Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

So You Think You Got a Revolution

Well, I’ve now seen REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and am continuing to inch closer to ridding myself of filmic illiteracy.

I wouldn’t recommend that you see it. It’s a highly unentertaining movie portraying less than admirable characters. It’s a display of over-acting intensity, and director Mendes comes off as a rather deranged control freak.

Still, it may have some redeeming features. It seems to me it’s not about the hopeless emptiness of suburban life in the comformist fifites. It doesn’t show the suburbs driving people insane, but an insane person living in the suburbs. It’s about the vanity of thinking yourself more "interesting" than the people around you. In a way, it’s about the hopeless emptiness of the word "interesting." Insanity is nicely displayed as the inability to be a relational being, an inability to find meaning in personal love. Sanity is displayed in terms of abandoning one’s interesting pretensions for a life more in accord with your personal responsibilities and natural paygrde. The movie also seems to have a sort of pro-life message: There’s something unnaturally self-destructive about a woman who wants to kill a baby to achieve personal liberation.

The suburbs themselves are treated ambivalently. It’s sometimes clear enough that they can be a blessing for good family people, and they aren’t that ugly or devastating to nature. People in the suburbs are shown dancing at a cool nightclub wth a great band. Smoking and martinis are displayed frequently in the manner of MAD MEN. But they don’t always seem altogether evil, but at least sometimes real and fairly harmless pleasures. The living room of the home of the main characters is made to seem very tacky and quite claustrophobic. That might be more evidence still that they’re less interesting than they think, or it might be a shot at the fifties’ smallness of suburban houses. Or it might be a shot at "interesting" people yesterday and today who view ordinary nice houses as claustrophic.

This reminds me of the beautiful post by our Kate on the experience of raising six kids in a small, three-bedroom house. Maybe a part of our crisis today is putting too great a premium on "the right to privacy" achieved by lots of square footage.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I really didn't like the movie--part of it is that I struggle to watch the likes of DeCaprio who seems to provide a kind of ironic, deconstructed depiction of manliness. But along the lines of Peter's comments--there does seem to a peculiar kind of schizophrenia produced by inconsistent strains within modernity. On the one hand, our self-aggrandizing mastery of nature fashions us into privelaged beings and other hand, our scientific/pantheistic absorption of ourselves into the whole is an affront to our individual significance...This might produce a kind of entrenched bi-polarity of self-celebration and self-dimunition. Also, our tendency is to have this hyperbolc sense of the extraordinary as a repudiation of the ordinary---as if the demands and joys of our quotidian existence does not regularly provide vehicles for the expression of personal transcendence and beauty.

Another way of saying it is that we're far too Nietzschean in our interpretation of personal significance--there is the rare ubermensch and then there are the herd mentaility folks...you're either species fodder or a God. There are a bunch of ways the premises of modernity tend to create this clearly false dichotomy and moviues like this strike me as a reflection of it...

I did not watch the movie but Dr Lawler's take on interesting is interesting. The hopeless emptiness or the undefined function/meaning? I mean it is a word overused, or used in so many ways that it looses any particular connotation for good or ill. Interesting is just as empty as saying that something is Nietzschean but I think Ivan K goes on to explain and spell out what he means in such a way that Nietzsche vanishes just as the interesting disapears when spelled out. When a thing is spelled out or understood it acquires a determinancy. But when a thing acquires a determinancy, it is no longer interesting. Gravity is interesting to a child...but the sense of wonder is lost in understanding. It is why folks say wiser but sadder? A joke is interesting until the person telling the joke explains it. A movie is barely worth watching, a book barely worth reading. Others have already explained them or understood them better. It seems interesting to me that you say Nietzsche and I would say Hegel in reference to his comment about the tree of knowledge being full...of being born in a world where most of the wheels have been invented. I certainly think that Locke is right in terms of the attitude one should take towards such a condition, if it is new it is interesting to us, and there are really an infinite number of things that are new(to us and our finite knowledge, even if we can't believe we have ever had an original idea...) and can be learned. Locke says forget the debate over the unknowable...focus pragmatically on what one can know(rather than debates over "form"), what one can achieve. Kant says that we are cursed to ask the metaphysical questions, to approach with wonder what we can't ever hope to know or explain, that such things are as natural as breathing(which means just as explained?).

I don't know about being species foder or a God, but I suppose that all folks who have a determinate nature, if there is a determinate human nature, are species foder in so far as one can speak of them being beholden/determined by the habits they have formed.

This is how I partially understood the "Continental" debate about Aristotle and "ousiotic" structure. In a sense then even the observation that we are too "Nietzschean" is a sort of paralysis, as if we in some way must of necessity addopt this view.

In other words if your comments are true and we are too Nietzschean, then we are species foder to this false dichotomy, and this false dichotomy is true if your observation is true but called false in so far as by an act of will we can choose to act otherwise, if we knew or willed to do so.

In other words from this way of thinking arrises the false dichotomy, since those who know to act, and have the will to do so...in such a way as to falsify your general observation, these people we call Gods.

In other words folks with more determination and discipline who are able to escape "human nature" are "Gods". Gods are folks beyond Good and Evil or beyound Nature, the stalks of grain that rise above the others(the politics). Gods are also those who need not be political animals, and political animals are herd mentality, but political animals are herd mentality and seen as herd mentality only because the expectations for good or ill that we can make of others, seem for the most part to be accurate or determinate.

In other words I am herd mentality because I am not disciplined enough to escape my own knowledge of weakness. I can create a easy picture/morality/standard and overcome it(not as bad as Hitler) but I can fortify a standard that doesn't even approach heights that is still too high for my discipline to hold to it. This is why Nietzsche worshiped the disciplined aesthetic early on...

I mean all this is fascinating(interesting?) to me, you have the Romans and the stoics and different views on food and wine and sex, and how much you can appreaciate the good life without becomming degenerate...but it all seems to comes back to giving a determinancy to "ousiotic structures".

If "there is a peculiar kind of schizophrenia produced by inconsistent strains within modernity", then this can either be overcome or not overcome. If it cannot be overcome then we are fodder. If it can be overcome then it isn't true. Or if it is still true then those for whom it is true are fodder and those for whom it is not true are gods. In this sense I am making the Stoics gods or those in self possessions to such an extent that no habits are required.

It also seems interesting but not unexpected that Dr. Lawler grounds good living in being able to be a "relational being" which is Aristotelian, and being a relational being is more important than justice because justice isn't important among friends but those who have justice still need friends...also it seems that logical legal thinking lends itself more to justice...while a less argumentative oppositional reasoning is required to maintain friendships(imperative if we will rely on the kindness of stangers, and similar in some ways to how Obama plans to transcend ideological disputes(ousiotic structures)?)

Ivan and John, Thanks for the interesting comments.

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