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The Captain from the Enemy - the period of cosmography
anselmo_b
anselmo_b
The Captain from the Enemy

What is to be done when someone you loathe tears to ribbons someone who you admire and you know he is completely right about it? I just read this:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/19/books/review/book-review-the-secret-knowledge-by-david-mamet.html?_r=1

and lost one more bit of my shrivelled faith in mankind. I hate Hitchens’ guts because I am a pig headed bigot – I don’t think I would like him one little bit more if I bothered to actually listen to him and to what he has to say, but I have this feeling that there is so much more I should put my efforts to, before covering my back on that front. David Mamet I admire because of his narrative power as a playwright, screenwriter and film director. It’s not the politics that upset me – I have been around for long enough to know that my political views are often incompatible with those of people I sympathize with – it’s the brutishness (obstreperousness rings at the back of my mind) of his argumentation, so sharply exposed by Hitchens. It just won’t get into my mind why someone so evidently intelligent and proficient with the ways of language and its traps, should suddenly devolve into numb minded discourse, but there you are. I guess I should read Mamet’s book if I am to lay any claim on the righteousness of my rant, but, as I said above, I’m just a pig headed bigot. I’ll take Hitchens’ word on this one.

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Comments
crowleycrow From: crowleycrow Date: June 25th, 2011 10:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm afraid that much of it is just age. there are certain aging brains in which the awful complexity and irreducible ambiguity of the world is no longer sustainable, and you become a crank with all the answers. Your enemies are wicked simpletons who can be dismissed in a phrase. What's right can be stated in a sentence but everybody refuses to see it. It all makes you angry as hell every time you open a newspaper, and at the same time satisfied with yourself for knowing what's what.

Hitchens was pig-headed sometimes, and a bigot sometimes, but not usually both at once. And he was (is) very smart. So are you. I think that's the real connection.
anselmo_b From: anselmo_b Date: June 26th, 2011 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the flattering remark. I also see the age thing; I see it growing in myself and in my elders. I think part of it is the loss of idealism, the conviction to varying degrees that the simple and easy answers are just as bad as the complex and smart ones, only so much less demanding. I do wonder, however, why some of the intelligent people, like Mamet in this case, don’t just become cynical, grumpy, inflexible or even adopt ideas wholly opposite to their former, but instead overreact and choose to uphold positions that they evidently fail to understand fully, getting themselves into a situation where they get respect from neither their former nor their new coreligionists. That’s a harsh judgement based solely on the examples given by Hitchens, but I suppose he is reporting truthfully.
Anyway, I find Hitchens characterization at the beginning of the article quite brilliant, of people who “smugly believe that, having lost their faith, they must ipso facto have found their reason”. I hadn’t seen the concept put in words, and ironically, it often fits freshly illuminated adherents of Hitchens very well ‒ but obviously not exclusively.
crowleycrow From: crowleycrow Date: June 26th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if he's making reference to the famed (but possibly apocryphal) story of James Joyce and the Methodist preacher who asked Joyce if, having lost his Catholic faith, he might consider turning to Methodism instead, and Joyce answered, "I have lost my faith; I have not lost my reason." Or "my mind," in the version I first heard.
anselmo_b From: anselmo_b Date: June 26th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't know that one either, it's hilarious.
dyvyd From: dyvyd Date: June 26th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Isn't there a quote too, often attributed to Einstein, to the effect that there are limits to logic, but none to stupidity? I admit that I have always enjoyed Mamet's writing on theater and acting precisely for his ability to simplify complex notions-- as a sort of tonic.
I doesn't really surprise me that he THINKS that way-- only that he feels he should publish it. It smacks me a little like Donald Trump who would always be willing to tell you exactly what he would do to shape up the world if he were king. It further baffles me how semantically screwed up political positions are these days where would be tyrants advertise themselves as the cure for tyranny!
anselmo_b From: anselmo_b Date: June 27th, 2011 06:49 am (UTC) (Link)
I know the following one, which I always thought was by Einstein but Google attributes to Harlan Ellison:
“The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”
Yours is a brilliant observation about his choice to publish. If Mamet had dropped some of those arguments in a private conversation with his liberal friends, we would probably admire the wicked wittiness of his provocations, his proficiency at making his opponents foam green at the mouth. But by publishing he chooses to state that these are officially to everybody ‒ including not only the smug liberals that frustrated him out of his smug liberalism (this here is worth reading in the context), but also liberals and conservatives and all sorts of people who actually do something about what they think is wrong with society and who definitely deserve that their intelligence be respected. In any case, by publishing he chooses to be on the record with statements that are provably dumb and wrong.
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