Cosmopolis: Lopsided Economics

18 Jul

2nd. article in our 7-week series on the film Cosmopolis

Cosmopolis character, Eric Packer, is a self-made billionaire who, at the age of 28, has reached a point where money has no value in his existence.  In one day he goes from billionaire to a man left with nothing but death threats.

In 1999, I was a junior in college whose main financial concerns was getting through college and finding a job.  I was definitely not a billionaire.  At the time the unemployment was 4.5%, the Dow Jones high was 11,750/low of 9,180, federal spending was $1716.95 billion, Federal debt was $5978.5 billion, average cost of a new home was $195,800, median household income was $39,973, average cost of a gallon of regular gas was $1.17, and a gallon of milk was $3.32.[1]

The beginning of 1999 began with a 5.9% increase in the US economy, and the stock market gained 15% in three months.  However, the U.S. saving rate started to become negative. [2]  People were making more and instead of saving they were spending.  Sound familiar?  Why save money when you are making enough that you have no financial worries?  When the global economy started going down around this time, we, the consumers, had to start borrowing at low but unstable interest rates.  There were many who took their own lives when they lost all their stock and had no form of income.

What is interesting is that Cosmopolis seems to reflect what we are experiencing today.   Greed and over abundance of money by the “big wigs” has led to high unemployment rates (i.e. lay-offs, self-elected bonuses), foreclosures, and most recent, the Occupy WallStreet Protests.  It also gives us a look into the soul of a person who has been so consumed by money; he ultimately ends up with nothing.

Several films have been made regarding the economy, how it functions and how money can ruin our lives if we are not careful.

Eric is so emotionally detached from the world and it seems as though losing everything is what it takes for him to “feel”.  Do we allow money to determine our happiness?  Can we find happiness in a declining economy when it seems there is no silver lining?  Why is money used to fill voids?

Also see 1st. article in the series; Cosmopolis: An Asymmetrical Nightmare 

Please join us for a discussion on this topic Thursday 7/19/2012@7pmE/12UTC

46 Responses to “Cosmopolis: Lopsided Economics”

  1. Open Book July 18, 2012 at 1:12 PM #


    APPLAUSE!! Take a bow. Wonderful video research, I like the trailer u used for Cosmo. Is it new? I’m looking forward to the discussion.

    • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:09 PM #

      I totally agree with OB! I especially loved the documentary videos. That scene in Cosmopolis is probably going to be one of my favourite scenes of the movie. I liked the change from Yen to rats not only because of the reason Cronenburg gave , but also it adds the absurdity of the banking world. Plus dark humour is always good in my view!

      • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 9:25 PM #

        Rob really embodies that character just in that scene alone IMO.

  2. littlebells July 18, 2012 at 1:45 PM #

    Thank you OB! The trailer is actually just a clip that I was looking for where Eric discusses the Japanese Yen. Cronenberg actually changed it in the movie for this reason:

    “Since the book was written the Yen has collapsed and then you’ve also had the recent Tsunami and suddenly Japan is staggering. But before then it was like the book Rising Sun, everyone was terrified of the rise of Japan and the Yen was going to become the world currency. Of course, the look to the East was correct, but it’s really China that will be the world power and by 2015 the Yuan will be a fully convertible currency and may well displace the dollar. That’s the Chinese plan and no one seems to be able to think that it won’t happen. So that was what I did there, but I don’t think it really changes the tone of it though.”

    ps. the rat currency is based on the poem Report from the Besieged City by Zbigniew Herbert

    • Open Book July 18, 2012 at 6:53 PM #

      Thanks LB for this explanation. U asked: “Why is money used to fill voids?” I think its used today to extend peoples lives, which is sad. In the book I’m going to paraphrase here. But Eric states: There use to be a time when time equaled money but now money equals time. In other words, it use to be the longer u lived the more money u could make. Today the more money u have the longer u can live. People today equate money with survival IMO.

      • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

        That is very true. I think money is also used to fill voided because it can provide immediate gratification. You feel broken hearted? Buy some ice.cream. you just lost your job? Go on a shopping spree. You feel lonely, go buy ANYTHING. Speaking only monetarily, it can keep us from looking at.real issues that we are to afraid to face.

        Obviously those with more money can afford to take.greater risks, but no matter how much one has, it can be a distraction from real life.

        • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

          Yeah! ITA people need to heal themselves spiritually rather than look for money to heal them inside. Why do u think people are afraid to look inside?

          • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

            Pride. No one wants to see their ugly innards

            • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:03 PM #

              Yeah! The truth is quite ugly but necessary to keep one humble.

              • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:15 PM #

                Once again I agree with both of you! Its the need to fulfill some kind of void in their lives plus keeping up with the Joneses (or even better, out doing them!) syndrome.

    • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 9:30 PM #

      Everyone-Here is the poem.

      Zbigniew Herbert – “Report from the Besieged City”

      Too old to carry arms and fight like the others –

      they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler
      I record – I don’t know for whom – the history of the siege

      I am supposed to be exact but I don’t know when the invasion began
      two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn
      everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time

      all we have left is the place the attachment to the place
      we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses
      if we lose the ruins nothing will be left

      I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks
      monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency
      tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants
      wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers
      we don’t know where they are held that is the place of torture
      thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected
      the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender
      friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender
      N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back
      an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance

      all of this is monotonous I know it can’t move anyone

      I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the facts
      only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets
      yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world
      that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children
      our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing
      awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones
      just like dogs and cats

      in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city
      along the frontier of our uncertain freedom.
      I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights
      I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks
      truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself
      the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns
      nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination
      Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the Transfiguration
      who can count them
      the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon
      from delicate bird’s yellow in spring through green through red to winter’s black

      and so in the evening released from facts I can think
      about distant ancient matters for example our
      friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize
      they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice
      they don’t even know their fathers betrayed us
      our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse
      their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful
      they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity
      those struck by misfortune are always alone
      the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers

      now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation
      have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles
      a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance

      cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller
      yet the defence continues it will continue to the end
      and if the City falls but a single man escapes
      he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile
      he will be the City

      we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death
      worst of all – the face of betrayal
      and only our dreams have not been humiliated

  3. Comic Relief July 18, 2012 at 4:18 PM #

    Great article, will post questions later

  4. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 6:43 PM #

    Hi LB-

    U asked: “Do we allow money to determine our happiness?”

    Me: I think so. I tend to side with Behavioral Economist rather than Rational Economist on this issue. Behavioral Economist believe emotions determines what risk people are willing to take. For example, if a person is sad, they are more willing to pay more for something than when happy. This is illustrated very well in Cosmo with Eric. He’s so worried about his health and making irrational decisions and borrowing money at ridiculous amounts to try and comfort himself.

    • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:45 PM #

      Yes and this.goes with what I just posted above. :). At the same time, I think knowing he has cancer and most likely either.going to die from that or the death threats he is acting more recklessly while trying to free himself from emotional bondage. The guys is so dead inside and he’s trying to feel alive Gain, but going in the wrong direction.

      • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:19 PM #

        Ditto, lol!

  5. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 6:59 PM #

    There is a great doc. called “Mind over Money” it’s sorta long.

  6. littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:03 PM #

    Hi OB!

    Great responses and I can’t wait to watch the vid. Give me 20 minutes. Taking kids early to swim lessons so I can focus on our discussion. 🙂

    • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 7:10 PM #

      Hi LB-

      No problem. I have enough to keep me busy.

  7. littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:36 PM #

    I’m back but my phone is being lame.

  8. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 7:42 PM #

    U asked: “Can we find happiness in a declining economy when it seems there is no silver lining?”

    Me: I think so. Far to often people look outside of themselves to resolve problems rather than inside IMO. Also, people will give into peer pressure, chaos and stuff So when the economy is declining people need to find other means to propel them to move forward IMO.

    • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

      Yes I agree. However sometimes it is hard staying positive all the time. I think people need to find healthy outlets to vent frustrations and keep a happy Outlook. It isn’t easy but it can be done. I think one of the best things, yet hardest, is to not covet.those who “have” when you do not.

      I often wonder what kind of childhood Delillo would have.given Eric. What motivated a 28 year old to become a desperate billionaire?

      • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

        True! I think when people have way to many options they think they are invincible and want to become God. So much so, they alienate themselves from people to the degree where they no longer can identify with other peoples plights. That’s why finding people outside of ones peer group helps to ground people in reality IMO.

        • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 8:26 PM #

          My phone is dead…aaaahhhhh!!! I will come back. I’m so sorry.

          • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

            No problem LB!

            • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 8:57 PM #

              Dammit! I missed you again! 😦

  9. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:11 PM #

    U said: “I often wonder what kind of childhood Delillo would have.given Eric. What motivated a 28 year old to become a desperate billionaire?”

    Me: Eric states he was raised by sharks. So being a kid genius made him an adult before his time. U see this with kids who become stars in Hollywood by the time they are 10. U often wonder how will they turn out?

    • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:41 PM #

      Yes, I could see his childhood like that. I also think that his family probably isn’t close knit. I could see a kind of psychological mind trip being played on him as they struggle to get control of the boy genius. A lack of genuine family love would be another likely factor. Bribes and gifts were probably used to lure him. Entitlement and lack of love/closeness (also an inability to form that himself. Objects yes but people? No) is probably what set him on this path.

      • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 10:20 PM #

        Excellent point Ozzie!!!! 🙂

        The most happy people don’t need much at all. They aren’t in search of “anything” because they have what matters most.

  10. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:20 PM #

    U said: “I think one of the best things, yet hardest, is to not covet.those who “have” when you do not.”

    Me: Why do u think people struggle with this issue of coveting?

  11. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:31 PM #

    IMO when things come to easy for people. Some not all don’t value what they’ve been given and squander it away. Why is that?

    • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:46 PM #

      Maybe because they don’t want to deal with their own issues? I don’t really know, I’m tired rambling on again, lol!

  12. ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

    I’m here, I’m here! Sorry I got caught up in watching a film that came on the tv. Let me catch up! 🙂

    • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 8:38 PM #

        Hi OB! How are you?

        • Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

          Just peachy! I got my voice back.

          • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 8:56 PM #

            YAY! *hugs*

  13. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 8:44 PM #


    U said: “However sometimes it is hard staying positive all the time. I think people need to find healthy outlets to vent frustrations and keep a happy Outlook.”

    Me: True! I struggle with it myself. However, that’s why I think finding a community to nourish one mentally and spiritually really helps.

    • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:48 PM #

      Yes it is hard. But I find that friends and family in the same situation and humour help too.

      • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 10:23 PM #

        You both make wonderful observations. I am in the process of making necessary adjustments in my life because some of the people in it are spiritually draining me. I have nothing against them, but being around them doesn’t make me feel or want to be better. It is extremely important who you surround yourself with.

  14. Open Book July 19, 2012 at 9:07 PM #


    I have to go. However, great article and discussion. I will come back later and comment as well.

    In closing: If our emotions dictates what risk we take. Then its imperative for people to stay conscious instead of findings things to distract them from reality and to the world around them IMO. I think people walking out during Cosmo confirms people are less rational and more emotional and unconscious then they like to believe.


    • ozzie20 July 19, 2012 at 9:51 PM #

      I guess I should go as I’m nearly asleep here! Even though I’ve missed everyone, I’ve still had fun reading and replying to the comments. Night, night all!

      • littlebells July 19, 2012 at 10:24 PM #

        I’m sorry I missed you Ozzie! Thank you for coming to the discussion!

  15. littlebells July 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM #

    Notice how most fictional movies about money are about corruption and those setting out to screw over someone else but getting it in the kisser instead?

    I know CK is one of your favorites, OB, but what are some other “economic” films you enjoy? You too Ozzie!

    • Open Book July 21, 2012 at 3:44 PM #

      Here are a few films I recommend.
      Battle in Seattle

      Up in The Air

  16. Open Book July 21, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

  17. mercadeo July 24, 2012 at 1:27 PM #

    We should abolish the stock trading system and only allow workers to buy stocks in the company they work for. Elmininate speculators and brokers. They get rich even if you loose all your hard earned money. These people are pathetic worthless peices of trash.

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