"The Odyssey" reaches for inspiration in the great literary journeys such as Dante's "Inferno" and the homonymous work by Homer - which lends the title to this film - to portrait the many fases of love and break up and suffering. Featuring songs from Florence + the Machine latest album, "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful", "The Odyssey" puts together the previously released music videos and introduces the one for "Third Eye".
Staff ReviewsAround the Web ReviewsAudience Reviews
Check back soon when the reviews are out!
Or why not join our mailing list to stay up to date?
History is always written by the winning side. This was never more true than in the case of Nazi Germany. Everything we know about it, or everything we think we know, is filtered through layers of illusion and propaganda. But a few years ago I had a rare opportunity to get an unfiltered view of it.
On Saturday, January 14, 1995, I saw an announcement of a series of films from Nazi Germany, being shown at UCLA. It was sponsored jointly by the UCLA film department and the Goethe Institute. I had already missed the opening night, which was Thursday the 12th, but over the next few weeks I saw 18 movies in the series. They were shown in no particular order. There was a flyer accompanying the series, but the descriptions of the movies were not even true on a factual level, let alone on a thematic level, and the flyer was practically useless as an aid to understanding the films. The flyer, of course, was an attempt to tell us what to see; but we were free to ignore it and just look at the films with our own eyes.
The series was titled “Ministry of Illusion,” because these are supposed to be propaganda films. According to the flyer,
“Shooting and editing were closely supervised and the final cut of the film had to be approved — often by Goebbels or Hitler… Goebbels claimed, ‘Even entertainment can be politically of special value, because the moment a person is conscious of propaganda, propaganda becomes ineffective.’ Hence, he encouraged the production of feature films that reflected the ambiance of National Socialism, rather than those that loudly proclaimed its ideology. Consequently, as the films in this series document, cinema in the Third Reich was not solely a Ministry of Fear. It was, more than anything, a Ministry of Illusion…”
These movies certainly drew me into a different ambiance. I felt free to leave my coat, umbrella, and gym bag at my seat during intermission, something I would not ordinarily do at a theater in Los Angeles.
I wondered what kind of films would be shown. Triumph of the Will, perhaps? Wrong. There is nothing like that here. Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS? Wrong again. These films cover just about every subject you can think of, except what you would expect.
Going to these movies was like taking a time-machine back to 1933 — especially since many people in the audience spoke German, and were old enough to have been there. Some of them may have seen these same movies before, when they were children. I could almost imagine myself being in Berlin, watching these movies when they were originally shown. What the time-machine showed me was surprising, to say the least.
If you rearrange the films so they are in chronological order, it turns out that there is a progression of themes. The movies tell a story, the story of the Third Reich, a story that has never been told in quite this way.
1933 — Fugitives
A simple, mythical story, told at the beginning of the Reich. Hans Albers makes his first of three appearances in the series, as the leader who pulls his people together and leads them back home, to safety and freedom.
The story takes place in 1928. A group of about 45 Volga Germans are trying to escape from Russia. They have made their way to the Chinese border, but there they find themselves in a war zone. There is no food, no water, no transportation; the Russians are trying to hunt them down and kill them; some of them are sick; they are fighting among themselves. Hans Albers [I have forgotten the character’s name, so I will refer to the actor] is an army officer attached to the German embassy. He finds an unguarded train that could be used for escape, if the track were repaired. He takes charge of the group, and together they repair the track and escape into China, and from there eventually make their way to Hamburg. The symbolism is obvious: the officer represents Hitler. Hans Albers brings to this role, as to all his roles, a unique combination of dignity and panache. When you realize that this is how the Germans saw their Führer, it puts everything in a different light.
1935 — Amphitryon
Kind of like Cool World or Roger Rabbit, where you have the mixing of two universes, with comical and almost disastrous results. Amphitryon is an officer in the Theban army. He and all the men of Thebes are away fighting a battle. His wife prays to Jupiter for victory. Jupiter, up in Olympus, hears her prayer and sees an opportunity. He is an old man, about 65, lecherous but not at all attractive. Mercury is a younger, pixie-ish man/god. They go to earth, and Jupiter tries to approach Amphitryon’s wife. She won’t even talk to him. She doesn’t recognize him as Jupiter; he doesn’t look like the statue she prays to. He disguises himself to look like Amphitryon, and pretends to be back from the war a day earlier than expected. This gets him into the house, but instead of seducing Amphitryon’s wife, he gets drunk and falls asleep. Meanwhile Mercury is disguised as Amphytrion’s slave, and he has to deal with the slave’s wife, who treats him like the drunk he usually is. When Amphitryon himself arrives, and Juno (an old battle-axe) comes down from Olympus to find her wayward husband, all hell breaks loose. This is a lighthearted, genuinely funny movie, the kind of comedy where people laugh out loud — there is no need for a laugh track in this movie.
1935 — The Old and the Young King
The King of Prussia is a jovial but strict man who lives in a world where men do their duty, period. His son has no interest in government or military affairs. He just wants to hang out with his musical friends, play the flute, read French books, and gamble. This kind of father-and-son relationship occurs many times in every generation, but in this case both father and son are caught in roles that they can’t walk away from. The King must train his son to be a King. He can’t go out and hire somebody to run the country. The Prince must do it. The King is not an abusive or petty man. He is not trying to break his son’s spirit out of jealousy or meanness, like some fathers. But he demands that the Prince live a disciplined life, and he drives his son to exasperation. The Prince makes plans to run away from home. He not only gets caught, he also carelessly implicates his friend, Lieutenant Latte, who has helped him plan his escape. The King sentences Latte to death, and makes his son watch the execution. Over a period of time the Prince pulls himself together and assumes his duties, but he carries an image of his friend with him at all times. He obeys his father, but coldly. They can never be friends. On the night of his father’s death, the Prince leaves his ongoing party and goes to him. They say what must be said, and make peace. The Prince has become a King… but at what cost.
1936 — Closing Chord
A woman abandons her child and goes to America. A few years later, inspired by a Beethoven concert, she comes back to Germany in search of her son. She discovers that he has been adopted by the same conductor who conducted the concert. She becomes the boy’s nanny, without telling anyone who she really is. The composer’s wife is having an affair with an astrologer. She eventually realizes who the “nanny” is, and fires her. She, i.e. the composer’s wife, gets sick. The doctor gives her medicine, with strict instructions to take exactly ten drops — “an overdose could be fatal.” The real mother comes back to get some things (and perhaps to steal her son, her intentions are not clear) and the next morning the composer’s wife is found dead, of an overdose of medicine. The real mother is accused of murdering her. In court, it comes out that the astrologer was blackmailing her and drove her to suicide. The composer and the real mother get married. A new family has formed.
1936 — The Kaiser of California
An epic story about a man who builds a new country in the wilderness of California, only to have it destroyed by the gold rush. The movie is based on an actual historical character, Johann Suter (known in America as John Sutter). He was a young printer who got in trouble when he printed radical posters. He climbed up to the top of a cathedral, contemplating suicide; but a spirit appeared to him, and showed him a vast world out there, full of opportunity. He said goodbye to his family and emigrated to America. After a desperate journey across mountains and deserts, he arrived in California, with a few followers whom he had saved from starvation. (This part is just like Fugitives.) Within a decade he transformed the area from a semi-desert to a fertile paradise with abundant farms, orchards, and ranches. His wife and two sons joined him. More and more immigrants joined his community, and he found work for all of them.
Then one of his original followers discovered gold nuggets in the river. All of his men deserted him, abandoned their jobs, and started panning for gold. They staked claims on land that belonged to him, and defied him to do anything about it. He took his case to court and won, but there was nothing the government could do against thousands of gold prospectors. They killed his sons and burned his house. Since no one was working, his income dropped to zero, and the bankers foreclosed on his property. At the end we find him an old man with nothing. The same spirit appears again and asks him,
Why do you keep trying to fight the gold?
You can’t stop the wheels of the world.
The parallel with Hitler is all too clear. How this movie got past the censors is not clear. A movie in which a great social experiment is defeated by the unstoppable “wheels of the world” is the last thing a propaganda minister would want the people to see. But the artistic vision is true, and Goebbels must have valued artistic truth more than propaganda. Apparently there was less censorship in Germany than we have been led to believe. And yet the title of this series is “Ministry of Illusion”… Who’s dealing in illusion, and who isn’t?
1937 — The Broken Jug
A wonderful farce; according to the flyer that accompanied this series of movies, The Broken Jug was Hitler’s favorite movie, but considering the general inaccuracy of the flyer, I don’t know whether to believe this. The story takes place in a Dogpatch-like village in rural Holland. A senior judge from the city is on a tour of the countryside to inspect the legal system. He arrives here just in time to sit in on the most absurd trial ever imagined. The judge is a drunken buffoon. The plaintiff is a woman who lives nearby, whose precious jug was broken the night before by a man who was trying to escape from her yard after being caught near her daughter’s bedroom. She says the man was Rupert, her daughter’s boyfriend. Rupert denies this, and says another man was present. As the trial goes on it becomes increasingly obvious that the real culprit is the judge himself. The senior judge finally straightens everything out, and the village judge is chased out of town. If you like physical humor — slapstick — you will love this. The actors are so good that I believed the whole thing, as if I were watching a documentary; only at the end did it finally occur to me that these people are actors, not idiots.
1937 — La Habanera
Astreé, a young Swedish woman, goes to Puerto Rico on vacation, and stays. She marries Don Pedro de Avila, the richest and most powerful man on the island. Ten years later she is sick of her jealous, egotistical Latin husband and his flyspecked third world country, but by that time she has a little boy, and she has to stay because of him. A Swedish doctor, an old flame of hers, comes to the island to cure the Puerto Rico Fever, along with another doctor, who is from Brazil. Don Pedro denies that there is a fever; mustn’t alarm the tourists. He tells his henchmen to raid the doctors’ lab and destroy their medicine. He invites the doctors to his house that evening — before they are aware that their lab has been destroyed — with the intention of having them arrested. The Swedish doctor approaches his old love with great excitement. She becomes agitated and almost recoils from him. After talking to him, she goes to her husband and asks his permission to sing “La Habanera,” the traditional song of Puerto Rico, which she has not sung for nine years. After she sings, Don Pedro himself comes down with the fever, and dies. The medicine could have saved him, but it has already been destroyed. Astreé and her son go back to Sweden with the doctor.
1939 — Effi Briest
Effi is a girl of 17 who is married to a middle aged man, an ambitious politician. He has little time for his young wife. Out of loneliness and boredom, she has an affair with a neighbor. Six years later, when the affair is long forgotten, her husband discovers some of their letters. He challenges the man to a duel and kills him. Effi goes back to live with her parents, and soon dies. She has been overwhelmed by events beyond her comprehension. This is the second movie in which things go terribly wrong (Kaiser of California was the first). The theme of defeat, of events spinning out of control, appears here, ominously, in 1939, just as the war begins. One can’t help thinking that the duel was unnecessary, and the message here may be that the war is also unnecessary, and the Reich is taking a fatal step that can only end in tragedy.
1940 — Request Concert
A sugar-coated war movie — if you change the uniforms, the leading men could just as well be Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (American stars of the time). They are in love with the same girl, but instead of fighting over her, they bend over backwards to give each other a fair chance. They are all hearty good fellows, oozing with camaraderie. The girl allows herself to be stood up repeatedly, with no explanation or apology. Meanwhile, back on earth…
Request Concert is a lot more important than I realized when I wrote this review. I now think of it as the definitive Nazi movie, and I have given it a page of its own. A detailed review (by someone else) can be found on the Liberty Forum site. You have to scroll pretty far down the page to get to it.
1942 — The Great Love
Paul Wentlandt, a handsome, daredevil air force pilot, goes to Berlin on 48-hour leave and sees a concert by a famous singer. Many of the men in the audience have fantasies about meeting her; he actually does it. After her performance, he pursues her to a party, and then to her home, and manages to sleep with her that same night. Then he disappears without telling her who he is or where he is going. She is distraught for three weeks, after which he shows up again. They keep trying to get married, but each time duty calls him away at the last minute. Finally he gets shot down, and that takes him out of action long enough to have a wedding; but he will soon be back in combat.
Like Request Concert, The Great Love was very popular at the time. Obviously these movies were intended to provide role models for the soldiers and their families. Of course 1942 was the year when events were rapidly spinning out of control beyond any hope of repair. At this point the Germans needed Alexander (and his mentor, Aristotle). Instead they got Captain Paul Wentlandt, ace fighter pilot and man about town.
1943 — Münchhausen
On the calendar it has only been ten years since since Fugitives, but actually a thousand years have passed. The Reich is coming to an end. Hans Albers plays Baron Münchhausen, a Faustian man, a legendary figure whose life began in the 18th century and continued for 200 years. His friend Cagliostro, the famous magician, told him that he could have one wish. His wish was to “stay as young as I am now, until I choose to grow old.” Münchhausen has many adventures. He is Catherine the Great’s lover, a slave in Turkey, and an astronaut who goes to the moon in a balloon, among other things. In a swordfight, he cuts his opponent’s clothes to ribbons and leaves him standing there naked, without breaking the skin. He is always in a space of his own, not quite participating in the events around him, as if he is playing some kind of game. When he finally arrives in the 20th century — the century in which the center cannot hold, and things fall apart, as Yeats said — the game is over. He decides it is time to bring his life to an end. In these films, Hans Albers personified Germany. When he decided he had lived long enough, it was Germany itself that died — and it was a noble death.
I mentioned in the beginning that the movies were not shown in chronological order. After seeing the first six, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. Then I saw Münchhausen, and that put everything on a higher level. After I saw this film, I started taking the whole series more seriously. The important thing here isn’t the story itself, which is just light entertainment. It is the depth of Hans Albers’ performance which turns this collection of tall tales into something extraordinary. He created a character unlike anything I have ever seen on film. He somehow conveys an eerie sense of hypermaturity, as if there is another level beyond what we normally think of as adulthood.
Münchhausen could stand comparison with Children of Paradise, which was made in Paris at about the same time. It gives you chills.
1943 — Romance in a Minor Key
A woman in Paris is married to a banker. He is a dull, unimaginative man, but a good husband, and she loves him. She allows herself to be seduced by a famous composer. This in itself would not necessarily be a disaster. But then the composer’s brother, who owns the bank where her husband works, starts forcing himself on her. He sends her husband away on business trips and makes her sleep with him. She kills herself. The composer challenges his brother to a duel and kills him, but he takes a shot in the right hand and will never be able to play the piano again. Her husband is a broken man. An unmitigated disaster for all concerned; reminiscent of Effi Briest, but even worse; a perfect movie for 1943.
1943 — Acrobat Schö-ö-ön
This was Germany’s answer to Charlie Chaplin — the main character resembles Charlie Chaplin and is even named Charlie. A clever, enjoyable comedy, this must have been a welcome relief from the war. Charlie is a talented acrobat and clown, but they won’t let him perform. He works as the night watchman in the theater. (This theater is not the kind of place where they have dramatic performances; it’s more like a circus.) Charlie has a confrontation with the strongman, who is harassing his girlfriend; the strongman gets knocked out, not by Charlie, but by a heavy beam that falls on his head. Later he meets a female acrobat who, like him, can’t even get an audition. Late one night, when no one is around, they put together an act. The boss comes in unexpectedly and sees them. He fires Charlie. Then the regular acrobat injures himself and can’t perform. They hire Charlie and his friend to fill in. Charlie, however, can’t get ready in time because he is hiding from the strongman. They miss their chance, and are sitting forlornly on a back stage while the other acts perform. But someone trips a switch which sets the revolving stage in motion, and they find themselves in front. Charlie walks quizzically to the front of the stage, looks out at the audience, and says “Schö-ö-ön” (which means “beau-u-tiful” in German). They finally get their chance to perform.
This is a subversive movie. Charlie’s boss and the strongman represent the Nazi regime. Charlie and his acrobat friend represent creative people who felt stifled under this regime. That must have been self-evident to the authorities, but they let the movie be produced anyway. Like Kaiser of California, this movie makes one wonder how much censorship there was in Nazi Germany. Some people did feel stifled, of course, but at the same time they were allowed to express their dissatisfaction, even at the height of the war. I don’t think the American Censorship Board would have allowed a subversive movie to be made in Hollywood in 1943.
1943 — Paracelsus
A somewhat romanticized view of Paracelsus. He is presented here as a renaissance doctor who is trying to introduce scientific medicine, against the opposition of the medieval medical establishment. There is an ongoing contest to see who can cure more patients, who can control the university medical school, and who can gain the confidence of the government. Paracelsus cures the patients but loses the political struggle, and leaves town to avoid arrest. Paracelsus, like Johann Suter, appears to be up against unstoppable forces. When you quarantine a town, you cut off trade, and the merchants go out of business; they won’t put up with this for very long. When you introduce new ideas, the established professors stand to lose their students, their income, and their power; they will fight you to the last drop of blood. Gold always wins . . . apparently. You can’t stop the wheels of the world . . . but at the end, Paracelsus is still fighting. He has moved his practice to another town. Word comes that the King wants him to be the court physician. “No,” he says, “I will serve the people, not the King.”
1944 — Maria the Ferryman
A strange, abstract story in which Death appears as a man on the ferry, a tall, imposing, ghostly man. Maria is a young woman, a runaway, a stranger in the village, who takes over the job of ferryman at a river crossing after the old ferryman dies. Just as she gets settled into the little cottage that comes with the job, a wounded man appears on the other side of the river. She ferries him across and hides him in the cottage. Death appears again, this time in pursuit of the man. She leads Death though a swamp, praying that she may be taken instead of him. Death sinks into the swamp, the man gets well, and the two of them leave the village and go across the river to his home.
1944 — The Great Sacrifice
The story of a husband and wife, and a young woman who lives nearby. He falls in love with the young woman, who has a lingering illness. His wife knows about this, and does nothing to interfere with their happiness. When the girl is too ill to get out of bed, she waits for him to stop outside and wave every afternoon; and when he can’t come, his wife wears a disguise and waves to the girl in his place. These characters have an exaggerated gentility that is hard for me to comprehend. The man sitting next to me in the theater laughed through most of this movie, and I think I know why — it struck him as absurd, in the same way that Goethe’s Elective Affinities struck me as absurd and funny. I’m not sure why the Germans would have wanted to watch this movie in 1944, when the sky was falling. Perhaps the sheer unreality of it provided an escape.
There may be another reason that didn’t occur to me at the time. The Great Sacrifice must not have been unreal to its original audience. It was an illusion, of course, and they knew that, but it was an illusion they wanted to see, because at some level it reflected the reality of their lives. Like Elective Affinities, this movie must express a part of the German soul that outsiders can’t really know. This, like Dresden, is what the Allies wanted most to destroy.
1944 — The Great Freedom
Hans Albers again, in his final appearance. He spent 18 years at sea. Just when he was ready to advance to mate (which required a substantial payment), his brother stole his savings. When we meet him he has given up his sailor’s life and become a landlubber and entertainer. He works as The Singing Sailor at a nightclub called “The Great Freedom.” His brother dies and leaves him the name and address of a girl he has left in the lurch. He goes to see the girl and takes her back to Hamburg with him. She sleeps in his spare bedroom. He falls in love with her, but doesn’t do anything about it. He takes it for granted that they will marry. Meanwhile another man is pursuing her.
When matters are about to come to a head, he has a restless night, with nightmares about his brother, the girl, his other lady friend, his ship, his sailor friends, his failed life, his inability to make decisions… The next morning he resolves to propose. He has the engagement ring. He prepares a beautiful dinner with flowers and candles. But the girl (who represents Fortune) doesn’t show up for the dinner — she goes to the other man, the one who knows what he wants. Our hero drinks himself into a stupor. The next day he goes back to his old ship, which is about to set sail, and leaves Hamburg.
This is a brilliant but bitter story, as if The Aeneid were told from the point of view of Turnus. This is the opposite of escapism. This movie looks at defeat head on, without flinching.
1945 — Under the Bridges
Two men own a barge outfitted like a houseboat. They live on the barge with their pet goose, and go up and down rivers and canals, carrying cargo, passing under many bridges. (Yes, they have a pet goose. This is a comedy, of all things, in 1945.) One night they see a young woman on a bridge, and think she is going to jump. Instead she throws a ten-mark note into the water. They retrieve it and try to give it back to her, but she won’t take it. She starts to leave, but then realizes she needs the money to get home. They invite her to sleep on the barge; they will take her back to Berlin for ten marks. She accepts this invitation, and after some initial hesitation they all become friends. (The goose, alas, gets eaten.) It turns out that she earned the ten marks by posing for an artist, hoping to seduce him; when he showed no interest in her, she tried to throw the money away. When she is back home in Berlin, they both pursue her. The rivalry threatens to destroy their friendship. Eventually she joins them on the barge, and it is not clear which one she has chosen; the audience is left wondering if she is going to live with both of them. The three of them sail down the river, under the bridges, toward some unknown destination. This is 1945. The war is over. The Reich is over. Life goes on.
From Illusion to Reality
What is one to make of all this? I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich as an extra-credit assignment in my 9th grade World History class, and I have been reading about Nazi Germany off and on since then, so I know something about it. At least I thought I did. But this series of movies was a revelation to me. I had no idea the Germans watched movies like this.
These movies are amazing, not so much for what is in them as for what is not in them. There are no Jewish capitalists here, no Jewish Bolsheviks, no degenerate Jewish artists or journalists, no Jewish villains of any kind. That whole issue just doesn’t come up. In the whole series there is only one character who appears to be Jewish: in The Great Love, the singer is accompanied by a pianist/composer named Alexander Rudinsky, who is in love with her. He is a decent man, not a villain at all. In fact when matters are coming to a head, the plot turns on the question of whether he will do the right thing — and he does. (I found out later that out of a thousand movies made in Nazi Germany, three were anti-Semitic.)
The stereotypical “fascist” personality does not appear here. The only puritan in the whole series is Astreé’s aunt in La Habanera, and she is no fascist, she’s just a prudish old lady. Even the King in The Old and the Young King is usually an affable man who likes his beer. Some characters are unpleasantly authoritarian, such as Charlie’s boss and Paul Wentlandt’s commanding officer, but they are not the heroes of their respective stories.
There are no Nietzschean “Blond Beasts” in these movies. There are two giants — circus strongmen — and they are both ridiculed. The only character with an overinflated ego is Don Pedro, and he is also treated with something less than respect. There are seven characters who could be considered heroic: Hans Albers in Fugitives, Lieutenant Latte, Johann Suter, Paul Wentlandt, Paracelsus, Maria, and Baron Münchhausen. None of them has anything to do with Nietzsche’s “will to power” philosophy. All of the characters except one are drawn to human scale. The only exception is Baron Münchhausen, who is larger than life — but he doesn’t dominate the world, he plays with it, like a man playing with his grandchildren.
There is very little violence in these movies, and it is never graphic. There is nothing like Rambo or the Friday the 13th series, not to mention Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. The idea of “romantic violence” would seem absolutely bizarre to the characters in these films, and presumably to the audiences who watched them. What little violence there is comes from the villains, not the heroes. Johann Suter, for example, doesn’t even try to defend himself against the prospectors. In fact, for someone who is used to Hollywood movies, the lack of violence makes these films a little boring. You feel like there should be more action.
Paul Wentlandt is the closest thing to a macho man. He is a big guy, and he certainly doesn’t need a course in assertiveness training. He looks like he could take care of himself, but we never find out, because there are no fights in The Great Love. Wentlandt is a civilized man — not rude, not rough, not a rapist, not a berserker. He is a charming, sophisticated fellow who almost reminds me of the man in the Taster’s Choice commercials. If he found himself drinking coffee with that man and his lady friend, he would not feel out of place. He might be more comfortable drinking coffee with them than drinking whisky with John Wayne. Apart from Wentlandt, and perhaps Hans Albers in Fugitives, the other characters don’t even come close to being macho. These men are gentlemen. They don’t get in fistfights. They fight each other in formal duels, if they fight at all. Mr. Rogers would not feel out of place here.
If these movies really were intended to create an illusion, you have to wonder: Why would the Nazis want to create this particular illusion?
Nordic religion doesn’t appear in these films at all, not even in the background. There are at least vestiges of Christianity — cathedrals, flagellants, Bibles — but no trace at all of Odinism. The pagan gods appear only once (in Amphitryon), and they appear in their Greek/Roman form, not their Nordic form. The astrologer in Closing Chord could be considered a vestige of paganism, but he doesn’t represent an ideal, obviously; he is a vicious man, and they have to extricate themselves from him before they can get on with their lives.
By modern standards, these films would all be rated G or PG. There is only one bare breast in the whole series (in Paracelsus). There is a skinny-dipping scene in The Great Sacrifice, but the girl stays under water. In this respect Nazi films are exactly like American films of the 1930s and 40s — sex is treated very discreetly. There is no nudity in Gone with the Wind, either, even though Rhett Butler spends a lot of time in Belle Watling’s establishment.
The “Blood and Soil” theme appears only once (in Kaiser of California). There are no sturdy German peasants working the land. The closest thing we get to peasants are the villagers in Maria the Ferryman, who are sinister small-town lowlifes, and the villagers in The Broken Jug, who are clowns. The theme of class solidarity doesn’t appear at all. The only working class character who has a major role is the maid in Closing Chord. The whole story hinges on her testimony at the trial, but the fact that she is working class doesn’t enter into it. The working class as such doesn’t appear in these films. Most of the films involve wealthy people, entertainers, military officers, or unique individuals such as Paracelsus and Münchhausen.
To an American, the most amazing thing of all is the lack of police in these movies. Hollywood produces one cop show after another. It would be hard to put together a series of 18 Hollywood movies (not to mention TV shows) spanning a 13 year period without including some cop shows. But there are almost no police investigations in these Nazi movies. There are occasions when the characters get in trouble with the king or the mayor, but the police as an independent institutional force just barely exist in this universe. The characters have affairs, fight duels, and generally do whatever they want without thinking about the police. There is a trial at the end of Closing Chord. That’s almost the only time the police appear.
I would have thought that the Nazis would be obsessed with law and order, even more than Americans. I thought there would be story after story about heroic Gestapo agents ferreting out enemies of the state — Dirty Klaus instead of Dirty Harry. But if these movies are any indication, law and order as we understand it was a matter of little interest to the Germans.
Could this be the result of censorship? — Possibly the government thought the police were too sacred to be the subject of a movie? No, that can’t be true, because there is one movie about law enforcement — The Broken Jug — and the authorities get no respect at all. I say “authorities” because there are no police as such in this village. There is no one with a uniform or a badge. It’s much more primitive than that. In any case, The Broken Jug is a joke, and the local magistrate is the butt of the joke — it’s like a Keystone Kops movie — and this is supposed to be Hitler’s favorite movie!!
We have been taught to associate Nietzsche with the Nazis, but Nietzschean themes don’t appear here. Paracelsus, however, does appear. Actually Paracelsus is easiest character for me to identify with. He wasn’t just a doctor, he was also an alchemist and a philosopher. I can certainly relate to that. However, there is just one little problem. He was a Christian. Here are some quotations from his writings:
To what end does man live on earth, if not to become versed in the works of God and to learn how all things have their source in Him?
Christ exhorted men to take heed and learn from the example of his gentle and humble heart. From Christ flows the spring of truth, and that which does not come from Him is but seduction.
Many persuade themselves that they themselves are the spirit, but it is with them above all that the spirit has never been.
If you want to be a knight and a champion of blessedness, then be a knight through your generosity and not through the shedding of blood.
What is the meaning of the Kingdom of Heaven? It is this: that we should forgive one another — then God will love us too.
The true religion of the jurist should be: to guide men to forgive, to pardon one another, to turn the other cheek.
It seems out of character for the Nazis to honor a Christian. Why did they consider Paracelsus to be a hero?
This is one more anomaly out of a long list. There are too many anomalies. Something has got to give. I can only conclude that the Third Reich was almost the opposite of what everybody thinks it was. That’s the only way to make sense of these movies.
We are supposed to believe that these movies are illusions, but Hollywood movies are not illusions, the history books written by Allied historians are not illusions, and the postwar Nazi stereotypes are not illusions. This is nonsense.
These movies are a window into Nazi Germany as the Germans themselves experienced it. They gave me a rare opportunity to see beyond the stereotypes and get a look at life is it was lived at that time.
The Nazi Germany of our imagination has very little to do with the Nazi Germany that actually existed. I have been laboring under the same misconceptions as everybody else. If the Germans were who I thought they were, they wouldn’t have watched movies like Request Concert or The Broken Jug, not to mention The Great Sacrifice.
The strangest thing about this is that some people like the postwar caricature of Nazism, and they call themselves “neo-Nazis”!!
The Germans who lived in the Reich, the ones who watched these movies, wouldn’t have much use for today’s neo-Nazis. What would Johann Suter think about Tom Metzger and the WAR paper? What would Paracelsus think about Satanists who burn churches and leave poisoned wine bottles lying around for winos to discover? What would the conductor in Closing Chord think if he found himself moshing in the pit at a RAHOWA concert?
Neo-Nazis wouldn’t like the Reich that actually existed. They have little interest in it. There were only a few skinheads in attendance at these movies (Eric Davidson, his wife, and some of their friends — and they only came because I invited them). Neo-Nazis are attracted to the dark side of Nazi Germany, the side that is not represented here, the side that most Germans were not even aware of, and didn’t want to be aware of — the side that is constantly rubbed in our faces now.
Most people in Nazi Germany weren’t even aware of Klaus Barbie and Ilsa Koch, in the same way that most people in the United States are not aware of what goes on in American prisons, not to mention secret police in Latin America who are trained by the U.S. government to torture prisoners. Today, we think of Nazi Germany as a police state, but that wasn’t the experience of most people at the time. They would be amazed and dismayed that we remember the Gestapo and the concentration camps, and forget everything else.
I don’t want to overstate my case here. Obviously Nazi Germany was a police state, and many people did experience it that way. Even Werner Heisenberg, who believed in Nazism as much as any scientist possibly could, got called in for interrogation by the SS, and had nightmares about it for years afterward. It was a fluke that saved him: his mother happened to know Himmler’s mother. Himmler told the SS to leave him alone. Without his intervention, who knows what would have happened to Heisenberg.
Some of my heroes, such as Kurt Gödel, had to leave Germany. Gödel wasn’t Jewish, and he wasn’t particularly interested in politics, but he was too weird for the Nazis. He found a safe haven in America. There were many others like him. I probably would have emigrated myself if I had been in Gödel’s position.
The dark side of Nazi Germany certainly did exist. However, every country has a dark side. Alan Turing, a scientist of the same stature as Gödel, died (committed suicide) in a British prison. He wasn’t given the option of emigrating. Even America is not necessarily a safe haven anymore. On more than one occasion, I myself narrowly escaped spending 20 years in prison. It was sheer dumb luck that saved me. I wouldn’t have had the option of emigrating, either.
Fifty years from now, late 20th century America may be remembered, like Nazi Germany, as a police state, a country responsible for war crimes. There will be monuments to the six million innocent people who were sent to prison and had their homes confiscated for growing pot. Cool World will be as forgotten as Amphitryon, and 2001: A Space Odyssey as forgotten as Kaiser of California. Posterity will remember nothing about America except Darryl Gates.
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones.
The first movies I saw were Maria the Ferryman and The Great Sacrifice. This was one of the most bizarre evenings I ever spent at a theater. I almost didn’t come back. The second night I saw Request Concert and Romance in a Minor Key. This is turning out to be a vacation to hell. What kind of time machine is this, anyway?
But at that point one thing was clear: I had to stick it out, and see the whole series, because these four movies couldn’t possibly have come from the Reich I thought I knew. One of the basic principles of my life is: never pass up an opportunity for a reality check.
Then I saw Closing Chord and Effi Briest. I still felt like a stranger in a strange land. Going from modern America to Nazi Germany was like playing a 45 record at 33 rpm. Everything happens in slow motion. It was like being underwater, where everything looks and feels different. In these six movies, none of the characters made much sense to me. Their lives had nothing to do with my life. And none of these movies had anything at all to do with the Reich as I had always imagined it.
The next night was the turning point. That’s when I saw Münchhausen and Amphitryon. From then on it got better. The characters started to make sense. The Old and the Young King hit very close to home. The Great Freedom is as real as movies ever get. When I had seen all three Hans Albers films — Fugitives, Münchhausen, and The Great Freedom — everything started falling into place. That was when I started working on the present review.
As soon as I started writing, it occurred to me that just about everything I expected to see was missing. No racial consciousness, no violence, no Übermenschen . . . did the time machine bring us to the wrong planet? I felt like I was trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, and the pieces just wouldn’t fit. Eventually it dawned on me that they didn’t fit because I was trying to form the wrong picture.
The lack of violence must be a reflection of the fact that in Germany, at that time, grownups didn’t get in fights — just like American men don’t expect to get in fistfights at the office. In those days there was a clear line between men and 13-year-olds, and also a clear line between civilized men and savages. The Germans were civilized grownups. These films are a reflection of life as it was lived in those days.
If we have somehow gotten the idea that the Nazis were berserkers — that’s our illusion, not theirs.
If we have gotten the idea that men should constantly get in fights and kill each other, like they do on American TV — that’s a Hollywood illusion, not a Nazi illusion. The violence that we take for granted in our entertainment, and in our lives, would seem pathological to them. We live in a behavioral sink; the Nazis didn’t. They saved their violence for the battlefield.
The G-rated ambiance of these movies can be explained by the fact that all movies were very tame in those days. Movies had to stay within certain limits. We know from other sources, such as the Amanda Nightingale books, that not all Germans lived in the G-rated world we see in these films. There was a lot going on in Germany that was not reflected in films. There was a lot going on everywhere that could not be reflected in the films of that era.
Nevertheless, the general public in Germany did live in a G-rated world. These movies may have been illusions — all movies are — but you have to ask, What kind of audience would want to see these illusions? That question will tell you a lot about the Germans. I’m afraid the answer is: they were normal people, the same kind of people who listen to Lawrence Welk and The Grand Ole Oprey. If we have somehow gotten the idea that the Nazis were skinheads or bikers with swastika tattoos, that’s our illusion. Nazi Germany was a lot like Branson, Missouri. (On the other hand, we must remember that real opera was still popular in Germany at that time — that’s one thing separates Dresden from Branson.)
The question What kind of audience would want to see this illusion? can be applied specifically to The Broken Jug. That will tell you a lot about this movie’s biggest fan. What kind of man would watch The Broken Jug many times, slapping his knee and roaring with laughter? Hitler came from a small town himself. The hillbillies in the movie must have reminded him of his neighbors back home, and his family. He probably saw the village judge as a caricature of his father.
The presence of Paracelsus in this series can be explained as follows. Nazism has nothing to do with Satanism. That’s another postwar illusion. Some Nazis, such as Martin Bormann, called for the elimination of Christianity, but Bormann was a rationalist, not a Satanist. Some Nazis, notably Goebbels, were Christians. Hitler wasn’t dogmatic. There was room for both Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann in Nazi Germany. There was room for both The Great Sacrifice and the SS. There was room for both idealism and Schadenfreude — Bianca and Amanda.
Strangely, this is also true of Judaism, where there is room for both Albert Einstein and Lavrenti Beria, both Joan Baez and Meyer Lansky, both Hugh Hefner and Rabbi Shea Hecht, both Lenny Bruce and Judge Judy, etc. The Jacob/Israel duality has been there all along in Judaism (see Genesis chapters 25 – 35).
The Paracelsus/stormtrooper duality has been there all along in Germany. It was there during the Nazi era as much as any other time.
The hardest thing to come to terms with is the almost total lack of political content in these movies.
After the film series was over, there was a follow-up evening at the Goethe Institute. There was a discussion led by Harmut Bitomsky, Dean of the School of Film and Video at CalArts. He said in the first years of the Reich, they did make some political films, but nobody, or almost nobody, wanted to see them. These films played to empty theaters, even though the government gave out free tickets. (I don’t know if this applies to Fugitives, which comes from this period. I wish I had asked him about that.) After a couple of years, they gave up and started making movies that people wanted to see.
If we have gotten the idea that Nazi Germany was a nation of crusaders, and life was one ecstatic rally after another — these movies throw cold water on all such illusions.
There are two common threads that run through the whole series.
First, humor: “playful” is not a word that normally comes to mind in connection with Nazi Germany. I always thought of it as a serious place, maybe even a grim place, but that turns out to be yet another illusion. There is a spirit of joviality that infuses most of these films, with only a few exceptions. You don’t need laugh tracks to tell you when to laugh. (Laugh tracks are a Hollywood invention — but who accuses whom of Thought Control?) Even The Great Freedom is a lighthearted movie, right up until the end. Of course that makes the end more effective: when comedy suddenly turns to tragedy, it crushes you.
The second notable theme is the triangle: Most of these stories involve romantic triangles. There are only four movies in which this theme is absent; in many of them, the triangle is central to the plot. Triangles, of course, occur everywhere. This is not a theme one associates with Nazism. It’s not clear to me why the Nazis would be so preoccupied with this subject. They must have felt a deep ambivalence in their lives, and that was reflected in all these movies about divided affection, and divided loyalty.
This series could have been called “Division of the Will.”
Most Germans, like most Americans, spent their time working in offices and factories. They supported Hitler only because he revived the economy. They didn’t have an all-consuming passion for Nazi ideals, and they didn’t want to see Fugitives over and over. They wanted entertainment. They wanted movies that reflected their own lives, and for them, as for most people in any country at any time, politics was basically a side issue. They wanted to see comedies, and movies about people having affairs. Not that there is anything wrong with comedies, but it doesn’t fit my idea or anyone else’s idea of Nazi Germany. In any case, this is where the journey from illusion to reality has brought us.
To understand what destroyed the Third Reich, we have to take an overview of these films, and an overview of the story of the Old Testament, and compare them.
We start with Fugitives, where Moses leads the people out of Egypt; then Amphitryon, an encounter between gods and humans, like Yahweh coming down and talking to Moses; then a story about a father and his son, which might be compared to Abraham and Isaac; then another story about return from exile; then Kaiser of California, where Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land, only to have them turn against him and “go native.”
So far the parallel with the Old Testament is fairly close. The main discrepancy up to this point is that Amphitryon doesn’t correspond very well to Exodus — there is nothing playful or funny about God’s appearance to Moses.
But then, the stories diverge.
In the Bible, you have a series of prophets who call the people back to the Law, and promise them victory in the end. You have David, the warrior king who kills Goliath and serves as the model for the future Messiah. You have the general strategy of dispersal: the Jews are supposed to scatter all over the world, and plant the seeds of their faith everywhere. (The Nazis had no concept of a general strategy.) And finally you have the vision of Armageddon, in which God brings the remnant of his people back to Israel and helps them defeat their enemies once and for all. The story ends with victory.
In the Nazi movies, after Kaiser of California, you have The Broken Jug, La Habanera, and Effi Briest — farce, ambivalence, and disaster — followed by the two Mickey Mouse war movies. There was no vision of ultimate victory. The war was over before it started, because the Germans didn’t see themselves winning.
If Hitler and Goebbels were supervising the production of these movies, it was up to them to come up with a hero who achieves a definitive victory, like Aeneas or Jesus. There should have been a role for Hans Albers in 1937, where he founds the city of Rome, or rises from the dead and creates the New Jerusalem. But there was no such role for him, and so the next time we see him, he is playing Baron Münchhausen, and then The Singing Sailor.
Goebbels failed in his main task as Propaganda Minister, and Hitler failed in his main task as Führer (not to mention other tasks). Germany had the resources to win the war (at least they could have won a war, not necessarily the one that was fought), but they lost. They could have established their Thousand Year Reich, but they didn’t. Their propaganda, whether in the form of movies or speeches or whatever, did not inspire them to victory.
There is a fallacy that is widely believed: that in a conflict between races or cultures, the one with the best street fighters wins. That’s not how it works. The one with the best storytellers wins. If you can get people to see their lives as part of your story, you’ve got them. That’s one reason why the Bible is so powerful: we all see ourselves as part of the Biblical story. This applies to anti-Semites and anti-Christians as much as anyone. If you define yourself as anti somebody else, then you are living in their story.
There is very little illusion in these movies. The more I think about them, and review them in my mind, the more I am convinced that they give us a very clear window into the German imagination during the Nazi era. What they show us is a strange combination of lightheartedness, ambivalence, and gentle resignation.
What we have here is a tragic sense of life. There is nothing wrong with that, in itself. The tragic vision, the vision of The Iliad, is true, as far as it goes, and certainly profound. But if you adopt an attitude of lightheartedness in defeat, or dignity in defeat, or noble resignation to defeat . . . then you are going to be defeated. As the saying goes, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.”
In classical times The Iliad was balanced by The Odyssey, which ends in victory. Odysseus let his will get distracted for awhile, but then he got his thoughts collected, went back to Ithaca, and reclaimed his home and his wife. Then came The Aeneid, the story of Aeneas leading the Trojans to Italy and founding Rome, which also ends in victory. Then the Bible, with its vision of the final apocalyptic battle at the end of time, the dissolution of the universe, and the formation of the New Jerusalem (Revelation, chapter 21) — a vast, jewel-like cubical structure, full of light, populated by spiritual beings who bask in the radiance of God, and never die.
Nazi Germany had nothing like this.
The Germans didn’t need propaganda. They needed a grand vision of human destiny. If you have a Thousand Year Reich, what happens during those thousand years? Where is mankind going? What were they going to do in the Reich? They were going to clear some space for themselves, and build autobahns, and then what? I have searched in vain for an answer. I have read Mein Kampf all the way through, plus many of Hitler’s speeches. He never gives us a vision of human destiny.
Nazi Germany ultimately failed because its storytellers, including Hitler and Goebbels, failed. Their myth of the Master Race didn’t enter into the popular consciousness enough to be reflected in these movies; and in any case, that myth itself comes from the Bible. The Chosen People were (and are) the original Master Race. Hitler just tried to transpose the idea from Israel to Germany.
They also had Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods” myth, but obviously that leads nowhere.
Hitler wasn’t just another politician. People talk about the “Thousand Year Reich,” but if you listen closely to Hitler’s speech to the 6th party congress, in which he introduced this idea, he didn’t say “tausend,” singular, he actually said “tausenden,” plural. He intended the Reich to last into the indefinite future, thousands of years.
His ambition was to create a whole new civilization — no less! To do that, you have to have a story, an idea, a myth, a philosophy, strong enough to support a new civilization. Specifically, you have to come up with a story as powerful as the Bible. This is not easy, but, alas, that’s the level on which the game is played. I’m not saying it can’t be done. But Hitler and Goebbels didn’t do it, and nobody since then has done it either.
Note added in 2005
This was written a decade ago. I am going to let it stand as written, but if I were doing it now I would change the emphasis and maybe omit the last section. The vast cubical structure (the “New Jerusalem”) described in Revelation 21 is something most Christians are not even aware of. It may be true that the Nazis had no grand vision of human destiny, but neither did anybody else. That was not the problem. That’s not why they lost the war.
Nevertheless it is true that the one with the best storytellers wins. If you lose on that level, you lose; and if you abandon the field and don’t even try to tell a story, you lose by default.
The very idea of a new civilization that will extend thousand of years into the indefinite future is fallacious. We don’t have thousands of years. The exact form of the Singularity remains to be determined, but it’s coming. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it’s going to happen. One way or another human history is coming to an end. The only question is how.
Blue-State Arcadia: A Summer’s Eve in the Berkshires
(”The Odyssey” is briefly mentioned in this.)
3,035 words 
Berkshire County in Massachusetts consists of the westernmost nine percent of the state that played such an illustrious role in the founding of our nation. Today, that county illustrates the irony confounding much of our nation: that we hear the loudest yelps for diversity among those who live in almost entirely white areas.
As of the 2010 census, Berkshire County was still over ninety-two percent white, yet in 2016 it voted for Clinton at a ratio greater than five-to-two. In fairness to my fellow Northeasterners, two counties adjacent to Berkshire County – Litchfield in Connecticut and Rensselaer in New York – went for Trump, while all other adjacent counties – Columbia in New York, Bennington in Vermont, and Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin in Massachusetts – at least posted more favorable numbers for Trump (though the last two listed just barely).
Yet despite this singular political masochism of Berkshire County, it still cannot avoid showing its European heart. Especially during the summer, a sojourn there offers abundant cultural produce. Allow me to whet your appetite with a report about my feast last week, which began at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, continued with a performance of As You Like It by Shakespeare and Co. in Lenox, and concluded with a stirring concert of piano quartets by Mahler, Mozart, and Brahms, two miles down the road in Lenox, at Tanglewood.
In the early afternoon on August 17, without any idea of this summer’s specific offerings at the Norman Rockwell Museum, I arrived to find the majority of the gallery space devoted to an exhibition that could only thrill awakened white Americans. Titled Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition, the exhibition consists of a plethora of paintings by Maxfield Parrish, N. C. Wyeth, and the museum’s namesake, as well as a healthy number of works by other painters – American and French – who were teachers to those three (or teachers to their teachers).
As the title indicates, the primary underlying theme is the great chain of teacher-student relationships in the history of Western painting, and the passing down of traditions from one generation to the next. The exhibit includes a huge touch screen, which displays a tree of such relationships, connecting Parrish, Wyeth, and Rockwell all the way back to the fifteenth century. (One finds that this tree includes that all-time genius, Leonardo da Vinci, among other historic figures.) The “narrative tradition” in the subtitle refers to the idea that keeping the flame is as much or more about passing down cultural and mythological traditions as technical or scientific ones. There’s also a more limited aptness to narration in that Parrish, Wyeth, and Rockwell did much commercial work, including illustrations for narrative texts.
Even aside from any taint of commercialism, undoubtedly some – pretentious and down-to-earth alike – would find Parrish and Wyeth (but particularly Parrish) to also have those qualities for which many critics often dismiss Norman Rockwell: sentimentalism, mass appeal, a disregard for the contemporary Zeitgeist of fine art, and so on. But I imagine that pace any such impressions of these artists, most viewers would find this exhibition to be at least a breath of fresh air from the Abstract Expressionism which so dominated the history of twentieth-century American painting – that spiritually castrated genre of the random splatters of Jackson Pollack, the stupid rectangles of Mark Rothko, and the utter nihilism of Ad Reinhardt.
In any case, a number of the paintings on display this summer in Stockbridge complicate dismissive generalizations of Rockwell and company. For proof that Rockwell is not merely a Pollyannaish portrayer of mainstream Americana, see, for example, these two portraits of Russian girls, and the complex facial expressions rendered in rustic brushstrokes:
No one disputes that Rockwell was a skilled draftsman, but perhaps underrated are his intellect and range, both of which shine through in Stained Glass Window. In this piece – constituted primarily of symbolic imagery – Rockwell masterfully pulls off a nearly photorealistic effect in a meta-work of art:
Even quintessential Rockwell can reveal depths of subtlety that cut against his reputation for corniness and cheesiness. Take, for example, one of Rockwell’s most famous works, Girl at Mirror, the image of which once featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. The placard next to the painting in the exhibit refers to Rockwell having captured “a tender moment . . . and a sensitive contemplative expression.” I see, rather, a painting of subtle horror, wherein a young girl narcissistically tries to look like a pin-up model, as her neglected doll is bent over and sodomized by the mirror frame:
Not narrowly American, Rockwell’s art often recalls the European tradition generally, as it does explicitly in the following paint-child of Vermeer, Fruit of the Vine (Mother and Daughter Pouring Raisins at Table):
Of course, even as one appreciates Rockwell, one understands the critical view of much of his work. The same is true of Parrish, though if his work has too much sentimentalism, it is of quite a different character than Rockwell’s: luminous classical idealism rather than Main Street Americana. Perhaps in a less precarious time for Westerners, I’d consider Parrish cloying, but as it is, I find the brilliant glow of paintings like Enchantment (Cinderella) and The Lantern Bearers to be rather skillful, original, and even magical:
Judging by the exhibit, Parrish’s art – and Wyeth’s and Rockwell’s – was usually not in service of a tradition-destroying commercialism. It rather injected tradition into the realm of the commercial, as with Prometheus (the image of which was used in an advertisement for the Edison Mazda Lamp):
An example of N. C. Wyeth’s “traditional” commercialism (not on display at the exhibit) is this illustrated edition of The Odyssey:
Odysseus & Calypso
Ulysses & the Sirens
In general, Wyeth’s oeuvre demonstrates the wide compass of the American tradition. The subjects of his paintings on display at Keepers of the Flame range from solitary American Indians, to white Americans exploring the Western frontier, to bucolic rural scenes squarely within the nineteenth-century French tradition. An example of the latter is The Scythers, which shows a deep resemblance in tone and texture to William Bouguereau’s By the Sea, one of the French paintings on display at the exhibit:
But Bouguereau was not teacher to Wyeth. He was, rather, grand-teacher to Parrish, through the American Thomas Anshutz. One of Wyeth’s teachers was the American Eric Pape, whose contribution to the exhibit includes the arresting The Last Man, which could easily be the cover art for a philosophical sci-fi novel:
In making art with broad appeal and for compensation, Rockwell, Parrish, and Wyeth were not “selling out” per se. Though it is crucial for art (and society at large) to maintain something of the aristocratic posture, this is often best accomplished through an effort to raise the consciousness of the masses closer to that of the aristocrat. It is a fair topic for debate whether the three painters at issue here accomplish this, but nearly all agree that Shakespeare’s art is of the noblest cast, and yet he has also been a most popular playwright, from his time down to ours.
Shakespeare charmingly encapsulated the necessity of appealing to an audience in the title of his comedy As You Like It. I attended an outdoor performance at the Shakespeare and Co. grounds in Lenox at five o’clock in the afternoon. The Sun gloriously bathed actors and audience alike in golden light as it gradually descended over the green Berkshire hills surrounding us. With the aid of sunglasses to soften the glare, it was the perfect setting for a Shakespearean comedy that takes place in the forest.
The play begins with Orlando, the youthful male hero, bemoaning the unjust treatment he receives at the hand of his older brother Oliver, the beneficiary of primogeniture. In Scene 2, we meet the cousins Rosalind and Celia, and learn that the former’s father, Duke Senior, has been exiled by the latter’s, the usurping younger brother Duke Frederick. The play therefore incorporates the Osiris-Set mythical theme, but in classic Shakespearean fashion, the Bard blends dualities, and we find both elder and younger sons constituting the male heroes.
By the end of Act I, despite (or perhaps implicitly because of) Celia’s lesbian love for her cousin, Frederick banishes Rosalind as well, and from here on out all the action takes place in the forest, where we meet a number of countrified characters in addition to the exiled aristocrats. Among the forest-dwellers is the mysterious, melancholy wanderer Jacques, who delivers one of Shakespeare’s most famous speeches midway through the play, on the seven acts and ages of man (which begins, “All the world’s a stage . . .”). This speech is one of those somber but wise interludes that Shakespeare peppers into his comedies – though it won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen or read the play to report that, as in Shakespeare’s other comedies, all ends well, with Rosalind and Orlando as the lead couple at the four-marriage finale.
Nine actors handled the entirety of the play, which calls for approximately twenty characters (though there are closer to a dozen or so well-defined roles). By and large, the nonet did a fine job, with one exception. Orlando was played by Deaon Griffin-Pressley, who is a dead ringer for Ta-Nehisi Coates, and this likeness was distracting, as was the lack of chemistry he had with Aimee Doherty (who otherwise did fine work as Rosalind). But even aside from this, Griffin-Pressley simply overacted, and did so in a narrow range of expression. Energetic and eager earnestness was the only note he struck.
Thankfully, in ensemble plays, it is hard for a single actor to ruin the whole show, and some of the other actors compensated. Mark Zeisler had just the sad eyes and wistful half-smile for Jacques, and he performed the traveler-philosopher well despite flubbing a few lines. Gregory Boover was charming as Silvius, a young shepherd we meet in the forest who is in love with the shepherdess Phoebe, and Mr. Boover also ably handled acoustic guitar duties for the silly-cutesy song-ditties that Shakespeare weaves into the play. (The first of those ditties begins, “Under the greenwood tree,” which Thomas Hardy used as the title for one of his classic novels.) MaConnia Chesser, a portly, middle-aged black woman, was entertaining as a female version of Touchstone, the fool who is actually wiser than most of the other characters, as Shakespearean fools are wont to be.
Since it is fun (and often useful) to commit to memory some of the brief witticisms from a Shakespeare play, I offer the following selection from As You Like It, along with fitting contexts for their use:
for an atheist, when someone swears to God: “if you swear by that that is not, you are not forsworn”
when falsely accused: “your mistrust cannot make me a traitor”
when caught in a lie: “the truest poetry is the most feigning”
for an attractive person caught in a lie: “honesty coupled to beauty is to have honey a sauce to sugar”
when disagreeing because circumstances have changed: “‘Was’ is not ‘is’”
when accused of not having done something that you may yet do: “omittance is no quittance”
Zooming back out, one of the principal themes of the play is the superiority of the rustic life of the forest compared with the pomposity of society. When we first meet Duke Senior at the outset of Act II, he asks rhetorically:
Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam.
Later, Corin, one of the simple shepherds we meet in the forest, explains the nature of his life:
Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man’s happiness, glad of other men’s good, content with my harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck.
It is this simple, wholesome life that inspires Duke Senior at the end of the play, after all titles and riches have been restored, to delay returning to his court in order to rejoice in the forest. He encourages the marriage party to “forget this new-fall’n dignity / And fall into our rustic revelry. Play, music!”
Though “rustic revelry” does not usually best describe minor key piano quartets, I did my best to heed the Duke’s command, and proceeded to Tanglewood for some music, which is, like the Rockwell Museum and Shakespeare and Co.’s grounds, surrounded by hilly forest (see top photo).
The program included the first piano quartets of Mozart and Brahms – both in G minor – as well as the only surviving movement of an early Mahler attempt at such a quartet. The evening’s performers were the four women of The Skride Quartet, named after two beautiful Latvian sisters, the elder on violin and the younger on piano. Earlier this year, at The New York Philharmonic, Baiba Skride brought me to tears with her performance of Tchaikovsky’s stirring Violin Concerto, so I was quite excited as she and her fellow musicians walked onstage to a packed house and robust applause. Two hours later, they walked offstage to even greater applause, having more than satiated the audience with passionate, minor-key intensity.
The concert began with Mahler, which many readers will know from the Martin Scorsese film Shutter Island, in which it is explicitly discussed by the characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. DiCaprio’s character, trying to place the familiar music in his memory, asks if it’s Brahms. While such confusion would be unlikely with regard to Mahler’s symphonies, the quartet movement was written early in Mahler’s career, before he assumed the bloated style of his symphonies. The piece is therefore indeed quite Brahmsian: passionate and romantic, without too much gesturing towards the twentieth-century trends of modernism that Mahler helped usher in.
The Skride Quartet immediately demonstrated its tasteful skill. A tricky thing with piano quartets is to make sure that the piano does not dominate too much, which is a risk even in a piano quintet. But during the Mahler piece, Lauma Skride, a year younger than her sister, masterfully handled her instrument, articulating her parts clearly without ever drowning out the strings.
As for Mozart, when world-class musicians are playing his music, one simply sits back and takes it in, grateful to be alive. I did so as The Skride Quartet graced the audience’s ears with the prodigy’s heavenly patterns, and as I was not much familiar with this piece beforehand, I did not have preconceptions as to how it should be played. I will add one comment, however, on Mozart generally.
Recently, a friend who does not listen much to classical music, and who is not at all musical himself, attended a concert of Mozart and Bruckner. He reported that he was quite intrigued by Bruckner, but found Mozart boring and predictable. Though I couldn’t feel any more different about Wolfgang Amadeus myself, I do understand what my friend means. For a number of reasons, the more formal classical music of pre-Beethoven times can seem to run together and blend into a predictable sound. One major reason, of course, is that since almost all music in the West is built upon the melodic and harmonic foundations laid down by the likes of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart, we take their originality and charm for granted as we do the air we breathe. But just as attending closely to one’s breath can thrill with the intensity of life itself, so does attending closely to Mozart and other composers from the more formal eras of classical music. If you find Mozart predictable, try intently focusing on some of his pieces in recordings, even pausing them at times to see if you can really predict what is coming. With such careful attention, you will find him surprising you at every turn, bursting with ideas of musical genius that enliven with the freshness of a deep breath.
Listening to Brahms is more like having a good cry – sometimes joyous, sometimes heartbreaking, often both at the same time – and the Hamburger’s Piano Quartet No. 1 is emblematic of his legendary passion. The Skride Quartet was up to the task in channeling that passion, and once again, the younger Skride perfectly handled the dynamics of the piano. A stunning instance was the martial-march theme that the piano announces a few minutes into the Andante con moto: it requires a firm and confident tempo, but a light touch on the keys, and Lauma nailed the balance. (For those less acquainted with Brahms, I recommend listening to this movement, which is in the heroic key of E-flat, for a taste of the quintessence of his music.)
It was the Brahms piece that brought the house down in thunderous applause, forcing the women back on stage three times for extra bows. The audience did not get its desired encore, but perhaps this was for the best, as one does not want to risk ruining the perfect capstone to an evening of excellent music. I highly recommend trying to catch such an evening when The Skride Quartet is on tour this coming season. As for Keepers of the Flame and As You Like It, they run through late October and early September, respectively, should you be in the area over the coming weeks.
That’s plenty of words for now on a single day, though it still just scratches the surface of what it is like to experience such an array of culture on a beautiful summer day in the rolling hills of western New England. My intention, dear readers, is of course not to gloat, but to provide a reminder of how rich our heritage is. I also wanted to highlight that even in places where our people are politically asleep, their hearts still beat European-American blood. There is yet much life left in our people, and despite our losses, we still have so much to fight for. Therefore, take heart, brothers and sisters, and if you need some help doing so, you can always turn to Shakespeare, Mozart, Brahms, and thousands of others of our dead, who’ve left us more treasures than can be savored in a hundred lifetimes.
A few weeks ago, I posted an open thread where you, the readers of and contributors to this blog, could post your questions and comments on its direction. Posting these periodically allows not only feedback to those of us behind the scenes, but also allows the community to exchange ideas among itself. Since you were so kind as to participate, let these comments be addressed:
First and biggest: the question of “What do you want?” instead of mere criticism of what is. It is easier to see flaws, and constitutes a cheap shot. I had previously attempted to address this via the “about” page of the site, but there is more to add. Generally, it is clear that I oppose all forms of liberalism and formalist systems, such as “democracy” and “egalitarianism,” on the basis of their ideological single-factor approach to a multifactor situation. As stated very well here, those single ideas become religion:
Any time you have “one overriding idea”, and push your idea as a superior ideology, you’re going to be wrong. Microkernels had one such ideology, there have been others. It’s all BS. The fact is, reality is complicated, and not amenable to the “one large idea” model of problem solving. The only way that problems get solved in real life is with a lot of hard work on getting the details right. Not by some over-arching ideology that somehow magically makes things work. – Linus Torvalds
The point of ideology is to have a center, not a single idea which addresses every question; the center is its goal and method of thinking, and that proliferates into many other ideas which become methods and values. Liberalism has one dimension, egalitarianism or the idea of individual equality and thus exemption of the individual from judgment by a centralized authority, which is why it fails: equality is all face value and does not lead to flexible methods, but robotic repetition of the same form in diverse instances. Like the idea of universal solutions itself, this fails because it is rigid and rejects the notion of equality for thoughts which are easier to the human mind. However, it is more popular because as an easily comprehensible lie it takes away most of the fear of the uncertain that exists in how humans approach reality, and substitutes simple scapegoats for broader problems. In general, liberals are people who intuit that Western civilization is in collapse but have no idea how to fix it, so they settle for ideas that are popular and thus achievable despite the fact that they do not address the problem and for that reason, both misdirect our energy into nonsense that creates secondary disasters, and hide the actual path that we need to take.
In contrast, people like myself argue conservatism which is the notion of preserving the ideas that have created the best results in the past. This has two prongs:
Consequentialism. This means simply paying attention to cause->effect logic. For any given problem or goal, consequentialists look at all previous attempts, the method used and the result obtained. This produces a chart of two columns, “A” for methods and “B” for results, which they then invert and look down column “B” for what is closest to the end result they desire. They then choose the corresponding method from column “A” and modify it to fit the customized needs of their specific situation, editing that as the process goes on until they have a solid fit.
Transcendentalism. The first method naturally leads to a question of what we should desire. For most conservatives, this is a gut-level response based on previous “golden ages” of humanity. Some choose 1950s Mayberry, others the Greco-Roman greatness, with most seeing more overlap between the two than difference. Transcendentalism refers to the process of finding a beauty and logic in the order of nature and the cosmos that allows us to align ourselves with its internal organization, and see the wisdom of if not outright replicating nature, using some kind of order in balance and harmony with the inevitable process of nature, including natural selection, destruction, death and entropy. This causes conservatives to aim for not just baseline function but methods that achieve optimal results without disregarding nature. Optimality includes beauty, spiritual health, and an “ascendent” or self-organizing civilization rising above the mediocre condition at which most live. As a wise man once pointed out:
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded â€” here and there, now and then â€” are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” — Robert A. Heinlein
Transcendence is the mental process by which one sees the reason to lift oneself up from this state of raw individualism. No place has more individual freedom than the third world, which can be explained as simply a lesser degree of the civilization process. However, people not working together produces an impoverished, dirty, corrupt and internally divided settlement and precludes any of the advances of higher civilization like philosophy, science, learning, art and the advancement of the intelligence of the people through selective breeding. Most people, being venal beings not much advanced from Darwin’s apes, will inevitably prefer a lesser degree of civilization as it offers them more “freedom,” individualism and liberty with fewer responsibilities. However, civilization represents a tradeoff: the loss of many abilities that are not constructive anyway in exchange for a moral, hierarchical and social order. Transcendental thought sees this from parallels to nature and the cosmos and does not rely on any specific religion or political tradition.
This is the core of conservatism. These are not methods themselves, but a method of thinking about methods, and since the above cannot be applied directly, it gives rise to a study like science or philosophy of what works and to what degree it achieves optimum circumstances like those in ancient Greece or Rome (or India or the Mayan and Aztect empires). Those ages do not denote technological or power concentration peaks of humanity, but the societies which had the greatest degree of internal balance and thus produced the greatest art, learning, philosophy, science and wisdom of our times. While our modern technology and science are advanced, they represent footnotes to this original learning and, where they deviate from it, illusion.
For these reasons, the manifesto to follow will seem like it is mostly a radical Republican platform with elements of deep ecology, royalism and post-libertarian though in it. That is because all of these share an origin in the above two principles, despite being disguised deliberately by their creators because the last millennium has been one of increasing liberalization and thus hostility to any recognizably conservative ideas. Conservative ideas are recognizable because they tend to speak of things like quality and health instead of “new methods,” which is why it is perceived as backward looking but instead is a recognition that not much has changed since the dawn of humanity, and that usually, “new” ideas are charlatanism disguising old ideas as new. In fact, most changes in quantity instead of quantity are human solipsism, or the tendency to view the world as adapting to the self instead of the other way around, and the newness — like other advertising techniques such as altruism, egalitarianism, compassion, empathy and idealistic utopianism — disguises a desire to manipulate for personal gain at the expense of what is shared between all people in a society, namely social order, quality of hygiene and institutions, and degree of evolutionary refinement to the genetics of the population itself.
Conservatism exists because it works; what opposes it, Crowdism — of which liberalism is one variant — exists because individuals want a group to defend their radical individualism. With Crowdism, the individual acts to destroy social hierarchy and a hierarchy of knowledge under which the acts, desires or beliefs of the individual are subject to criticism by those who might know better. A Crowdist wants “anarchy with grocery stores”; he wants the benefit of civilization without the corresponding responsibility to make it work, and to ensure his own happiness through improving the quality of his behavior and condition. Instead, he wants the group to provide that for him, and to find meaning in external ideology instead of internal discipline. Crowdism is an easy way around the challenge of life itself, and every society that undertakes it both infantilizes and domesticates itself, then enters a “death spiral” where it imposes increasingly unrealistic ideology as a means of keeping society together, simultaneously widening the distance between the official version of reality and actual reality, setting itself up for a collapse when the collision with reality finally comes.
If there were one thing I would like to see different, or perhaps added, is a manifesto of sorts. A simplified (okay, dumbed down) bullet pointed roadmap. Letâ€™s face it, if we are ever to appeal to the masses, it is crucial they can relate and understand. An indicator of understanding would be the ability to repeat and expound. – Cpl Horatius
Excellent idea, with one caveat: the masses do not understand much of anything. Each person understands to the limits of his or her IQ. For this reason, most people are left in a primitive reality where there are “good” and “evil” based on the intent of others, which conceals the actuality which is that evil consists of error usually arising from solipsism, and good from adaptation to reality. For that reason, any manifesto will have to address the right-hand side of the Bell Curve. Your point that it must be simple and clear however stands nonetheless, because few people have time or energy for convoluted descriptions. This is balanced — however — against the necessary complexity of the issue, and dumbing it down too much creates a symbolic surrogate or token proxy which creates a false target within the objects of our minds, instead of accurately describing the objects in reality.
Part of any manifesto must be to relabel those non-existent things known as â€˜rightsâ€™ to â€˜privilegesâ€™, to better reflect what they are.
In the entire universe, there are no â€˜rightsâ€™ to be found. They do not exist, yet we agree to pretend they do, and undermine the whole of society by doing so.
Privileges can be rescinded, based upon performance, or the lack of it. But once a â€˜rightâ€™ is handed-out, gratis, taking it back becomes strangely problematic. crow
Excellent starting points. A conservative does not view anything in the world as having a single direction, much like cause->effect occurs in one direction but must be reversed to understand it. Similarly, rights without responsibilities are tyranny. A conservative views rights/responsibility pairings as roles or duties within a social order and its correspondingly hierarchy, both vertical and horizontal, of authority. Rights, like voting, encourage bratty behavior by handing out authority that is disconnected from its effects. People can insist on rights, or espouse crazy opinions, without being held responsible for what that would do (or does, if they achieve it). Rights as seen by most moderns are absolutes, which causes inevitable collisions, and from that we get an endless list of laws and rules which tell us how to apply these rights, subverting the concept of rights itself, which like all other things distills down to whatever is most popular, which causes problems because what is easily understood supplants complex truths in these popularity contests.
Describe Your ideal America…Remember, the answers must describe how You WANT things to be in 50 years. – 1349
This “ideal” involves the conservative dual principles of what works and what works best. As such, it is not dependent on any age. Any civilization which undertakes this process will rise above the rest and then have to defend itself against them, first through outright military attack and second through sedition by mixed-race/mixed-caste people and home-grown neurotics who will infiltrate and offer passive-aggressive ideas like liberalism to corrupt the communal intent of that civilization. On the other hand, a civilization that rises has a chance at excellence instead of mere subsistence. For many centuries, Western Europe was the 5% of humanity who rose above the norm and became something greater, but instead of emulating their model, the rest of the world has attacked them because of envy and resentment which constitute a scapegoating mentality in lieu of the simpler but harder process of simply emulating what succeeds, in accordance with conservative principles. Hopefully the following offer Americans a vision of what their civilization could be; I freely acknowledge these are not unique to me, because they are not opinions but analysis based on what has succeeded throughout history.
1) Is it independent? (I.e. does it make independent decisions in foreign and domestic policy & does it take its own measures to implement those decisions?
2) Is the term â€œAmericanâ€ (or some other word Youâ€™ll use for your ethnonym) tied to some territory? If iâ€™m American, does it mean that iâ€™m from there and there?
3) Whatâ€™s the phenotype of Americans? Skin colour, height, body constitution, eyes colour, delicacy of fingers and face features â€“ and ANY OTHER parameters.
18) How is it determined that someone is American? By territorial ties (â€˜iâ€™m from hereâ€)? By blood ties, kin? By politcal allegiance (â€œi am a citizen of this countryâ€)? By economic ties (â€œi work for an American enterpriseâ€)? By language, aesthetics and worn symbols? By religion and philosophy (â€œi believe in this and this, therefore iâ€™m Americanâ€)?
5) How MANY Americans are there in 50 years?
9) Whatâ€™s the political regime?
10) Whatâ€™s the dominating family model?
11) What language(s) do Americans speak?
14) Are they religious? What is (are) their religion(s)? – 1349
I envision an America under a king, with independent aristocrats governing regions, and within them the current states, with local lords ruling over localized communities — about the size of the Dallas metropolitan area — within them.
Aristocrats are chosen by finding the best people among us, using criteria of intelligence plus nobility of character, and having them choose others of the same attributes. This creates an inverted pyramid of good people stemming outward from the first we choose, and that choice should be left to the wisest among us now.
These aristocrats will be given ownership of the undeveloped land in their areas of rule if they are local lords, and large estates if they are above that level. This buys them off by guaranteeing them income for life that cannot be threatened, and also places most of the natural land under their care, to be left as it was in England in its natural state with minor incursions for hunting, which since they are only by the aristocrats, constitute a far lesser strain than allowing mass entry.
“American” is determined by WASP (meaning roughly Western European, genetically) heritage plus an ability to uphold the culture we desire. This culture would be derived from the UK-German mix that founded this nation. The original Americans were mostly English, then German, then Scots, and after them Dutch, Scandinavians, some Northern French and a handful of aristocrats from other European nations. Everyone else would be sent back to their homelands, with all mixes being sent to Northern Africa which is the traditional mixed-race location for humanity. Amerinds (“Native Americans”) and Central Americans would be repatriated to their genetic homeland in Siberia, while African-Americans would go to Africa. I support reparations for African-Americans for the difficulties their ancestors faced in slavery, recognizing that slavery offered them — generally, with a few notable exceptions — a better life than was possible in Africa, where most of them were prisoners of war resulting from tribal conflicts. I also support a strong Israel, with the Palestinians driven into the sea and the Biblical range of territory granted to the kingdom of Israel, with relocation of all American Jews and mixed-heritage people of Jewish descent to there. I will never support the Holocaust or pogroms against the Jewish people; these are puerile scapegoating and the shame of all who indulge in them, however a strong Israel requires union of all Jewish people within her, in addition to support from other first-world nations. Anti-Semitism is stupid but recognizing the failure of diversity in all forms is intelligent.
I suggest the religion question be left up in the air, and reduced to a morality question: those who can support the morality of the traditional church, which mirrors that of the pagans before them (but not the liberalized morality of the neo-pagans), should be constituted as participating in the culture we desire.
This would reduce America to about 120 million Western Europeans, which would end the ongoing ecocide of species in North America.
I support the British monarchy but think America must be independent owing to the practical difficulties of governing a far-off land which led to the original American revolution.
According to our morality, the family model is the nuclear family. I do not support actions taken either against homosexuals, or intending to normalize them as heterosexuals. Rather, I propose they be declared bachelors and spinisters and left alone, preferably in gay districts within every port city. Any who engage in pogromism against homosexuals are my enemy, because this both produces cruelty and through that morally corrupts the population, and also leads to homosexuals acting as heterosexuals and reproducing contrary to the will of nature.
In accord with the above, Americans would speak English, look Western European (indigenous), and uphold the dual cultures of Germany and Britain. Although I do not support public schooling, I would recommend that those who benefit from schooling — 120 IQ and above — be instructed in Greek, Latin, German and French in addition to English.
4) How healthy are Americans? Do they use alcohols or other drugs? What do they eat? Do they go in for sports? How physically active are they? – 1349
This varies with the individual. As a culture, our ideal would be physically fit but not to the neurotic degree of moderns. Physical activity would mostly consist of outdoors work and walking around. Were I king, I would end the practice of apartments and bias culture against constant driving. Instead, people would live close to local communities and do their shopping, socializing and working there.
7) What form of property dominates? (Private, cooperative, national?) What size of businesses dominates? (Small, medium, big companies?)
8) In what types of settlements do Your ideal Americans live? If there are various types of settlements (homesteads, villages, towns, cities), where do most people live? What do Americans do in each type of settlement?
6) Which economic activity brings them the most wealth? (Agriculture? Industry? Services? Marketing? War & conquest? Selling natural resources? Etc.)
17) Do Your ideal Americans have a mission on the scale of a region, continent, the globe or the Universe? What is it (are they)?- 1349
Private property would be the basis of the economic model, with the caveat that misuse of it would lead to its interruption.
A network of small cities (70,000-150,000) and towns (25,000-50,000) would form the basis of this society. This avoids the dual evils of isolation and big city anonymity.
Economic activity would be regulated by local lords depending on what makes sense to do given the surrounding geography and resources.
Our mission would be to be excellent in all areas, which mostly consists of improving ourselves but also of space exploration and conquest of territories which are failing and their conversion into national parks.
15) Do they have their own schools of thought, pleiads of philosophers?
12) Do they have their own schools (i mean, â€œmovementsâ€) of music, architecture, fine arts?
13) Do they have their own big schools of science and technology? Their own strong, competent communities of developers, technical designers?
16) How do Your ideal Americans communicate with each other? Live conversations? Snail mail? Phone? Internet? Social media? Etc.
And who owns the dominating news media? Who owns the media of social communication? – 1349
Do we need new schools of thought? Everything that needs be said has been said by the Germans and the Greeks.
Each local area would have its own artists. Movements may arise from that; this would be up to local lords, who through the patronage system would support deserving arts and cultural movements.
Media and industry would be up to local lords, with supervision from the king. Were I king, I would make lying illegal, and any media that made a statement later proven to be false and that they should have known was false at the time, would find itself confiscated and reallocated.
I think the disease has been pretty well diagnosed at this point, so a shift towards thinking about the future would be effective. This can be tackled from multiple angles: how might we get there (specifically, I am interested in whether, how, and where a secession could occur in the U.S., and whether such a thing would be a good thing anyway), what do we want, what problems can arise, etc. On a related note, my wife is getting turned off by my constant nagging about societyâ€™s ills, so it would be nice to have more positive things to discuss.=)
One thing about discussing problems in such a detailed, abstract level is that it can be depressing, not very empowering. I donâ€™t mean that the truth should be distorted, but I mean that too much focus on the negative without any sense of agency can condition us to feel defeated and accept it.
I wonder if any kind of unified movement, or mission statement, or any other kind of focused action would be beneficial if we are serious about improving the world and making an impact. Clearly, such a thing should not fall into the same trap of democracy, compromise, and pandering, but I still think there are ways to aggregate the thoughts of many individuals and create and refine something larger. The Less Wrong community I think is a fairly successful example of this, with its point system, though I must seriously qualify this statement: I think the singularity is a pipe dream for autistics and nerds, and a huge waste of time, and in addition they have such a large ego (or something) that they spin their wheels reinventing the wheel (long, semi-fictional articles that essentially reduce to some ancient philosophical view with new terminology). But, it seems that their problems (by nature, as they are futurists) stem from too much fantasy, ideology, and disconnect from history â€” essentially, they lack a grounding in reality â€” and (hopefully) a serious conservative community would by nature lack these problems (to that point, Less Wrong has done votes that showed 80% to be liberal, so thereâ€™s that too). Another danger that Less Wrong presents is the cult of personality â€” while we should pick strong leaders, we shouldnâ€™t pick narcissists and grant them infallibility. Eliezer Yudkowsky is the case in point, and it seems that he has done nothing in terms of progress towards stated goals except market himself and collect donations.
…But more simply, a â€œstart hereâ€ page would be cool, consisting of a mission statement, a reading list, and practical suggestions. – Cynical Optimist
Singularity is a variant on the Great Democratic Hope: we will all become one hive-mind and rule by sheer autocracy. It is nonsense for NEETs and other neurotics who make up the liberal side of things.
Let us look toward the future: democracy has failed, the United States no longer exists because its citizens have nothing in common, and the EU has followed the same fate. Thus people are returning to those bonds which never decay: family, neighbors, culture, religion and values.
The singularity that we seek is in fact the dis-singularity, in which we realize that nihilism is true:
There are no shared values, truths or knowledge. Instead, knowledge (including that of truth, and from that values) are esoteric: that is, cumulative, with those who learn the groundwork going on to learn more in an infinite chain, and what they learn is incommunicable to anyone below them in experience, which includes the ability to have experience or native ability, specifically IQ.
The only singularity is the realization that the idea of a human collective, even unified by technology (this is the real root of that seemingly technological dream), cannot exist because people are inherently unequal in understanding. As the Dunning-Kruger-Downing effect illustrates, people reject that which is above their understanding while people with uncommonly high understanding give credence to baffling nonsense because they assume the competence of its source. Thus a collective will be united by the lowest common denominator, which will be artificial to its environment and the natural laws that govern it (these are mathematical/informational laws, not material laws per se) and will therefore set up the collective to fail; its response to failure, which occurs by degrees and not sudden collapse, will be to tighten its ideological control to the point where the society controls itself until it is unable to keep itself going and fails. This form of death afflicts all great empires because all great empires go out the same way: lack of internal cohesion, manipulation by financial interests allied with populist movements, resulting in some form of “idealistic” and egalitarian ideology which then enters the death spiral of controlling its people to avoid confrontation with reality and through that, passing into solipsistic oblivion. Rome, Greece and the Soviet Union ultimately went out the same way; the Maya were destroyed through class warfare, as were the Aztecs; ancient India — once the most advanced civilization on earth — perished as prophesied through caste-mixing as a result of egalitarian class warfare. I am certain that if we learned enough about Easter Island we would find that it, too, vanished suddenly because its internal leadership struggles put it into the death spiral of power and control designed to keep reality at bay. The nature of all liberal movements is reality-denial and apologism for civilization collapse, scapegoating “inequality” instead of the instability and failure to notice reality that put society on a bad course.
Once we accept the fundamental nihilism of human relations, we see that instead of a singularity point we need a directional shift from equality to hierarchy. In hierarchy, the best are put higher than the rest in terms of wealth and power, which allows them to use their superior abilities to make life better for everyone, themselves included. This contrasts the every-man-for-himself attitude of egalitarian societies in which owing to equality all people are competing to rise above the lowest common denominator, and thus see each other (and society itself) as oppressive competition. If we created an all-wise AI, it would realize the same thing and quickly appoint itself king. It would be hilarious but predictable that the Terminator style wars between humans and the machines would be like the World Wars and Napoleonic Wars at essence wars for democracy. If we shift direction, we acknowledge the nihilism in human affairs and gain quality leadership at the expense of a painful illusion.
But what is the solution? Should we operate peacefully and within the law, bringing people to our cause through logic and persuasion? Should we violently overthrow the current order and replace it with our own? Should we just wait things out and enjoy the fall?…I seem to get mixed messages from you about what you think should be done to fix our society. – Theseus
If I were in his shoes, I would be wondering if there is any point in appealing to the masses at all. An effective enough power grab would certainly be the trick to avoiding this but then, the question becomes, how to seize power.
…I bring all of this up because I just do not know if outlines and manifestos are the point so much as finding like minded people and helping them to fight their bad habits that would make them susceptible to leftism to begin with. – -A
I would hope all of us would see the importance of appealing to the â€œaverage Joeâ€. Without eventually convincing enough bell curve pinnacle-dwellers, I doubt we will witness the end of this madness short of a â€œMad Maxâ€ scenario. – Cpl Horatius
As you have pointed out, itâ€™s difficult to argue core conservative principles because we spend too much time explaining what it is not because it is simply a lack of constructed illusions. This inherent difficulty coupled with our introverted and prudent character instinctively drives us from interacting. Partly in disgust, and part fear of being misunderstood. This I think is a real problem. Engagement in a masculine hierarchical system I believe is the only real cure to this. – Ron
As to how to get there, I adopt the phrase “by any means necessary,” but I mean this less in the sense of terroristic action and more along the lines of trying everything available to us. Hitler got into power through democratic elections followed by changing the laws; we know that small groups, such as the 2% of our population that is gay, can have a broad effect and win elections. This is how most change occurs: a small group, usually 2-5% of the population, unites on a clear idea and agitates for it in a convenient time pocket when the established system is failing. Conservatives have enough money, positions of power, influence with industry and votes to get a candidate in office, and if that candidate can then systematically act against the system to alter laws, it will be an easy transition. If that fails, conservatives can unite behind a corporation that can achieve autonomous status. As Charles Murray suggests, acts of civil disobedience to sabotage the EU and USA and destroy them may also be useful. If none of the above apply, armed revolution could be an option, but should probably take place in outlying areas first because the power of modern militaries is to hit concentrations of forces and destroy them, but are less useful against uncooperative populations and widely-dispersed, invisible guerrilla militias. Cyber-warfare to destroy the economics of the US and EU could plunge those countries into instability and cause shifts that favor strongmen. Additionally, a crypto-conservative might masquerade as a populist Hugo Chavez style Socialist candidate in order to seize power using the apparatus of the left and then, through internal subterfuge and removal of political enemies, take over. Terrorist acts as suggested in The Turner Diaries, such as using a nuke to destroy Washington, D.C., are another option, although in my view it would be better to not provoke popular resentment through mass murder.
The first step in all of the above is unity in what we want and understanding it in clear, simple terms.
I think Brett is somewhere in between Absolute Monarchy and the Democratic method of the South, where a Democrat was a rare individual who had the privilege to vote.
You might describe me as a "libertarian royalist." Like free markets, need strong culture/ethny/kings to keep them in line. #nrx
In modern terms, the phrase “libertarian royalist” describes my approach: free markets sans usury under the guidance of aristocrats, which requires a strong culture and ethnic nationalism. One of my biggest beliefs is that it is important to enact gradual change wherever possible, and to fix nothing that is not broken. For this reason, I favor a cultural shift followed by strong action to correct the errors of liberalism, followed by benevolent and mostly extremely minimal rule, as aristocrats are known to do.
I think this blog should focus more on me. In fact, it should be almost entirely about me. – crow
Perhaps not “almost entirely,” but I think a crow feature story is a really good idea. There are other readers/commenters here who would be very interesting to profile. Actually, I think many of you are far more interesting than I am (summary: philosophy geek + applied technology nerd) and should be the topic of at least short interviews.
Letâ€™s replicate Jewish Group Evolutionary Strategy as described in Culture of Critique series in order to build a parallel society to preserve and expand our genetic and cultural existence. – Refman
The Jewish and Amish strategies of both of interest. However, as you may note, Theodor Herzl ultimate came up with the solution of Israel because he realized that to be outsiders in a dominant culture is to always be a suspect and to provoke ire for not participating in what everyone else does.
-I have an interest in European/ISIS/worldwide trends. Marine le Pen.
-Economy will be on the minds of everyone in the west, although the root causes to our decline are more interesting to me.
-People are too naive. They have to be informed about islam, immigration, and over-sized populations. They remain ignorant! – Tucken2.0
These are good ideas. Economy should be mentioned more; probably Marine Le Pen and ISIS are topics for more news-oriented blogs. Not sure what can be said about ISIS other than that Islam is a smokescreen; the real problem is clash of civilizations, with a third-world Arab mixed-race one wanting to destroy Europe for the sin of being more prosperous and less self-destructive than Arab countries. As in the West, the solution for Arabs is not constant war against “the West” but abolishment of democracy, return of aristocrats, cultural refinement and some form of eugenics, probably exiling their idiots to North Africa instead of arming them for endless unsuccessful jihad against technological powers. ISIS are basically clowns on the television screen committing whatever atrocities they can to wake up the West, but their study of democracy is flawed: democracies fight wars like cowards, and once they have retreated stop caring about whatever happens in the now memory holed areas. Regarding the naïveté of most people: this is an inbuilt limit of their intelligence; see above around where it says “Dunning-Kruger-Downing.”
I would like to know what Brett thinks about Anti-Aging Technology such as SENS. – -A
I know nothing about this and will not go the route of an internet dilettante by looking it up in a search engine and assembling a hasty opinion. Approaching the general topic as a philosopher, I see only one reason to oppose life extension: it might make a population risk-averse when they are at their greatest level of wisdom. Old people now are a bonus because, safely retired and unable to be threatened by boycott, they speak their minds more freely.
I would like to hear more too but, he seems to have a very hands-off philosophy to just about everything but promotion of the kind of thinking necessary for society to flourish. His answers are likely to be along the lines of letting culture in the hands of the elite few set itself organically. – -A
Well-intuited. Our first task, no matter what method we use to gain power, is to achieve harmony among the beliefs of enough of the people on the right to wield power, even if only cultural and intellectual ifnluence.
Iâ€™d also like to have more discussion on Islam and why it is so dysfunctional, at least in practice, and also on the Mormon religion and community. I have a hunch that Mormons are the only identifiable group getting things right, however hokey some of there beliefs may be. And even then, the hokey-ness isnâ€™t that pronounced when interpreted in a more abstract sense: a lot of the difference between Mormon and traditional Christianity (e.g., views on the trinity as being three separate beings vs a unified entity) may just be a relabeling of terms. – Cynical Optimist
As said somewhere above, “Islam” is often Western shorthand for mixed-race third-world peoples with average IQs in the 1990s. That they are Islamic has little to do with their behavior, because all third world peoples are existentially threatened by the presence of the more advanced West and out of resentment wish to destroy it. The problem with Christianity is not so much doctrine, but its interpretation and application, which right now is in the hands of Crowdists and liberals who have infiltrated the church thanks to the clueless leaders who wish to become more popular by imitating what is popular, with predictable results. Christianity has all but exterminated itself at this point and will continue to do so until it reverses course.
â€¦and how to solve the dispute in alt-right between christian traditionalists and neo-paganists. – Refman
I suggest we stay secular, not as a refutation of religion, but from the knowledge that what is required is a shift in leadership. This means tolerance to both of those faiths, but the belief that neither is essential in order to understand what must be done.
Aging and cell division can wreak havoc on the mind but Brett, the primary writer, seems like his focus is every bit as sharp as when I started reading his stuff in â€™98. The best among us can only keep the temptation to compromise at bay for so long after which you can go ahead and set your watch for their eventual â€œmoderationâ€ and resultant loss of spirit, so the miracle of this site is that it still exists at all. The clock never stops ticking and selfless refusal to deny this is what makes people like Brett different. – Doug
High praise from a credible source. Glad to have you as a reader, and I am impressed that you kept reading since 1998, which was still the early years of my work.
When I was a child I used to see demons and aliens, and could travel in my dreams thru space and time at the speed of thought.
As I grew up the dimensions became more definite and distinct, and I could no longer transit them. I was becoming sane. – oznoto
Adulthood is based on deference to external standards and murders the internal awareness of the child. I believe the practice of transcendental meditation can recover many of those abilities.
Well, that and the fact that for awhile there the site was very compatible with the hand-held (even the comment sections) but at some point it reverted back to a desktop-only site. – Doug
The font size in the comment field is tiny, itâ€™s less than my penis. – 1349
These are both good bug reports and will be addressed. I would like to make the site mobile friendly but it was not a priority at the time of the redesign as statistics indicated very few people coming in via mobile.
Types of post
Intellectualism is fine and I enjoy a good argument but when I first found your site Iâ€™d have sworn you were a Republican. I have noticed a more polemical attitude in your writings. – Aodh MacRaynall
Someone once described my writing as “extremist common sense” and using that as a cue, I have since described myself as an extremist moderate. The extremist part derives from recognition that not only has the present system completely failed, but Western civilization has been in decay for a thousand years. The reason I come across as a Republican is that I advocate the gentlest transitions, most gradual improvements and least emotional responses possible. I recognize this makes my writing boring, but in my view Crowdism is the vital threat to us, and it thrives on individualism and the corresponding sensations of victimhood and passive-aggression, and these are inflamed by drama. Instead, I turn the focus away from the individual toward what is happened to society at an organic level, and suggest opposing it by the least disruptive means first. This may seem like Republican talk, and it overlaps with Republicans on many things, but its goal is more Nietzsche/Linkola than any Republican will ever be.
What type of post schedule makes more sense? Once every two days? Four?
However, more of everything would be great. Both the social and the environmental elements of your philosophy have a place in this blog and both make great food for thought. Both are important subjects in general. As for current events, why not? – -A
Interesting. Current events often require some time for the details that comprise a vision of the truth to emerge in media, and at that point most have forgotten about them, but I will give it a shot. In general, I despise the blog community which acts as a giant echo chamber, where when a new big event happens everyone chatters about it for 48 hours in an attempt to suck up some of that excited traffic, then drops it like month-old leftovers. I would rather explain current events from existing theory, but those are generally short posts as there is not much to say. I agree on there needing to be more socially conservative and environmental topics on this blog, as both are important to me; this journey began through my fear and horror at the possibility of ecocide, a condition which has only worsened in my lifetime.
Another idea is a series of blog posts on â€œexcellenceâ€ that would highlight various examples of that in the world â€” acts of virtue, music, sports, science, literature, film, whatever. People that exhibit this excellence need not identify as conservatives, and in most cases they may be outspoken liberals, although in terms of what matters â€” behavior, not image presented to the world â€” they would tend to be very conservative, I think. – Cynical Optimist
This is a really interesting suggestion. I have tried doing this through book and movie reviews, but might expand those to the areas you mention especially the classics, since few seem to know them. I find it amazing how few have read, analyzed and contemplated The Odyssey for example.
Philosopher of the Month
Analyze the most important contributions of ancient to modern philosophers, monks and dissidents from the West to the East. One or two essays a week for one month on someone particular should be satisfactory. – Chris
Interesting; this is a good suggestion. It was also accomplished mostly by Will Durant with his excellent The Story of Philosophy. One of the big problems here is that I see nodal points in history of importance, like Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and the rest as mostly filling in those gaps. Maybe these can also be handled with book reviews.
Some topics that youâ€™ve touched on before that Iâ€™d be interested in hearing more about include: endogamy, population control/reduction (how do you reconcile this with your anti-abortion position?), your vision of the virtuous life, your ideas about how to rebuild community and infrastructure, and book recommendations. – Colleen
These are excellent suggestions. I can lay one to rest: abortion leads a society to consider murder as normal, where the only effective means of population control is to remove socialist-style subsidies and nanny state protections and allow the best to thrive and the rest to die out. In particular, slashing third world aid and Western welfare would accomplish a great deal along these lines.
Iâ€™ve enjoyed it, but perhaps a bit of a focus on practicality. Paul Washington
Good suggestion. Perhaps the bit above on political transition will satisfy you for now?
If I had one criticism, it would be that each entry seems to have the same rhythm and style. Itâ€™s a declaration, itâ€™s a block of thought, meaningful but not varying enough in approach. I would suggest that you collect your ideas, then superimpose them onto a completely different form of writing. An obituary, a limerick, a complaint to a department store, a church sermon, a childâ€™s view, a song lyric. I think you always sound like an intelligent guy writing an essay. You can add an element of variability. – lisacolorado
This is interesting, and from a reader who has been here for a long time writing comments of analytical perception. My style is chosen for (1) efficiency and (2) descriptive accuracy, and everything else went out the window. I used to do “personalitied” writing as most blogs do, but realized that path sacrifices both of the things above in favor for lulling the reader into complacency. It will be a difficult transition if undertaken.
We must make use of potent counter-propaganda, and so I think â€œcontroversyâ€ is good. – Tucken2.0
Power is based in culture, thatâ€™s how the reds have won, by ridiculing the opponents. – Refman
This is also a good point. Perhaps more satire and mockery is called for as well.
That’s all for this round. Thank you for reading, commenting and most of all thinking about the topics presented on this blog, which in my analysis are necessary contemplations for humanity to have a future.
The Alt Right has stumbled lately through a loss of momentum. Much of this comes as its vision becomes blurred after achieving immediate objectives like public acceptance and support of nationalist candidates such as Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.
More of it comes through the nature of conservative movements as “big tents.” People come to the Alt Right from libertarianism, conservatism, nationalism or even Leftism. It tries to accommodate them all, and in the process, runs the risk of being diluted and becoming a version of its own influences through a sort of “reverse assimilation.”
To unite these groups, the Alt Right needs a clear, simple and visual direction. We need to know where we are headed; are we merely Republicans who dislike diversity? Or Knights Templar returned to bring transhumanism to the stars? Our enemies think we are re-warmed Nazis and Klan members; most people see us as trolls. In the midst of this confusion, the Alt Right floats adrift.
Perhaps we should look into what all white people, in their innermost selves, crave. And in a gesture that is uncommon here at Amerika, perhaps we should use visual indicators of the first order, namely ((( movies ))) which have captured the imagination of the greatest number of white people over the past few decades.
The first obviously would be Lord of the Rings. These three movies together form a story arc that can be summarized as “different races join together for a vast race war that culminates in the restoration of the monarchy.” It is hard to get more un-PC than that, but when your races are Elves, Hobbits and Men, it becomes easier to slip it past the censors.
Another epic film series, although only the first movie is good, is Star Wars. In this film — which came out at the peak of the Cold War — a rag-tag band of misfits battle an imperial force that resembles a hybrid between the Soviets, Romans and Nazis. It was interesting in that it combined Buddhist mysticism with Tom Clancy-styled political fiction and pulp sci-fi of the first order.
In its heart, the Alt Right wants Lord of the Rings with spaceships. We might visualize this as the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created, fused with the imaginative space conflict of George Lucas. Or, to make it more abstract, we want the sense of order from Tolkien, and the feeling of purpose from Star Wars.
These two seem a bit at odds, but there is more than meets the eye.
Aristocracy. Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia is in fact royalty, and signs of other noble houses appear in subsequent movies. Similarly, in Tolkien we have not just kings, but lords, stewards, and other features of a healthy aristocracy.
Caste. Bilbo and Frodo Baggins are not just hobbits, but landowners, which is why Samwise Gamgee is “my gardener” to Frodo. In the Star Wars universe, Luke’s freeholding aunt and uncle appear to be a different caste from those in the town.
Virtue. The good parts, opposed to the evil parts, of both of these societies are very much virtue cultures where doing the right thing is more important than survival.
Religion. Surprisingly, the religious angle is less strong in Tolkien, but very present, with a theology involving an afterlife and reincarnation. In Star Wars, characters are able to exert their will physically by joining with a metaphysical “Force.”
Darwinism. Neither of these worlds involve any socialism, subsidy state, entitlements, benefits or even much intrusion of government. Star Wars resembles Heinlein’s libertarian universe, but with culture instead of personal appetites at its core, and Lord of the Rings is a feudal, pre-government society.
Tolkien was, in his choleric way, giving voice to his deepest convictions regarding the ideal form of human societyâ€”albeit fleeting voice. The text of his sole anarcho-monarchist manifesto, such as it is, comes from a letter he wrote to his son Christopher in 1943 (forgive me for quoting at such length):
My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)â€”or to â€˜unconstitutionalâ€™ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate real of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remained obstinate! If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people . . . .
And anyway, he continues, â€œthe proper study of Man is anything but Man; and the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other menâ€:
Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity. At least it is done only to a small group of men who know who their master is. The mediaevals were only too right in taking nolo episcopari [â€œI do not want to be bishopâ€ – Ed.] as the best reason a man could give to others for making him a bishop.
Grant me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you dare call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers. And so on down the line. But, of course, the fatal weakness of all thatâ€”after all only the fatal weakness of all good natural things in a bad corrupt unnatural worldâ€”is that it works and has only worked when all the world is messing along in the same good old inefficient human way . . . .
There is only one bright spot and that is the growing habit of disgruntled men of dynamiting factories and power-stations; I hope that, encouraged now as â€˜patriotismâ€™, may remain a habit! But it wonâ€™t do any good, if it is not universal.
…since our perpetual electoral cycle is now largely a matter of product recognition, advertising, and marketing strategies, we must be content often to vote for persons willing to lie to us with some regularity or, if not that, at least to speak to us evasively and insincerely. In a better, purer worldâ€”the world that cannot beâ€”ambition would be an absolute disqualification for political authority.
I include the final paragraph fragment from author David Bentley Hart because it explains Tolkien’s perspective so well. In the above we have a few vital ideas: a desire for no government and control (a term left undefined), support for absolute monarchy, a belief that those who seek power are corrupt, and an anarcho-primitivism that desires an inefficient form of human civilization.
These are interesting to fit together because they work well together. Under a monarchy, citizens arguably have the most flexibility to determine how they spend their time, which probably serves better than enumerated rights and freedoms as a signifier of the good life. There are no rules and regulations, only “use your best judgment” delegated to people whose ancestors were wiser and gentler than the rest. While there are also no free stuff social benefits to save people from themselves, on the flip side, taxes are lower and there is almost no red tape, paperwork and the like. Most of the miserable events of modern society are simply missing.
Lucas was born and raised in a strongly Methodist family. After inserting religious themes into Star Wars he would eventually come to identify strongly with the Eastern religious philosophies he studied and incorporated into his movies, which were a major inspiration for “the Force.” Lucas eventually came to state that his religion was “Buddhist Methodist.”
…Lucas’s Protestant family background has always been evident to those who have analyzed his films. Lucas has a clearly defined belief in God, and good and evil; Lucas has been described by some as a pantheist. Lucas is a friend of Joseph Campbell, from whom he has derived much of his philosophy. Discussing the development of the idea of the Force, Lucas said: “The Force evolved out of various developments of character and plot. I wanted a concept of religion based on the premise that there is a God and there is good and evil. I began to distill the essence of all religions into what I thought was a basic idea common to all religions and common to primitive thinking. I wanted to develop something that was nondenominational but still had a kind of religious reality. I believe in God and I believe in right and wrong. I also believe that there are basic tenets which through history have developed into certainties, such as ‘thou shalt not kill.’ I don’t want to hurt other people. ‘Do unto others…’ is the philosophy that permeates my work.” [Source: Ryder Windham. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Scrapbook. Random House (1999), pg. 11.]
George also recalled a period of existential anguish when he was six. ‘It centered around God,’ he recalled. ‘What is God? But more than that, what is reality? What is this? It’s as if you reach a point and suddenly you say, “Wait a second, what is the world? What are we? What am I? How do I function in this, and what’s going on here?” [Source: John Baxter, Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas, Avon Books: New York, NY (1999), p.22]
Jean Renoir said that every artist has only one story. If that is true, then what is Lucas’s? It’s a question he’s always been unwilling to answer. If pressed, he disclaims any personal vision, referring back to the body of myth, the thirty-two basic plot situations enumerated by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, or the accumulation of racial memory evoked by Carl Gustav Jung. ‘I took off from the folk side of things,’ he told the New York Times, looking back on Star Wars from the perspective of a quarter-century, ‘and tried to stay with universal themes apart from violence and sex, which are the only other two universal themes that seem to work around the world. My films aren’t that violent or sexy. Instead, I’m dealing with the need for humans to have friendships, to be compassionate, to band together to help each other and to join together against what is negative.’ Except it was precisely these aspects of earlier Star Wars adventures that critics found lacking in The Phantom Menace. [Source: John Baxter, Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas, Avon Books: New York, NY (1999), p.403-404]
This gives us some insight into the purpose behind Star Wars: like classical civilization, it was a quest to put things in balance and to live according to a principle of achieving the good, and fighting the bad. While on the surface “The Force” is quite hippie, underneath the skin it is a doctrine of war.
How could we fuse these two similar-but-different worlds? We may not have to. As Richard Spencer has said on several occasions, we do not need to know our exact endpoint, only the direction we want to take, and we can achieve it gradually as we get closer to realizing it. This is how most projects or quests in life turn out: starting as general ideas, and moving to the specific over time.
What is most important about this realization — Lord of the Rings plus spaceships — is that it explicitly rejects modernity without making the mistake that most people do of confusing modernity with technology. Modernity is the time that came out of The Renaissance™: a time based on human individuals, not natural or divine order, as the ancient civilizations of The Odyssey, Beowulf and even the Middle Ages had been. Something in all of us Caucasian-types yearns for that kind of significance and meaning, although we have not yet connected this to our dislike of paperwork, obsequy, boxy architecture, ideology, rules, regulations and jobs that sap our souls.
The Alt Right needs a way to unite itself and a purpose. Leftism is the idea of equality; conservatism is the idea of order, but it is more of a gut instinct or folkway than a procedural belief system like ideology, so that is then open to interpretation, which means that everybody’s got an opinion and they loosely ally while fighting it out.
One of the elusive secrets of human populations is that the only way to unify a group is to stop fighting it out and give them a vision they can share as something to move forward to. Conservatives work well with ideas that emphasize order based on what has worked in the past, which is the “conserve” part of conservatism and conservationism alike.
However, in order to know which working methods to choose, they rely on a goal of qualitative improvement of all things in life, like a gardener tweaking his plots or a mother raising children. This requires us to have a forward goal that says we can improve the quality of existence not just materially but in our spirits as well, and that requires a grand goal instead of the politics-as-usual bickering over “issues” that rely on modern or Leftist methods to “fix” eternal problems.
When we look at the past, we see a method that worked better, but unlike modern ideology or religion it was not centered around a “big idea,” but instead a handful of bits of knowledge that are needed to make a civilization function. We abandoned that knowledge, and our technology — which was nascent but setting the groundwork needed for future development — grew, so that now we have a vast and powerful human dominion over Earth and are finding ourselves asking, “But what is the purpose?”
It does not take a huge amount of wealth, power and technology to have grocery stores, libraries and basic health care. If we were going to be sensible about our extra wealth and energy, we might put it into exploring the stars so that we can escape the limits imposed on us by time. But here, the story gets interesting, because the two threads of ancient kingdoms and hyper-modern spaceships come together.
We are not going to be exploring the stars in our present state of mind or degree of organization to our civilization. We are, quite simply, not ready, both on a personal level where people can barely control their own desires, and on a social level, where the pleasure-seeking behavior of the multitudes has created cruel and manipulative leaders who steer the mass culture with mentally convenient ideas that always turn out to be lies, or at least extremely partial truths.
For us to get to the stars, we have to fix ourselves, and that begins with fixing our social order so that it rewards good behavior and banishes bad, which in turn will allow natural selection to work on making us (again) as fit, intelligent and wise as our ancestors. At that point, we can contemplate exploring the stars, and so realize a vision deeply embedded in the hopes of each of us.
Mitt Romney / Flickr
This week on theamericanconservative.com, Noah Millman and Daniel Larison analyzed the third presidential debate, Philip Giraldi questioned Israel’s capacity to launch a successful attack on Iran’s nuclear sites and criticized the GOP’s lack of understanding of intelligence collection and analysis.
Florence King punctured Joan Walsh’s new book, Freddy Gray explained the quirky appeal of London mayor Boris Johnson, and Leon Hadar reaffirmed the decline of Western hegemony.
Samuel Goldman explored the sources of major donations for the presidential campaigns, questioned the mass appeal of libertarianism, and lamented the dominance of the cult of individualism over the contemporary American right. Alan Jacobs put forth a meaningful defense of the liberal arts and explored the psychology of traitors. Millman reflected on the challenge posed by rape and incest to pro-life absolutists, and Scott McConnell reviewed Ben Affleck’s “Argo” – a movie about the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
Scott Galupo explored David Brooks’ conception of “moderation”, analyzed the third-party debate, and discussed conservative charity.
Michael Brendan Dougherty contemplated the repressive potential of the Internet and reflected on Richard Mourdock’s theodicy, Kelley Vlahos investigated the failed drug war in Honduras, and Jordan Bloom considered the likelihood of significant entitlement cuts in a second Obama administration.
Rod Dreher tasted the fruits of cross-generational friendship, fell in love with Paris all over again, lamented the decline of Christianity in France, and thought about illustrating the conservative worldview with compelling personal narratives. He also offered some final thoughts on The Odyssey.
Skip Rotten Tomatoes, they’re biased SJWs too afraid to criticize things like the Ghost Busters reboot. Avoid giving them ad revenue by using the minimalist alternative, Cinesift, for a quick aggregate:
🗣️ Know of another conservative review that we’re missing?
Leave a link in the comments below or email us!
⚠️Comment freely, but please respect our young users.
👍🏻 Non PC comments/memes/vids/links
👎🏻 Curse words / NSFW media / JQ stuff
👌🏻 Visit our 18+ free speech forum to avoid censorship.
⚠️ Keep your kids’ websurfing safe! Read this.