Skip to comments.David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'
Posted on 06/07/2011 11:59:55 AM PDT by doug from upland
David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal'
David Mamet: Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal' An election-season essay A A A Comments (200) By David Mamet Tuesday, Mar 11 2008 John Maynard Keynes was twitted with changing his mind. He replied, "When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"
My favorite example of a change of mind was Norman Mailer at The Village Voice.
Norman took on the role of drama critic, weighing in on the New York premiere of Waiting for Godot.
Twentieth century's greatest play. Without bothering to go, Mailer called it a piece of garbage.
When he did get around to seeing it, he realized his mistake. He was no longer a Voice columnist, however, so he bought a page in the paper and wrote a retraction, praising the play as the masterpiece it is.
Every playwright's dream.
I once won one of Mary Ann Madden's "Competitions" in New York magazine. The task was to name or create a "10" of anything, and mine was the World's Perfect Theatrical Review. It went like this: "I never understood the theater until last night. Please forgive everything I've ever written. When you read this I'll be dead." That, of course, is the only review anybody in the theater ever wants to get.
My prize, in a stunning example of irony, was a year's subscription to New York, which rag (apart from Mary Ann's "Competition") I considered an open running sore on the body of world literacythis due to the presence in its pages of John Simon, whose stunning amalgam of superciliousness and savagery, over the years, was appreciated by that readership searching for an endorsement of proactive mediocrity.
But I digress.
I wrote a play about politics (November, Barrymore Theater, Broadway, some seats still available). And as part of the "writing process," as I believe it's called, I started thinking about politics. This comment is not actually as jejune as it might seem. Porgy and Bess is a buncha good songs but has nothing to do with race relations, which is the flag of convenience under which it sailed.
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.
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. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. "?" she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had beenrather charmingly, I thoughtreferring to myself for years as "a brain-dead liberal," and to NPR as "National Palestinian Radio."
This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.
But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.
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 circumstancesthat 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, inspiredin short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
NY Times refused to review this book.
COMMENT FROM THE ARTICLE:
This man, David Mamet, I knew as a college student for about three years in Vermont. We spoke, played fierce ping pong games and he was a person who I admired in many ways. I can still see him, in my mind’s eye; jogging on a path, very earlyin the morning in the cold dewy Vermont Spring with sweat pants and a tee shirt. I can remember him on his set of Waiting for Godot directing with great intensity, my roommate who was a member of his cast. His ego was never apparent and his clear eyes were never clouded with self promotion and above all, and most to his credit; he was a very solid man; a man without guile.
Over the years I have tracked his progress; it would have been impossible not to. And as someone who became more conservative as soon as I left the Peace Corps and began to enter the hard scrabble world of business I was a little disappointed that David was, seemingly, such a strong member of the liberal side of the political spectrum.
Over the past few years I have become quite distressed watching my beloved country rewarding so much bad behavior and tearing itself down even as the goodness of so many millions of Americans have been placed here and there for the benefit of those who are TRULY unfortunate in all corners of the world. We are a good sort of people; not perfect and not without fault but down deep, basically optomistic and good. This optomism has come from the deep well of free enterprise and from our Constitution
which gives us the right to feel good and fair.
So; with the changing of David Mamet I feel as though I am seeing the beginning of the turning of the tide and hope it is just in time to save our system and protect our place at the top of the world order as there are others, more hingry than we who are ready to grab the reins and who wilol be far, far less fair, ultruistic and kind than we have been.
NY Times refused to review this book.
Not surprised. Liberalism can't stand the truth, especially from one of their own. David Mamet is now an apostate (of the left) and will be shunned and ignored. Their loss.
Great post and follow up DFU! Thanks!
Things haven't changed, David. Just your point of view.............
Former lib, Hollywood insider; he’s a marked man, now.
Too bad his modern day economic disciples don't consider changing their opinion to be an option.
I’d love to know what Roger Ebert has to say about his one-time hero now!
John Maynard Keynes was twitted with changing his mind. He replied, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”
Tweeted this. Great quote.
Wow, the guy personifies the old axiom, “Show me a young man who is not a liberal and I will show you a man without a heart. Show me an old man who IS a liberal and I will show you a man without a brain.”
Interestingly, my daughter who lives near the Capitol Hill area of Seattle and is herself very liberal as are all of her friends, many of whom are homosexual, said just last week, “It’s weird, but a lot of my friends are turning conservative, even the gay ones.”
The country is going down, but maybe there will be more young rational people around to pick up the pieces afterwards, assuming this isn’t the beginning of the 70th week of Daniel, of course.
Liberalism is a religion. It affords a feeling of spiritual rectitude at little or no cost. Central to this religion is the assertion that evil does not exist, all conflict being attributed to a lack of understanding between the opposed. Well and good, but this does not accord with the experience of anyone.
“We cannot live without trade. A society can neither advance nor improve without excess of disposable income. This excess can only be amassed through the production of goods and services necessary or attractive to the mass. A financial system which allows this leads to inequality; one that does not leads to mass starvation.”
from David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge
Thanks for the post. I’ve been hearing GREAT things about this book and am looking forward to reading it. If it’s as good as it’s purported to be, I’ll buy a few extra copies for liberal acquaintances who have previously revered Mamet.
When the irrational exuberance of youth born of ignorance wears off, common sense and reason find a fertile field................
Also, his writing style is pompous and self indulgent. He still lectures like a liberal.
Get hold of Hayek's The Fatal Conceit. Not exactly light reading, but it will, with some effort, bring your developing ideas about society into crackling focus.
I'm finally getting around to reading it after about 15 years (don't know if and when the Kindle will come out, so I bought it in paperback).
I'm also rereading, at the same time, Mises' Theory and History, which is even heavier going. But read concurrently with Hayek, the two works complement each other in a (good!) way that's almost devastating.
Hume and Rousseau, would however, be in complete agreement on France's unquestionable superiority in the end...
Viva la Madame de Boufflers!
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