I cannot feign surprise
Last week, David Mamet wrote a piece in the Village Voice called “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal” (really … THAT headline got into the Village Voice). It’s lengthy, but well thought-through … RTWT. But here it is distilled in its essence:
But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.
The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
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.
And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.
The best part here is his setting up the ideological conflict as one of the worldviews — the tragic and the perfectionist. I’ve always thought that a taste for Greek tragedy (and distaste for the secularized Christianity that is much of the contemporary liberal implicit worldview) contributed to my conservatism by immunizing me from the four-letter f-word liberals like to toss around: “fair.”
I’ve noted Mamet’s politics once here before, and the crack about “National Palestinian Radio” makes it clear that the left’s increasing anti-Semitism (masquerading as anti-Zionism or opposition to this or that Israeli ius in bello violation) is a prime motivator. I also think his work has made it reasonably clear for some time that he was no exponent of pc-orthodoxy — e.g., OLEANNA could only have been written by a man who thinks feminism turns women into grievance-mongering robots, and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS could not have been written by a man who believes man is perfectable (to call the play/film anti-capitalist simpliciter is reductive and flattening).
But anyway … welcome aboard, David. To the actual home of free thought, without smelly orthodoxies.