Wednesday, March 12, 2008


One Man's Conversion

Mark Steyn, writing at The Corner, notes a frank admission from a very unlikely source. He uses a paragraph as tease, defying readers to identify his source, who it turns out is a very well know, formerly “brain dead liberal,” Playwright David Mamet.

What a confessional Mamet wrote for the Village Voice! Here’s the heart of his testimony:

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.

For the Constitution, rather than suggesting that all behave in a godlike manner, recognizes that, to the contrary, people are swine and will take any opportunity to subvert any agreement in order to pursue what they consider to be their proper interests.

To that end, the Constitution separates the power of the state into those three branches which are for most of us (I include myself) the only thing we remember from 12 years of schooling.

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

David Mamet is one of our finest living playwrights. Reading the entry on him at Wikipedia, it strikes me that I am not at all surprised that he dedicated his Pulitzer Prize winning Glengarry Glen Ross to Harold Pinter, who Mamet identifies as influence for his work.

However abysmal Pinter’s politics, and they are that and more, Pinter shows true genius in capturing dialog, idiom, character and the intensity of the banal. I can’t find better words, but the dialog and characters from Pinter’s The Birthday Party burrowed their way permanently into my brain, since I saw at performed by our Theater Department.

Mamet extends Pinter’s ability to breathe real life into his dialog. But his politics, often nakedly exposed in his scripts, have previously been rock solid Left and defiantly so.

Thus for Conservatives, Mamet’s confessional sounds as pure a Conversion Experience as we’re ever likely to hear.

I will be very interested to see if Mamet’s epiphany reflects itself in his subsequent work. (That’s if any of his publishers or producers have any stomach for what writing might result from the newly brain-alive Mamet.)

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