Quick Interview with David Mamet

I was headed over — literally — to buy “Demonic” (Ann Coulter’s book). Most of the time I listen to talk radio when I drive, and David Mamet was being interviewed about his book “Secret Knowledge.” I ended up getting his book instead. By the way, I cannot recommend this book enough… it has been a pleasure to read the40 or so pages so far. (By-the-way, I made my boys get me “Demonic” for Fathers Day.)

Some MAMET quotes:

There is a Liberal sentiment that it should also punish those who take more than their “fair share.” But what is their fair share? (Shakespeare suggests that each should be treated not according to his deserts, but according to God’s mercy, or none of us would escape whipping.)

The concept of Fairness, for all its attractiveness to sentiment, is a dangerous one (cf. quota hiring and enrollment, and talk of “reparations”). Deviations from the Law, which is to say the Constitution, to accommodate specifically alleged identity-group injustices will all inevitably be expanded, universalized, and exploited until there remains no law, but only constant petition of Government.

We cannot live in peace without Law. And though law cannot be perfect, it may be just if it is written in ignorance of the identity of the claimants and applied equally to all. Then it is a possession not only of the claimants but of the society, which may now base its actions upon a reasonable assumption of the law’s treatment.

But “fairness” is not only a nonlegal but an antilegal process, for it deals not with universally applicable principles and strictures, but with specific cases, responding to the perceived or proclaimed needs of individual claimants, and their desire for extralegal preference. And it could be said to substitute fairness (a determination which must always be subjective) for justice (the application of the legislated will of the electorate), is to enshrine greed—the greed, in this case, not for wealth, but for preference. The socialistic spirit of the Left indicts ambition and the pursuit of wealth as Greed, and appeals, supposedly on behalf of “the people,” to the State for “fairness.”….

….But such fairness can only be the non-Constitutional intervention of the State in the legal, Constitutional process—awarding, as it sees fit, money (reparations), preferment (affirmative action), or entertainment (confiscation)….

….”Don’t you care?” is the admonition implicit in the very visage of the Liberals of my acquaintance on their understanding that I have embraced Conservatism. But the Talmud understood of old that good intentions can lead to evil—vide Busing, Urban Renewal, Affirmative Action, Welfare, et cetera, to name the more immediately apparent, and not to mention the, literally, tens of thousands of Federal and State statutes limiting freedom of trade, which is to say, of the right of the individual to make a living, and, so earn that wealth which would, in its necessary expenditure, allow him to provide a living to others….

…. I recognized that though, as a lifelong Liberal, I endorsed and paid lip service to “social justice,” which is to say, to equality of result, I actually based the important decisions of my life—those in which I was personally going to be affected by the outcome—upon the principle of equality of opportunity; and, further, that so did everyone I knew. Many, I saw, were prepared to pay more taxes, as a form of Charity, which is to say, to hand off to the Government the choice of programs and recipients of their hard-earned money, but no one was prepared to be on the short end of the failed Government pro-grams, however well-intentioned. (For example—one might endorse a program giving to minorities preference in award of government contracts; but, as a business owner, one would fight to get the best possible job under the best possible terms regardless of such a program, and would, in fact, work by all legal and, perhaps by semi- or illegal means to subvert any program that enforced upon the pro-prietor a bad business decision.)*

Further, one, in paying the government to relieve him of a feeling of social responsibility, might not be bothered to question what in fact constituted a minority, and whether, in fact, such minority contracts were actually benefiting the minority so enshrined, or were being subverted to shell corporations and straw men. †

*No one would say of a firefighter, hired under rules reducing the height requirement, and thus unable to carry one’s child to safety, “Nonetheless, I am glad I voted for that ‘more fair’ law.”

† As, indeed, they are, or, in the best case, to those among the applicants claiming eligibility most capable of framing, supporting, or bribing their claims to the front of the line. All claims cannot be met. The politicians and bureaucrats discriminating between claims will necessarily favor those redounding to their individual or party benefit—so the eternal problem of “Fairness,” supposedly solved by Government distribution of funds, becomes, yet again and inevitably, a question of graft.

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), 116-117, 122, 151, 154.

* “The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders…. Dr. Lal’s admission will only add to the mounting furor over the melting glaciers assertion, which the IPCC was last week forced to withdraw because it has no scientific foundation.” (David Rose, The Daily Mail, January 24, 2010)

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), [FN] 161.

But it is the free individual who alone can provide sustenance for the group. For if there is no effort, no use (called “exploitation”), no reward for initiative (called “greed”), where will the food come from? Malthus, before the invention of the improved plow and before scientific agriculture, “proved” that the world must soon starve.

Socialist Europe is held up as a model of “just behavior”; but the Left forgets that for seventy-five years America defended Europe from the Communist threat, and bore the cost, which would have bankrupted Europe, and which, in the event, bankrupted Communism. The Left looks at the peace of Europe since World War II and forgets that it was not only ensured, but created by American military strength and determination.* And now the Left has elected a President who thinks it good to go to Europe and apologize for our “arrogance,” who proclaims the benefits of appeasement both at home and around the world.

This appeasement, called the antiwar movement, the antinuclear movement, One-Worldism, Code Pink, “the end to American Exceptionalism,” is, to the Left, another example of the Correct Thinking of the never-involved. They believe that our enemies, like the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, will be so moved by some unnamable but real excellence on our part, that they will forswear their desire for our destruction (recognizing it, now, as an unnecessary expenditure of effort) and beat their swords into plowshares.

But the Left does not stop to consider that if we, the most prosperous country in the history of the world, choose neither to exploit nor to defend our property, someone else will take it, and if we announce, indeed, proclaim our passivity, we will only advance that bad day.[1]

* And funded by the Marshall Plan, which is to say, by the surplus of American Industrial Stength.

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), 44-45.

One might say that the politician, the doctor, and the dramatist make their living from human misery; the doctor in attempting to alleviate it, the politician to capitalize on it, and the dramatist, to describe it.

But perhaps that is too epigrammatic.

When I was young, there was a period in American drama in which the writers strove to free themselves of the question of character.

Protagonists of their worthy plays had made no choices, but were afflicted by a condition not of their making; and this condition, homosexuality, illness, being a woman, etc., was the center of the play. As these protagonists had made no choices, they were in a state of innocence. They had not acted, so they could not have sinned.

A play is basically an exercise in the raising, lowering, and altering of expectations (such known, collectively, as the Plot); but these plays dealt not with expectations (how could they, for the state of the protagonist was not going to change?) but with sympathy.

What these audiences were witnessing was not a drama, but a troublesome human condition displayed as an attraction. This was, formerly, known as a freak show.

The subjects of these dramas were bearing burdens not of their choosing, as do we all. But misfortune, in life, we know, deserves forbearance on the part of the unafflicted. For though the display of courage in the face of adversity is worthy of all respect, the display of that respect by the unaffected is presumptuous and patronizing.

One does not gain merit from congratulating an afflicted person for his courage. One only gains entertainment.

Further, endorsement of the courage of the affliction play’s hero was not merely impertinent, but, more basically, spurious, as applause was vouchsafed not to a worthy stoic, but to an actor portraying him.

These plays were an (unfortunate) by-product of the contemporary love-of-the-victim. For a victim, as above, is pure, and cannot have sinned; and one, by endorsing him, may perhaps gain, by magic, part of his incontrovertible status.

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), 134-135.

*In my family, as in yours, someone regularly says, “Hey, you know what would be a good idea … ?” And then proceeds to outline some scheme for making money by providing a product or service the need for which has just occurred to him. He and the family fantasize about and discuss and elaborate this scheme. Inherent in this fantasy is the unstated but ever-present truth that, given sufficient capital and expertise or the access to the same, the scheme might actually be put into operation (as, indeed, constantly, throughout our history, such schemes have), bettering the lives of the masses and bringing wealth to their creators. Do you believe such conversations take place in Syria? In France?

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), [FN] 120.

Let us squint for a moment, to see if we may blur the particulars and perceive a familiar outline in an unfamiliar act. A young wealthy woman puts on vaguely military garb and travels to a far-off, less-developed land to participate in adventure. She meets there the more primitive indigenous people, admires their hunting abilities, and, in fact, poses with one of their large guns, famous for having bagged many trophies.

Q. What is she doing? A. Going on Safari.

Essentially, yes. The woman, however, would be appalled had the big gun been used to kill an elephant. But it has not. It has been used to kill American fliers.

Jane Fonda’s Adventure Tourism is, then, incorrectly, identified not as a safari but as “Ending the War.”

This was a no-cost, exhilarating adventure, all the more attractive because it took place in the purlieus of danger, but contained no danger; and it could be described as “humanitarianism,” which is an edifying title, rather than “slumming,” which is perhaps less so.

Ms. Fonda did not choose to take her wish for adventure into the veldt, where, after all, the beasts might strike back, but to Hanoi in 1969. At the height of the Vietnam War—to pose with the enemy, secure in the knowledge that her (largely inherited) position would protect her from prosecution for what was, arguably, an act of treason.

In her reliance upon this protection she was, of course, availing herself of that same privilege and culture whose destruction she was endorsing in posing by the gun.

Her pilgrimage, as Mr. Hollander points out, was not unique. Intellectuals through the twentieth century have traveled see the Potemkin Villages of Stalin’s “Workers Miracle,” the happy children of China, and the grinning, sun-drenched Campesinos [peasants] of the Island Paradise. They have believed what they were shown.

From the Webbs, and Bertrand Russell, to Susan Sontag, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and various movie stars of our day, these happy dupes reward themselves for feeling superior to their own country, from which country they were free to travel, and to which they were free to return, while the smiling folk they visited were locked in slave states.

See also the brave actors who endeavored to boycott, and so close, the 2009 Toronto Film Festival because it offended by showing films from Israel.

This “visiting” and political pilgrimage differs from safari in that one does not here toy with danger. It more closely resembles the Victorian practice of “going among the poor.”

It used to be called “passing out tracts.”

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), 96-98.