Monday, June 20, 2011

Get in the ring

Mamet began the book more promisingly, by undertaking to review political disagreements between conservatives and liberals in the light of his own craft: “This opposition appealed to me as a dramatist. For a good drama aspires to be and a tragedy must be a depiction of a human interaction in which both antagonists are, arguably, in the right.”

That was certainly Hegel’s definition of what constituted a tragedy. From a playwright, however, one might also have expected some discussion of what the Attic tragedians thought: namely, that tragedy arises from the fatal flaw in some noble person or enterprise. This would have allowed Mamet to make excursions into the fields of irony and unintended consequences, which is precisely where many of the best critiques of utopianism have originated. Unfortunately, though, he shows himself tone-deaf to irony and unable to render a fair picture of what his opponents (and, sometimes, his preferred authorities, like Hayek) really believe. Quoting Deepak Chopra, of all people, as saying, “Our thinking and our behavior are always in anticipation of a response. It [sic] is therefore fear-based,” he seizes the chance to ask, “Is it too much to suggest that this quote contains the most basic prescription of liberalism, ‘Stop Thinking’?” On that evidence, yes, it would be a bit much.

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