Thursday, March 13, 2008

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

David Mamet, on his break with liberalism:

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.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

He continues:

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

And this:

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.

Quite naturally, as one who still calls himself a liberal, albeit a moderate one, I disagree with a number of his overall conclusions. Let me agree with Althouse and say this is a cool essay. I love my country, in spite of her imperfections. I certainly agree that putting too much trust and power in the hands of government is bad, and that utopian socialism is bad. I also agree that the military and corporations are not malum in se, and while our military is not perfect, they defend our freedoms and our lives every day, and do so with honor and respect, and have brought more freedom to the world than the rest of the world gives them credit for. Also, I don't hate corporations.

I do feel his view of liberals as utopian, quasi-socialists who hate the military and love the government is a silly caricature however. Perhaps this is how Mamet used to feel, and certainly certain people in his traveling circle probably still feel that way, but I feel the need to reiterate the distinction between liberals and the leftists he describes.

Nevertheless, a thoughtful essay, one that will undoubtedly get him kicked out of certain circles, if he hasn't been already.

HT: Althouse

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