Friday, May 12, 2017

The Secret Knowledge, by David Mamet

For years I--like many others--have enjoyed David Mamet's entertaining and sometimes brilliant movies and plays.  Little did I know that this liberal Jewish writer had a conversion of sorts, becoming a solid conservative thinker.  In his 2011 book The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture, Mamet writes broadly and incisively on culture, politics, education, and economics, displaying a deep conservatism that breaks with his past and upbringing but which, he believes, is crucial to the American experience.

He has contempt for the Left and their version of modern Puritanism.  "The left proceeds, from day to day, in a sort of sad, wistful fury at all the things of life not recognized in its cosmogony.  To them, in an inversion of the truly, historically, Liberal philosophy, everything not permitted is forbidden."  In a form of groupthink, "the Left functions, primarily, through its power as a primitive society or religion, dedicated above all to solidarity, and not only to acceptance but to constant promulgation of its principles, however inchoate, as 'self-evident' and therefore beyond question."

Writing shortly after Obama was elected, I think he hits on a key feature of modern American politics.  The Left marches in lock-step.  Nary a Democrat opposed a word out of Obama's mouth.  By contrast, Trump, who, granted, has plenty of flaws, faces vehement opposition from prominent members of his own party every time he turns around.

One of Mamet's targets is that great bastion of the Left, higher education.  University liberal arts departments have become indoctrination camps, where children of privilege go to learn "to be shrill, and that their indictment, on the economy, on sex, on race, on the environment, though based on no experience other than hearsay, must trump any discourse, let alone opposition."  Far be it from them to learn a useful skill that will help them contribute to society.

He sees his own ungrateful generation (he's a baby boomer, born in 1947) as "destructive of that very world which . . . is a wonderful place to live in, and has given us a great country."  They have been "living off a trust fund; the productivity of our parents, and of the two hundred and more years work of those who preceded them."

Mamet writes broadly but with depth and clarity.  He states that he had never read or listened to any conservative thought until late in his life.  It's interesting to hear his perspective, coming from one who spent most of his life as a liberal, but gaining revelation that moved him toward deeply conservative thinking.  Reading this in the early days of the Trump presidency, I am reminded of the principles which guide us in the voting booth.  Trump obviously was an imperfect candidate and is an imperfect president, but as Mamet lays out the case against the Left, I am once again thankful that a Democrat is not in the White House.

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