The Way We Live Now
August 9, 2012
A Victorian novel about the depredations
of a Jewish banker is a reminder
that art used to be relevant.
by Henry Makow Ph.D.
Starved for entertainment that describes "the way we live now?"
You may have to return to 1875, when Anthony Trollope's novel by that title was published.
A four-part BBC miniseries (2001) based on it depicts the depredations on British society of a Jewish banker, "Augustus Melmotte." It shows his effect on people eager to protect their values, yet vulnerable to temptation (i.e. greed.)
Melmotte is a shady figure, recently arrived from Frankfurt via Vienna trailing rumors of bank collapses and swindles. He quickly establishes himself in London as the go-to man for investment and profit.
His emotionally-needy daughter Marie attracts spendthrift aristocrats. Sir Felix Carbury, a laughable wastrel is first in line for Marie's affections (left.)
Paul Montague, an earnest young English engineer seeks Melmotte's backing for a railroad running from Salt Lake City to Vera Cruz in Mexico.
Melmotte floats the company on the London Stock Exchange without any intention of actually building the railway.
There is a marvelous scene where Melmotte lectures his (gentile) Board of Directors on the profit motive, which "moves mountains and changes the world." He advises them to put their last shilling in railway shares for they will quadruple!
"Just trust me!" he says. The effect on them is intoxicating.
Melmotte runs for office and his hustings speech is both intoxicating and prescient:
"We have had the Austrian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. These will all be replaced by the Empire of Trade. The result will be untold wealth for all of you!"
Melmotte is elected to Parliament where he champions free trade to the detriment of local industries.
Screenwriter Andrew Davies marveled at the novel's timeliness: "It's so dark and so modern in its tone, and centered around a city scam that reminds one of the dot-com collapse or the recent Enron scandal. And in the middle is this huge monster, Melmotte, sitting like a fat spider, drawing all the other characters into his great scheme."
Paul Montague returns from Mexico disgusted that no work has been done. Melmotte assures him that maintaining "public confidence is the main thing." We see the recurring Cabalist theme that "saying is believing," not seeing.
Rob Byrdon plays "Mr Alf" a crusading newspaperman who confronts Melmotte: "You don't move mountains. All you move is money, from other pockets into your own!"
There are many romantic subplots that involve marrying for love vs. money, a Victorian preoccupation. In one, the daughter of a struggling English aristocrat is about to marry another Jewish banker when he drops her.
"I've been jilted by a Jew!" she exclaims in disbelief.
Generally speaking, the miniseries is not anti Semitic although it pokes fun at the Jews' lack of grace and manners. However, it is just as scathing in its criticism of the decadent English aristocracy.
In the end, Melmotte's love-starved daughter, Marie, is quite sympathetic. And Melmotte's Jewish associates Breghert and Croll are also seen as honorable men.
Ultimately, the novel/miniseries is an inspired preview of the overthrow of traditional values by the satanic reductionism of profit championed by Jewish finance. It is hard to believe that this novel was written before the Panama Scandal of 1892 and the Marconi Scandal of 1912.
David Suchet (of Hercules Poirot fame) is convincing as Melmotte and Mathew Macfadyen is a hoot as the wastrel Felix Carbury.
I highly recommend this miniseries as an heartening reminder of art when it upheld truth and enduring wisdom.
The Way We Live Now is available on Netflix
Related : Makow - "Anti Semitic" Movie Flew Under the Radar