“Success in life comes not from the ability to choose between the four presented answers, but from the rather more difficult and painfully acquired ability to formulate the questions.” Mamet, David (2011-06-02). The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (p. 28). Sentinel Trade. Kindle Edition.
I’m reading “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,” by David Mamet. Those of you who follow me on FaceBook or Twitter have probably seen a few quotes that I’ve shared.
I’m afraid that I might be indulging in the same thing Mr. Mamet accuses the Liberal Left of doing: surrounding myself with like-minded thinkers and writers. If so, Mr. Mamet at least expresses himself differently than most of the Conservative writers I read.
As an example, I was struck by his description of the new love story, in which two people who don’t even like each other are thrown together by fate and somehow decide they are meant for each other. This is in contrast to the traditional love story in which a couple first falls in love but are separated by outside forces, finally triumphing by their will to be together. (Compare “Sleepless in Seattle” with the movie it references, “An Affair to Remember.”) The difference is subtle, but one of fatalism vs. making a deliberate, conscious choice.
Mr. Mamet is critical of Liberal Arts education, socialism, “change” and “hope.” He explains why Conservatism is better than Liberalism in phrases that go far beyond sound bites and the bumper sticker he sometimes refers to.
“The Good Causes of the Left may generally be compared to NASCAR; they offer the diversion of watching things go excitingly around in a circle, getting nowhere.”
“The essence of socialism is for Party A to get Party B to give something to Party C.”
“. . . Wrights, Cyrus McCormick, Henry Ford, Tesla, Tom Edison, Meg Whitman, Bill Gates, Burt Rutan, and Steve Jobs. How would they and American Industry have fared had Government gotten its hands upon them at the outset—if it had taxed away the capital necessary to provide a market for their wares; if it had taxed away the wealth, which, existing as gambling money, had taken a chance on these various visionaries? One need not wonder, but merely look around at the various businesses Government has aided.”
“Government itself, where waste is the end product.”
Mr. Mamet’s central point is that culture is the unconscious and pre-verbal adaptation of people that creates predictability, allowing us to get along with one another. When we throw out our culture and try to create a new one, the “change” leads us to uncertainty and the necessity to weigh each new stimulus because we don’t know what it means under the new conditions.
“The tool of culture is the capacity to predict the operation of the social environment—a property right little different from a right in land or wealth. This cultural right exists not limitlessly—for any property right is limited, by chance, death, inflation, erosion, theft, laws, confiscation, etc. but, as with a material property right, founded upon an abstract concept: predictability, which differs from omniscience, but is of immeasurably greater worth than ignorance. Culture exists and evolves to relegate to habit categories of interactions the constant conscious reference to which would make human interaction impossible.”
(Mamet, David (2011-06-02). The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (pp. 12-13). Sentinel Trade. Kindle Edition.)
He compares the new situation to “The First Night in A New Home,” where each creak or thump is unfamiliar, and could mean danger or nothing. No one gets any rest, many will get angry, and far too many will simply stop evaluating those noises for themselves. In societies, those who stop questioning and wish only for peace, end up ceding their will and ability to innovate and create to the herd.
Kindle will let you read the first chapter, free. (I don’t profit from promoting the book.)