James Lileks is in rare form today, even for Lileks. Just a little into today’s Bleat, he references an utterly oafish quote from Ang Lee, “The world’s least free place for making movies is the US, because it has a fixed model.”
Lileks of course takes Lee’s premise, force marches it up Hollywood Hills, runs it down the streets of Carmel, and does a personal trainer punishment trek out to Pasadena. By the time he’s done, whatever Lee was trying to say looks pretty ragged. That’s worth reading, of course.
But what really caught my attention was his next bit of calisthenics. The meager stamina of Lee’s foolishness exhausted, Lileks makes passing reference to the political myopia and fancy that underlies those, like Lee, who can think so strangely, that these kinds of idiocies seem only too true:
What’s unique – and maybe I’m wrong; happens daily – is that the entire America experience past and present is now irredeemable. For a while the present was okay, because the right people were in charge, and there was a change we could attain Utopia with the right pieces of legislation. When that was the case, it was understandable to unload on the old benighted past, because that led up to this, and this would absolve the land.
(I never understood why 18th century America was castigated for not manifesting the values of the 20th, even though 18th century America held forth ideas that would be radical to 20th century Africa, and paved the way for those 20th century American values to exist and flourish. We’re always held up to the most peculiar standards. Our motives are base, our freedoms illusory or rationed or insufficient. It matters less that a freedom was granted in 1920; what’s truly illustrative of this rotten house is the fact that it wasn’t granted in 1871. As thought the world has always been free, kings died when the first Caesar was stabbed, Papal bulls since 500 AD have boiled down to “oh, whatev” and the entire world was a grand placid Sweden, where civilized people nibbled on crackers and tried to ignore the rude Yank on the lawn firing off his blunderbuss for no particular reason. You can site a hundred stories about French racism all you like, but it won’t matter because they applauded Josephine Baker’s nightclub routines in Paris in the 20s.)
And best of all? Lileks sums it up with this:
We enter our fourth century taking for granted freedoms that were unimagined in our first… For those who want Utopia today, yesterday is always a villain. Regardless of how it made tomorrow possible.
Completely unnecessary to remark, but go read the whole thing. This is just the frosting.