Mamet’s conservative thoughts
There is more to David Mamet’s turn to conservatism than you realize. Hugh Hewitt did an interesting and extensive interview with him. As you might have gleaned previously, Mamet is very anti-Obama on all the typical issues of Obamacare and economics, but then there was also this exchange:
HH: Apart from the federal government, though, you have a much larger argument about what’s going on in the culture. And whether it’s a country, a family, a religion, a region, you say the culture is a compendium of those unwritten laws worked out over time through the preconscious adaptations of its members through trial and error. It is the way we do things here. It is born in the necessity of getting along. And I think you’re saying we mess with this at our peril, and we’ve been messing with it quite a bit. Am I right, David Mamet?
Obviously these are neither the thoughts of a libertarian nor a liberal. I agree with you that his appearance on his book cover matters to some extent so considering the thoughts he expressed in the interview, what label do you think he deserves?
DM: That’s absolutely correct, yes.
HH: And so where does that trajectory take this culture?
DM: Well, it’s time to stop, and it’s time to turn it around, and it’s time to repeat. And it’s possible to go back. It’s possible to retreat to basics. The Christian community has done it, the aspects of the Jewish community has done it. Any organization can do it. You say wait a second, wait a second, let’s take the stars out of our eyes and say what exactly is our charter?
HH: That’s very interesting. I didn’t get that from the book, so this is very interesting to me. When I read about your first night in a new home experience, and your argument that the cultural cursor had been put back to zero, I thought to myself, well, you can’t unbreak the window. You can’t go backwards and start over. But you’re saying you can, you can rebuild a culture.
DM: Yes, you can, because Thomas Sowell said the country won’t survive a second Obama term. And I agree with him. It certainly won’t survive in a recognizable form. But it’s just, it’s not too late. It’s like the airplane has an engine out. You want to make some really good decisions while you still have altitude, because when you run out of altitude, you run out of decisions. While we still have some altitude, before we’ve sent all of our manufacturing overseas and enslaved everyone to huge government, we have the capacity to make some decisions and say we’re going to go back to the Constitution. Here’s what the government is good for—provide for the common sense, promote the general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our prosperity, and that’s it.
He sounds, especially in Hewett’s opening question where Hewett describes his ideas, like a Burkean, Jim Kalbian, traditionalist conservative.
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James R. writes:
I thought this part was interesting:
DM: Well, it manifests itself by stripping Judaism down into, until there’s nothing left but ethical behavior, because it’s like Rabbi Larry Kushner said. The Ten Commandments aren’t the end of the story. They’re let’s make sure we’re all talking about the same thing here before we begin. You don’t have to be a Jew to believe in ethical behavior. And so the people who only believe in ethical behavior, the Jews would say well, in effect, I don’t have to be a Jew. So that rather than saying there are these marvelous things about being a Jew, it may be my responsibility, but it’s certainly my inheritance. And it’s a magnificent, beautiful tradition, and it opens me up to both vertically to the Divine will, and horizontally to all the Jews at all times. They say you know what? As I understand it, it just means do a good job, be nice to people, always come down on the side of the underdog, and the rest of it, then, seems to me a waste of time.
I notice Mamet’s use of “vertical” and “horizontal” (“vertical” referring to our relation with spiritual truth above us, and “horizontal” referring to our relation with society and culture around us), which is a central idea in my thought, for example, here.
Steve M. writes:
The problem with Mamet is that he has already done the damage. His plays will be run and studied for decades to come. Anyone who starts off as a liberal and contributes to the stock of liberal ideas, concepts, and attitudes does damage to the fabric of this nation and society. It matters little that they change their opinions later.
For example, it is rumored that Jean-Paul Sartre whispered on his death bed, “But he exists nontheless” referring to God. Let’s assume that he did change his mind, that it was not a cynical deathbed confession. At this point it becomes irrelevant for Sartre’s atheistic existentialism and Marxism will be taught for ages. Even if his conversion were ten years before his death and fully thought out, the bricks he added to the wall of liberalism are firmly lodged.
As an example, when one of the foremost atheists and theorists Anthony Flew became a deist and abandoned his atheistic epistemology, years before his death, he was pooh-poohed as an aging, senile person who did not have the presence of mind to rethink rationally his atheism. His exposition of atheism is classic and another firm set of bricks in the wall of liberalism.
All the baby boomers who did much to damage the traditions of our society and are now turned towards traditionalism—nice, but the damage has been done. Is there any atonement for their actions? God provided Jesus as an atonement to reverse the effects of sin in one’s personal life. Is there an atonement and a reversal of what has been built by 1960’s liberals? Isn’t Obama their “immaculate conception?”
Interesting points but I don’t think your analogy with Sartre holds. Sartre was a major leftist thinker, and his death bed conversion (making the large assumption that he had one) came too late to mitigate his negative influence. Mamet has not been a major liberal influence or even a political writer at all. To the contrary, his plays and movies have often had hard-edged elements, stories of masculine combat, and moral themes that set them apart from the usual liberal drama and cinema. And Mamet, if we can judge by the quotations from his interview with Hewett, appears to be making serious arguments against liberalism and for a conservative understanding of things.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at June 13, 2011 09:16 AM | Send
I don’t think one liberal writer changing his beliefs to conservatism is going to change the direction of society, but it is something worth noting and acknowledging. And the things Mamet has said to Hewett go beyond what was discussed in the previous VFR entry on Mamet, in which I was more skeptical about his conversion.