March 12, 2008

David Mamet writes about "this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong."

A cool essay.
And, I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
Read the whole thing.

64 comments:

ricpic said...

I can't stand these coming of age pieces by aged hippies. Who's to say that Mamet won't recant his momentary moment of sanity next week...and with just as much gusto, just as much conviction?

EnigmatiCore said...

This is going to be a particularly ugly Althouse thread, I wager.

Middle Class Guy said...

He, like many of us, grew up. It just took him longer.

dick said...

Funny to read some of the diatribes in the comments. He tries to make sense and does to a large degree. Some of the readers for some reason just cannot believe any thinking adult can believe Thomas Sowell and company for any reason.

If the LLL comment here it should be interesting. I would love to read a Hillary or Obama comment on this column.

Andy O said...

Of course it's cool! It's written by David fucking Mamet!

titussplitleap said...

I was waiting for this on here. All of the "conservative" websites have been linking to this.

It's interesting whenever some liberal has a change of mind, especially, some Hollywood/Broadway type, conservatives lunge to love them.
They embrace this media person with all it's worth with talk shows etc.

Otherwise, they hate Hollywood.

But if a Hollywood person is a conservative or changes into something more of a conservative they are in delight.

Why is that?

Who's gives a shit?

I will tell you-conservatives and republicans they thrive on this shit.

That and telling stories about when they went to some bookstore, museum, grocery story, city, mall, and ran into the awful, angry liberal or liberal message.

So boring but so predictable.

Ann Althouse said...

He makes it clear that he's promoting his play. Taking this position is good publicity for his project. Everyone's taking the bait.

Revenant said...

But if a Hollywood person is a conservative or changes into something more of a conservative they are in delight.

Because conservatives love converts. Many of the highest-profile conservatives WERE converts, after all.

Daryl said...

David Mamet is by all accounts a brilliant playright. He isn't some Hollywood hottie.

When a public intellectual, who is also a cultural celebrity, switches sides--that's a big deal.

Of course, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. What if he's faking? What if he's just pretending to be a conservative, in order to promote his new play, and to show us that he truly understands us (which, I think it's clear, he does), before revealing that it was all a big trick.

I can just imagine him saying: "Tom Sowell? That stupid jerk? Ha! Only a right-wing idiot could think he's a halfway-decent philosopher, let alone the greatest one of our time. What a bunch of stupid jerks. I'm such a smart liberal that I fooled them all. Ha ha ha."

He's got the skills to pull it off. I do think he's genuine, really. I'm just paranoid by nature. (And I do think Thomas Sowell is the real deal, 100%.)

Daryl said...

Because conservatives love converts. Many of the highest-profile conservatives WERE converts, after all.

I might have been raised a liberal, but I was born a conservative.

Should I really be considered a convert? It was only a matter of time.

Henry said...

I always assumed Mamet was something other than a perfect liberal. An independent of some kind. Just from the sensibility of his plays.

titusstagleap said...

He has never really seemed to be a liberal to me.

He was interviewed by Charlie Rose last year and seemed to sound somewhat conservative. His play hasn't been doing well so this may be for PR. He did some weird ass postings on Huffington Post which were sometimes just these pictures of weird stick figures.

Conservatives do like these stories though. Similar to lesbians loving whale watching. Lesbians love whale watching. Go on one of those things and you are bound to run into a group of lesbians.

I think the entire liberal conservative labels are kind of stupid.

Take me for example. I don't want or need or count on the government for anything other than hopefully security (police, fire, foreign foes). Nice roads and dependable subway are good too. I understand that some are less fortunate though and need access to affordable healthcare and education.

When I think of the conservatism I think of as little government as possible which overall I think is good.

The current administration I don't think is really conservative. No Child Left Behind, Prescription Drug Benefit, Compassionate Conservative crap is certainly not conservative in mind.

Also the republicans in congress have not been conservative over the past 7 years. All the earmarks, Terry Schiavo, Gay Marriage Amendments, Religion doesn't appear to be a "leave us alone" mentality. It appears to be more government intrusion.

I am a big fag. I am a big successful fag. And I am very socially liberal. I support porno, prostitution, legalizing marijuana, abortion, gay marriage, and sodomy-especially when a hot guy is performing oral on me.

I also don't think of myself as a libertarian.

I think there are so many shades of gray in the political spectrum. To be labeled as just liberal or just conservative is easy but I don't think most Americans fit in that box.


I tend to vote for democrats though because of the social issues because I can't stand listening to a republican brattle on about family values bullshit.

I have voted for republicans though. Mitt Romney in Mass when he was different than he was today. Rudy in NYC as well as Michael Bloomberg both times-but these three republicans don't seem to fit the mold of most republicans throughout the country.

Now I am going to go masturbate.

Cedarford said...

Althouse - we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.

It's a good document, but it is not critical to the same levelss of success of other white English-speaking nations that set up other nations under different Constitutions. Nor was it some mystical sacred parchment that assured the rise of various Latin and African nations that emulated it and used it almost word-for-word in creating their own Constitutions.

Many nations believe they have BETTER Constitutions - pointing out they avoided the flaws in the US Constitution that caused a Civil War, created an unaccountable lifetime judiciary, etc.

Since the US was a quite successful place with plenty of rights and a booming economy BEFORE the Holy Founders did their 2nd, mostly successful try at writing something other than law of the Crown. We have to look at the inherent qualities, culture, and norms of behavior the white Protestants had outside any piece of paper written in the Netherlands, Scandanavia, Canada, Australia, Switzerland to explain what made them as well as America such progressive, rights laden, and prosperous nations.

And why in Liberia, child soldiers were cutting off women's arms in the 80s in the very building the US Constitition was adopted as the Liberian Constitution, over a century earlier.

blake said...

Actually, I think it's good enough. That is, it doesn't matter if he's faking. All one should ask of the artist is that he understand his subject to the degree that he presents it.

At the same time, he's simply describing a re-evaluation of certain left-leaning fundamentals he claims to have believed in. Everyone should do that from time-to-time, yes?

And, titus, just as conservatives love it when celebs "come out", the standard liberal response seems to be, "Oh, he was never a real liberal anyway..."

rcocean said...

"Prior to the midterm elections, my rabbi was taking a lot of flack. The congregation is exclusively liberal, he is a self-described independent (read "conservative"), and he was driving the flock wild. Why? Because a) he never discussed politics; and b) he taught that the quality of political discourse must be addressed first—that Jewish law teaches that it is incumbent upon each person to hear the other fellow out.

And so I, like many of the liberal congregation, began, teeth grinding, to attempt to do so."

Interesting essay from an interesting man.

titusstagleap said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hoosier Daddy said...

I can't stand these coming of age pieces by aged hippies.

Considering they're just finding out now what I could have told them when I was 20.

Michael_H said...

Titus said: So boring but so predictable.

Quite like your posts.

titusstagleap said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
George said...

Some excellent, little known David Mamet movies, mostly thrillers and whodunits, which he either wrote or directed (or both)....

Edmond

Spartan

Heist

The Winslow Boy

His musician wife Rebecca Pidgeon stars in most, and her totally obscure album "NY Girls Club" is well worth a listen.

This message is a public service of the Mamet/Pidgeon Fan Club.

titusstagleap said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pogo said...

Mamet: "So, taking the tragic view, the question was not "Is everything perfect?" but "How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?" Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well."

Damn, but that's good.

Conservatives "lunge to love" these pieces whenever they occur because they are so rare. They are treated as "look who's gone to cloud cuckoo land" articles by the NYTimes and WaPo and National Palestinian Radio and the rest (except Fox, which somehow gets ratings when no one we know watches them), serving as a signal to all right-thinking folks (i.e. the Left) that this is now an unperson.

Just ask David Horowitz or Norman Podhoretz. Podhoretz's memoir Ex-Friends: Falling Out With Allen Ginsberg, Lionel & Diana Trilling, Lillian Hellman, Hannah Arendt, and Norman Mailer details how all of his lefty friends simply quit being his friend when he similarly changed his mind (i.e. became a heretic). Curiously, Bill Buckley was famous for making friends on both sides of the aisle.

Bravo, Mamet.
Author, author.

titusstagleap said...

Did I tell you about the time I went to a bookstore in NYC and was looking for the new Ann Coulter book and couldn't find it and had to ask the sales clerk and he was mean to me?

Trevor Jackson said...

"He makes it clear that he's promoting his play. Taking this position is good publicity for his project. Everyone's taking the bait."

That was my read, too. He creates some well-built liberal strawmen to attack and then says that people don't fall into neat little categories, which just so happens to be the message in his new play. How can anyone know Mamet's work and conclude he's been an absolutist until now? His work specializes in ambiguity and human inconsistency.

That being said, I don't doubt his sincerity in this essay any more than I believe he's suddenly going to support invading Iran or dismantling the IRS because of this essay. So, those conservatives trumpeting over a convert will likely not find their new Ron Silver here.

titusstagleap said...

Or the time I was at the grocery store waiting in line wearing my Bush another 4 years pin and everyone was rude to me?

titusstagleap said...

I love Ron Silver and Dennis Miller-they are true Hollywood stars for being so brave.

Now if Susan Sarandan and Tim Robbins can see the light we may actually be in business.

titusstagleap said...

By the way the rare clumbers had me up all night because they got into the garbage and now have the shits.

Fun.

Sloanasaurus said...

...-especially when a hot guy is performing oral on me.

How come gays get away with saying this stuff. It's crude and juvenile. It's a double standard and Althouse shouldn't stand for it.

Trevor Jackson said...

Sloan, it won't bug me if you start talking about guys blowing you.

titusstagleap said...

No one wants to think of Sloan getting blown.

Hey, I rhymed.

Sloan/Blown

titusstagleap said...

I agree with Sloan though gays get away with quite a bit.
And that gives me a hard tit.

I rhymed again.

Get it

Bit/Tit.

Sloanasaurus said...

Mamet does make a good observation as to what makes a conservative vs. a Liberal.

However Cedarford also makes a good point. There is more to the success of our society than just balancing the sins of man through the Constitution. Perhaps it is an inherent conservative culture - i.e. a culture of restraint that has grown out of western society.

titusstagleap said...

Congress is marking the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war.

How exciting.

Wow, quite a celebration.

titusstagleap said...

I am all for the culture of restraint Sloan.

I completely agree with you.

Ann Althouse said...

Sloan: "How come gays get away with saying this stuff. It's crude and juvenile. It's a double standard and Althouse shouldn't stand for it."

It's not affirmative action for gay. It's affirmative action for funny.

(But I do delete some of what Titus writes. If you push the envelope, it had better be smart and funny in proportion to how far you went.)

Trevor Jackson said...

"just as conservatives love it when celebs "come out", the standard liberal response seems to be, "Oh, he was never a real liberal anyway..."

As so many conservatives, even in this thread, love to say this same thing about Bush . . . Now. But in 2004? The apotheosis of conservatism, right?

Hoosier Daddy said...

It's not affirmative action for gay. It's affirmative action for funny.

Sorry Ann but British humor is funnier than Titus on a good day.

titusstagleap said...

Sloan if it is any comfort to you Althouse deletes me frequently.

I am a pig. I try to enlighten as well as enhance debate here.

I am sorry if you don't agree.

By the way I am watching the Iraq 5the anniversary celebration and Olympia Snowe looks fierce.

My favorite senators are from the republicans Olympia Snowe. Totally skinny, with great clothes, and a wonderful personal story. Also, she loves the gays. Thanks big O.

From the democrats my fav. is Russ Feingold. He seems the most honest and my parents, who have been to many of his fundraisers, say he lives in a very modest house in Middleton Wisconsin. He also seems the least slimy or corrupt. Also, he is kind of hot. I would do him. He has recently got divorced so I would definitely do him if he asked.

Least favorite on the republican side is James Inhofe. Least favorite on the democrats side Joe Lieberman. Joe Lieberman has gone to some James Hagee events because Hagee likes the jews but expects us all to parish in the rapture.

Richard Dolan said...

"He makes it clear that he's promoting his play. Taking this position is good publicity for his project. Everyone's taking the bait."

That's fine until the "everyone's taking the bait" bit. Earlier Ann says that Mamet's piece is a "cool essay," and indeed it is. Part of the charm is that the self-promotion about the play works perfectly with the more general point of the essay. And the whole thing rings true -- whether one agrees with Mamet's conclusions about "brain dead liberals," nothing in the essay suggests that he's faking anything here. But the "taking the bait" meme is only half-true; its half-false part comes across as reductive and dismissive. I think the vortex took over a bit too much on that one.

Sloanasaurus said...

It's affirmative action for funny.

I get your point, but it is still a double standard.

Then again it works both ways. If gays want the majorty of the population in America to have the same reaction and concern to two gays getting "divorced" as people do to a man and a woman getting "divorced" then they need to take themselves more seriously.

titusstagleap said...

Hoosier Daddy-I love you too.

I have been all over your great state.

I ran a band camp in Ft. Wayne and afterwards went to some gay bar where I got my wallet stolen from some gay whore.

I have also been to Indy, Gary, Evansville, Bloomington, Terre Haute, Bob Evans, The Indy 500, etc.

Indiana has great American Values and for that I am grateful and appreciate.

Go Hoosiers.

Love John Mellencamp too.

titusstagleap said...

"Then again it works both ways. If gays want the majorty of the population in America to have the same reaction and concern to two gays getting "divorced" as people do to a man and a woman getting "divorced" then they need to take themselves more seriously."

I don't give a shit about the majority of the American population.

And I do take myself seriously. I don't give a shit if someone else doesn't take me seriously.

Kiss me sloan like you have never kissed someone before.

Trevor Jackson said...

"the same reaction and concern to two gays getting "divorced" as people do to a man and a woman getting "divorced"?

What are you talking about? When my friends--a man and a woman--divorced, I was sad. When my friends--two women--partners for nearly 20 years separated, I was sad.

When two total strangers of any sex decide to separate, I have no concern. How do you react?

Sloanasaurus said...

I don't give a shit about the majority of the American population.

Then why do you care about gay marriage?

knoxwhirled said...

I have never heard the conservative mindset characterized as "tragic" before... but I certainly am aware that conservatives are considered pessimistic/realistic and liberals optimistic/idealistic. I'm not sure these qualifiers are entirely accurate. I believe, that just about anybody who's motivated, healthy (and not dumb) can achieve just about anything. There are examples everywhere. This is why I have always had trouble seeing conservatism as a pessimistic or negative outlook. We're the ones who believe that people (other than the chronically ill, and the like) don't need help from a nanny state.

Trevor Jackson said...

"Then why do you care about gay marriage?"

Sloan, seriously. Just stop. You're embarrassing yourself.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Hoosier Daddy-I love you too.

Well I can't blame you there. I do have a dedicated following.

I ran a band camp in Ft. Wayne and afterwards went to some gay bar where I got my wallet stolen from some gay whore.

There are better ones in Michigan City. I remember once walking into one with a buddy after a day of fishing at the lighthouse. Turned out it was a lesbian bar and you actually heard the record skip when we walked in and it got silent. I figued the way we smelled after 4 hours of catching perch we would have fit right in but they weren't fooled. We ened up at some biker bar. We didn't fit in there either.

I have also been to Indy, Gary, Evansville, Bloomington, Terre Haute, Bob Evans, The Indy 500, etc.

Did you get the breakfast special at Bob Evans? The one outside of Bloomington has the hottest waitresses.

Indiana has great American Values and for that I am grateful and appreciate.

Damn straight. God, country apple pie and the Indy 1500 gun and knife show is the best.

Go Hoosiers.

Purdue as the better football team though.
Love John Mellencamp too.

Simon said...

As others have said, we welcome converts. With that said, on some level, I don't really care if he's not sincere (i.e. it's just about self-promotion) or if he flips back next week. Of course I'm delighted to have him aboard - I'll let titus pipe him aboard, though - but what really counts here is what he wrote. It's a good essay; a little thin, but still rather good. And it might have some persuasive effect on other people, which is what really counts; if Justice Scalia were to later abandon the path, that wouldn't invalidate either the path or the useful maps he's sketched out in writing of the path. Likewise here. That also suggests an answer to Titus' point - I don't really care about his status as a celebrity (or a sort); that doesn't make his conversion so much better than that of Joe Public of Chicago or Los Angeles, wherever; it's just that his status allowed him to score this column, which, by reasonably and rationally explaining why a person might shift sides, might encourage others to question their own presuppositions. It encourages others to engage and think. And I don't think that liberalism long survives besiegement by thought.

As to Daryl's point about being born conservative, I think of conservatism as being in large part a disposition as well as a philosophy. You can be born with that, or one can develop it later on, but it doesn't necessarily lead to political conservatism. For example: I think it's safe to say that if I wasn't born with a conservative disposition, it developed and solidified early and quickly. But was born in a country where I could never have been a political conservative. That had to wait until I moved to America, where instinctive and political conservatism lined up nicely with experience not dissimilar to Mamet's (I became rapidly disillusioned with the left in college).

titusstagleap said...

OK Hoosier, Love Purdue too. Go Boilermakers.

What's the name of the sequined baton girl? The Golden Girl? The Yellow Girl? Can't recall but love her too.

Michigan City has a gay bar? Wow, I never knew that.

titusstagleap said...

I love Bob Evans biscuits and gravy. If only NYC would get a Bob Evans I would be in heaven.

I would be fat but happy.

Do you know that you can not find biscuits and gravy at any breakfast place in the entire city of New York. Believe me I have looked. I have even looked for the Bob Evans biscuits and gravy plate in the frozen foods section of my grocery. There are Bob Evans frozen biscuits and gravy, because I have looked on their website, but NYC isn't going to have any of that. Sigh.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What's the name of the sequined baton girl? The Golden Girl? The Yellow Girl? Can't recall but love her too.

She has a name?

Michigan City has a gay bar? Wow, I never knew that.

Well two that I know of but that was years ago. I'm sure they've expanded by now. There was this cool jazz bar in Gary we used to frequent but it stopped being the hip thing to do when 3 guys started a gun battle in there one night. Made me ruin a perfectly good pair of underwear. The good news was out of 24 shots fired there was only one casulaty, a flesh wound. And my civvies if you count those.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Do you know that you can not find biscuits and gravy at any breakfast place in the entire city of New York.

That's why those of us in fly-over Jesusland make fun of you people.

Zeb Quinn said...

I've never seen the dichotomy set up that liberals believe that people are basically good at heart and that conservatives don't. Just never seen it put that way, and I don't agree with it either, not for either side.

Simon said...

titusstagleap said...
"I love Bob Evans biscuits and gravy. If only NYC would get a Bob Evans I would be in heaven. ... Do you know that you can not find biscuits and gravy at any breakfast place in the entire city of New York."

What Hoosier Daddy said in response. I was in Ann Arbor last week, and all I wanted was an Applebee's or a Bob Evans, yet the only things I could find near campus or the hotel were either fast food or overpriced, pretentious "deli."

Hoosier Daddy said...

overpriced, pretentious "deli."

Speaking of which have you seen the bullsh** that Paradise Cafe charges? About a month ago I got a cheese and egg croissant sandwhich with a coffee and orange juice and it was $10!

And it wasn't even good.

Hey Titus, you would like Indianapolis as we have a pretty substantial gay population here. I'm not up on the gay bar scene, or even the straight bar scene for that matter but I'm sure Nuvo magazine would be a good guide.

jeff said...

Good Lord, my political viewpoint comes close to matching titus. Shades of grey indeed. I don't support abortion but rather tolerate it as a necessary evil.

I like to think the reason people get excited when someone converts to conservatism is the same reason we get excited when someone recovers from a major illness. I not speaking of social conservatism of course.

Freder Frederson said...

Always nice to see Cedarford give us a lesson on the racial superiority of whites. But I'm disappointed, he forgot to mention the corrosive effect Jews have had on our society.

Freder Frederson said...

How come gays get away with saying this stuff. It's crude and juvenile. It's a double standard and Althouse shouldn't stand for it

I'd like to know how Cedarford gets away with spewing his Nazi white supremacist nonsense.

And as far as I know Ann has never even called him an asshole or jerk.

Elliott A said...

Allowing people to spew hatred is a very good means of continually reminding people of the stupidity of the comments. When forced underground, the idiocy is hidden and the statements can get traction since people can't see them in context.

PC has been the greatest impediment to good discourse in the last decade. My kudos to Ann for allowing people to say what they want, even if somewhat offensive. She doesn't need to call them assholes since they have the word in a neon sign on their cybernetic foreheads.

blake said...

Trevor said As so many conservatives, even in this thread, love to say this same thing about Bush . . . Now. But in 2004? The apotheosis of conservatism, right?

Did they? That would be pretty laughable. I don't know his Texas record, but by 2004, he was obviously pretty damn liberal. Other than tax cuts, I can't think of a conservative thing he's done.

Oh, right, his administration has been somewhat more aggressive in pursuing pornography. Yay. Didn't their one major victory there--that dumbass proof-of-age requirement--get thrown out pretty fast?

I've seen a little revisionism with McCain; we'll see if he becomes a "true conservative" over time. Some folks are pitching it already, of course, presumably party-first Reps.

But I dunno. It all hinges on your definition of "conservatism", I guess. I guess squashing the first amendment in the name of fighting corruption isn't that far removed from squashing it to prevent a flag from being burned.

Elliott A said...

Conservatives are in fact born that way. At the family Thanksgivings, I was the only one in a sea of liberal Jews. Even after a very good dinner, it is difficult to have 25 people yelling at you at once. The gene continued in my son, who makes me look like Karl Marx.

Revenant said...

I've never seen the dichotomy set up that liberals believe that people are basically good at heart and that conservatives don't. Just never seen it put that way, and I don't agree with it either, not for either side.

Er, what? Either people are basically good at heart or they aren't. You can't disagree with both propositions; they represent the entirety of the possibilities.

In any case, it has often been said that conservatives few humans as fundamentally flawed and liberals view human nature as perfectable. In other words, liberals believe that the world could be a wonderful place if the right people just did the right things, while conservatives believe that there are no "right people" you can trust to do the "right things".

So a liberal thinks "well, if the poor don't have money and the rich DO have money, we can take the money from the rich people (who don't really need it) and give it to the poor people (who do), and then everyone will be happy. The conservative thinks "the rich will get angry and be less inclined to work, the poor will get lazy and be less inclined to work, and society as a whole will go straight to hell in a handbasket".

titusstagleap said...

Why were some of my comments deleted here?

I have to be the most deleted commenter on this site yet keep coming back.

I must love pain.

Ann Althouse said...

Titus, your special privilege to cross lines here depends on my whims.