In the background of The Soloist, Los Angeles is falling apart. Atomizing where it's not just crumbling. And one of the pieces we see crumbling is the Los Angeles Times where columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr in the movie) works. As Lopez is using the power of the newspaper to try to help save a man's life and with it the city's soul, that newspaper is busy destroying itself.
"It's the nature of the business," we hear a nameless, faceless suit tell a reporter who's being laid off and who is also, appropriately, now nameless and faceless. And in the suit's earnest, practical, condescending and scolding tones we can hear the voice of the Times and the times. The human being losing his job is expected not just to understand but to approve. The nature of the business has become the nature of our society---we are all expected to understand that we are each expendable and replaceable, that our sole (soul's) purpose is to be at the service of the business and we should appreciate it when we are expended and replaced because aren't we lucky to live in a society where our being expendable and replaceable so improves the common good? Stock prices go up, someone else gets to keep his job---probably the guy telling you you've just lost yours---money's being made and spent and somewhere someone will eat well tonight because we have served the business by accepting that we are no longer of use to it.
This is the society we've been working to build since we threw all those mentally ill people out onto the streets to save ourselves the money we paid in taxes to house them and take care of them. And we did it, not Ronald Reagan or Howard Jarvis or Grover Norquist. They were just our surrogates.
We decided we'd prefer to save a few bucks every quarter than be responsible for our poorest and most helpless fellow Americans, and guess what? That decision has come back to bite us. It turns out that without each other's help, without our taking responsibility one for the other, we are each of us poor and helpless. We are all at the mercy of the nature of the business.
The suit's arrogant assumption is correct. We have no right to object when the nature of the business requires our expendability, when it comes time for us to be replaced for the greater good.
The needs of the moneyed outweigh the needs of the few or the one or the many who are of no more use, according to the nature of the business.
No review. But it might be enough for you to know that the blonde was weeping helplessly at the end.
Steve Lopez's first column on Nathaniel Ayers.
Read the book.