Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Man That's Good Stuff

I'm a fan of David Mamet, who wrote the play that was made into one of my favorite movies, Glengarry Glen Ross. He may well have written the screenplay, but I'm too lazy to look that up. Mamet has apparently long been, in his words, a "brain-deal liberal," which considering his writing is bit of a surprise. He always seemed to have a conservative worldview, as liberals often do when you get down to it.

Anywho, he's written an interesting column for the Village Voice:

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.

These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me.

It's a long column, but well worth the time. Mamet, a New Yorker (I think) in the entertainment industry, will catch a rash of sh*t for writing this, as the comments will reveal if you care to read them. He's probably not going to suffer financially, being one of the rich white males liberals love to hate already, but I foresee a lot of awkward encounters at award ceremonies, movie premieres, etc. He gets a little closer to the point here:

And I began to question my hatred for "the Corporations"—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the "Bad, Bad Military" of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

My major problem with liberalism is the idea that perfection is attainable, but that evil conservatives are keeping it from us. I'm oversimplifying, but conservatism seems to me to take human nature into account more fully than liberalism. I found this section particularly interesting:

What about the role of government? Well, in the abstract, coming from my time and background, I thought it was a rather good thing, but tallying up the ledger in those things which affect me and in those things I observe, I am hard-pressed to see an instance where the intervention of the government led to much beyond sorrow.

But if the government is not to intervene, how will we, mere human beings, work it all out?

I wondered and read, and it occurred to me that I knew the answer, and here it is: We just seem to. How do I know? From experience. I referred to my own—take away the director from the staged play and what do you get? Usually a diminution of strife, a shorter rehearsal period, and a better production.

The director, generally, does not cause strife, but his or her presence impels the actors to direct (and manufacture) claims designed to appeal to Authority—that is, to set aside the original goal (staging a play for the audience) and indulge in politics, the purpose of which may be to gain status and influence outside the ostensible goal of the endeavor.

I've excerpted more than is probably helpful, or even legal for all I know, but it's all well worth reading. Check it out.

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