we see a neighborhood, and I'm not saying the movie is about this, but we see this neighborhood and it looks different and we say, wow, that looks cool, that's cool, that's cool, just like any advertisement does, right? That's what advertising does, "Oh, I want one of those," so you start to show what's possible in a movie, not just in terms of technology, but in terms of other things, how people interact together. So, let's say it's 1950, but you showed a movie where school was integrated and it was real cool that it was integrated because it was much more diverse and culturally integrated and all that stuff and you go, oh gee, that's possible, you know? You know, Cosby and stuff. That's what the world culture can do is show what's possible. And we're not doing enough and the independent movies have become real pathetically navel-looking and not that exciting anymore. That's a generalization, but the role of indies and the role of culture is to show what's possible now.
Next week, The Dude gets deeper into oil and finally delivers his prophetic joke.