(This first appeared on BIG HOLLYWOOD back in January. Andrew Breitbart asked if I would hold it for a week before posting it on Eject! Eject! Eject! — so I held it for three months out of love for the man. Just something for the weekend; next week, my new favorite word: Thymos. See you then.)
THE WORKSHOPS OF IDENTITY
I. The Heartbeat
Step back with me for a minute. Back out of Hollywood, out of America, out of the Western Tradition. Sit in the middle of a darkened crater at the south pole of the Moon. Sit back, look down and back into time, and watch the rise and fall of Civilizations on the Big Blue Ball.
If you could see human activity and genius, if you could watch poetry and medicine as points of golden light in the darkness of fear and superstition, you would soon detect a rhythm: a pulse, a heartbeat – the Heartbeat of Civilization.
It would begin in the Land Between the Rivers – a place known only in the last instant by the inhabitants down there as “Iraq,” but for almost the entire beating EKG before that it was called “Babylon” and then “Mesopotamia.”
That culture grew brighter, flourished and then suddenly winked out. Then, a little to the west, the Nile delta slowly blossomed, peaked, and fell. Then Greece, a brief, brilliant burst like a strobe in a dark room, blinding you long after its sudden extinction. Rome. Constantinople. Arabia. Italy. Spain. France. Britain – and with Britain, that spark of medicine and architecture and government married to science and steam literally remade the world.
And from your perch on the frozen, bone-dry lunar sand you would see the same pattern, the same pulse, the same heartbeat: a slow, steady rise, followed by a precipitous, shockingly quick fall… and then centuries, or even millennia of darkness, fear, superstition, disease and ignorance before the spark took hold again elsewhere.
One thing in common these patterns bear: the rise slow, the fall seemingly precipitous, and in every case we find the loss of nerve and strength and will comes not from the bottom, not from the common people at all, but from the rulers, the philosophers, the most affluent and educated who, in their comfort and Narcissism, abandon duty for self-absorption and self-gratification and who in boredom or self-loathing decide to fling open the gates of the city to the barbarians beyond, while the common man still stands at the walls prepared to die for the people in his charge.
And now here stands America, inheritor of that great tradition, astride that same cycle in its most dangerous and dire moment. And by any measure America is by far the most brilliant light the world has ever seen. And I can prove it, too.
Sean Penn recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he described America as a country much like any other, without any special claim to glory and indeed with an overabundance of sin to repent. Having visited Cuba and Venezuela, and having been enlightened by deep-thinking humanitarians such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, he implores his countrymen to give socialism a try and take its rightful place as simply one of the 200 or so other members of the great family of nations. “Viva USA!” writes Penn. Ironically, he says this unironically.
Reading his remarkable and lengthy article I was, at the close of it, reminded instantly of Lincoln, who once wrote, “He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.” But Sean Penn is not only perhaps the most gifted actor of my generation… he also has the courage to come out and openly say what so many in Hollywood really and truly do believe.
And there’s the problem. Because like Sean Penn, almost all of this industry is composed of people whose intellectual, reasoning and analytical skills are fifty miles wide and a quarter-inch deep. Hollywood’s Chattering Classes despise their Uncle Sam, but they are deeply, deeply in love with Auntie America.
But Hollywood’s Chattering Classes are thoroughly, completely and spectacularly wrong. And therein lies the source of a looming tragedy so great it would take a thousand movies to simply sketch it out… were it not for the fact that if Hollywood as it now exists continues to do what it is doing unopposed, there will be no more movies because there will be no more electricity.
II. The Reactor
America is the greatest nation in the history of the world.
This sentence – verifiably true as we are about to see – fills me with a burning pride so great I cannot get through the National Anthem at Dodger Stadium without getting misty at the awe-inspiring scope and the terrible cost of it.
Militarily, the United States is not only unmatched on the world stage, but its relative strength is unmatched in history. And without question, this juggernaut is the most benign dominant military force the world has ever seen – and by a very large margin.
Consider modern history, which many consider the time since the end of World War II. At the end of 1945, the only military force of any real substance remaining in the world was that of the Soviet Union, and while they had large numbers of troops and tanks, they had no navy and no strategic air force to speak of. The United States possessed, intact, the most awe-inspiring, battle-hardened navy the world had ever seen. It possessed sky-darkening clouds of B-29 strategic bombers. And it possessed, alone, the atomic bomb and the will to use it.
The United States of America could have planted its flag anywhere it wanted and no one would have been able to do a thing about it.
And what did we do with this arsenal? We scrapped the ships, drove steel bars through the wings of the priceless bombers, and began the largest de-militarization in the history of the world.
And in all of the years since then, despite what Michael Moore may want you to believe from the comfort of his editing room, the United States has deployed in response to aggression – not to cause it. Berlin, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland – all of it Soviet — that is to say Communist – Leftist – aggression. Ask a 17 year old indoctrinated with Hollywood’s portrayal of America as a world-striding bully who started the War in Korea, or Vietnam, or Nicaragua or any of these places, and I will bet you a Xbox 360 Elite that they will not reply that it was in fact worldwide socialism, but rather America. Tell them that communists started Korea and Vietnam and pretty much everything else and they will likely ask “what is a communist?” Actually, come to think of it, they probably do not even care enough to ask.
And for those who feel that such a once-noble America is dead and gone, let’s talk about the last time we heard about “Imperialism” and “a war for oil.” In 1991, after destroying the army that Saddam Hussein sent into Kuwait to steal, rape and murder, the United States sat alone and unchallenged on top of the richest oil field on the planet. What did it do? It put out the fires and went home.
Unlike today’s screenwriters who credit themselves as intellectual and creative giants, some of us remain humble enough to not only read history, but to actually understand it on some fundamental level. And those of us who actually know people in the military, who research weapons and tactics, supply and strategy, can tell you that a war for oil consists of placing an armored cordon around the remote oil fields, providing overwhelming air cover for armed convoys direct to port facilities, and then shipment via US tankers escorted by naval assets until out of the region.
None of this is happening, of course. What has happened is that we have spent 4000 and more lives building schools and hospitals and protecting a people against fellow Muslims who show day in and day out that they will kill as many children as they need to in order to terrorize their own people into submission.
That story, apparently, holds no interest for today’s Hollywood.
Economically, the United States is – and remains – the engine of the world. Much has been made of the recent meltdown, but any impartial look at the rest of the world shows their economies took a proportionally greater hit than we did, and if history is any guide – and it’s the only guide we have – we will recover faster, too. In the last twenty years almost half of the world’s population – India and China – have been lifted from the darkness of stone-age, grinding poverty into almost the same sort of light taken for granted by those who live in Malibu and Pacific Palisades. This was not the result of massive government programs; on the contrary – those had and continue to keep entire populations in a state of mental slavery and dependence. No, this most remarkable advance in the quality of human life on earth was simply due to America channeling some of its stunning wealth into phone banks in India and factories in China.
Much is made on the left about how five percent of the population consumes twenty-five percent of the world’s resources. But that same five percent has produced almost fifty percent of the world’s wealth and prosperity in the years after World War II, and the decline in that percentage is simply a reflection of the economic growth and prosperity of our former enemies and allies, who can now afford a few decades of socialism because they do not have to pay for their own defense.
And yet it is businessmen, and “corporations,” that are endlessly cast as villains and murderers when all they have done is transformed the world from poverty to relative health and prosperity. You don’t have to take my word for this. Statistics on life expectancy, death by disease, and infant mortality do not lie. Free Trade and Free Enterprise – championed by the United States – has brought to billions some small and growing taste of the kind of life enjoyed by Hollywood liberals so blinded by mental cataracts that in the remake of The Manchurian Candidate the villain was remade from being Chinese Communists into The Manchurian Corporation. How unimaginative. How pathetic. How deep in denial.
Scientifically, technologically and medically the remarkable ownership of world-changing ideas produced by the United States is simply astonishing. That five percent of the world population could produce such staggering advances in knowledge, medicine, agriculture, instrumentation and basic research simply boggles any mind open enough to read a page.
Which narrows down the numbers of minds quite a bit.
Each year, scientists all around the world write research papers. These papers produce scientific citations. It’s fair to call these citations “units” of science, that is, a measure of how much ground-breaking science is being performed.
Listed by countries, China comes in sixth, preceeded by France, England, Germany and Japan, which produced, at number 2 on the list, 6,612,826 citations in a ten year period.
During that time the United States produced 39,027,838 – more than six times as many as the runner up.
All of those images of the deep structure of galaxies and nebulae are provided to the world at the expense of the American taxpayer and through the American genius that produced the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes. Every image of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune was sent to the world by American grad students at Cal Tech. The American university system is the envy of the world. Nowhere is there better science being done, and no where is there anything like the numbers of people receiving advanced scientific and engineering degrees.
But that is not all they are receiving. They are also receiving lethal doses of anti-Americanism and anti-Capitalism, main-lined directly and administered by morally blind charlatans like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky – men who repeatedly acknowledge the “relativity of truth” and who distort and select facts so frequently and shamelessly that I will paraphrase Mark Twain by saying that the omission of the works of Chomsky and Zinn would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.
And finally, Culturally it is America that the world watches, that the world listens to, that the world emulates and copies to the degree that suicide bombers wear Lakers t-shirts and the most virulent anti-American Euro kids look and dress and act and talk like kids from Compton or Detroit.
There was a time when America broadcast its virtues to the world. Films like It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, even Star Wars and Spider-man, were films about common, decent people – Americans, obviously, for we all know that even Luke Skywalker was an Iowa farm boy – who find themselves in dangerous and evil places and whose fundamental decency corrected this wrong in the world and restored a sense of hope and optimism, a sense that we are masters of our own destiny. It is an idea so powerful that even French intellectuals, who seemed then and seem today to be incapable of a single positive or upbeat thought, could watch in wonder and contempt as legions of their countrymen flocked to see them.
Those days have gone. No longer does Hollywood broadcast America’s mythic virtues to the world. No, the flow is reversed now. Now the great creative driving force of Hollywood is to present to America the anti-American hatred of the intellectuals watching in impotent fury out in the rest of the world.
Of the six or seven war movies made during the last few years, all – save one – were spectacular failures. Many were the reasons given for this, but perhaps, someday, while sitting in a hammock in the Cayman Islands, even a studio executive might be just intellectually aware enough to catch a flash of what is obvious to a pharmacist in Des Moines: that maybe, just perhaps, these films failed not because of war weariness or denial or rank stupidity on the part of the American people, but rather – are you sitting down? – that most of the country, unlike Hollywood, has sons and daughters and fathers and brothers in the military and know for first-hand fact that they are not rapists or murderers, hicks, dullards, losers, or broken and victimized children but rather the bravest, the most capable, the most decent and honorable and just plain competent people we have.
And perhaps, just perhaps, it might enter that navel-gazing, self-centered, dim little brain to reflect that the one war movie that did out-of-the-park business was the one that showed the Marines as the good guys, winning on the battlefield, defending their people and their culture against long odds and full of the heroism and sacrifice that used to be so commonplace in this city… even if the Marines in question wore loincloths and funny helmets and advanced with spears and round shields.
If America simply led the world military to the degree that it does today, well, that would simply be historical. That it should have both economic and military might, and use them so much more often for good than for ill, would unique and awe-inspiring. That it could couple military and economic strength with such leadership in science and medicine is simply unheard of in the annals of history, and for it to be the military, economic, scientific and cultural beacon that is is not only unheard of, it simply almost defies imagining – would, in fact, defy imagining to anyone who had not grown up in it, as we have, and seen it with their own eyes.
Why is this so? Well, it is because America is not just a cauldron, but a reactor. From all over the earth, men and women have risked their lived to immerse themselves in this great experiment in freedom and individuality, and the results, by any measure, have produced more goodness, more security, more prosperity and more raw happiness than society or combination of societies in history.
Stars, like our sun, are reactors too: the tremendous, monumental energies and pressures they generate would blow them to pieces in a millisecond, but for one thing… the immense gravity that holds these fiery atoms together and strikes the balance of force and pressure that creates all the light and life in the universe.
The American reactor of individuality and freedom of expression would also fly apart too, but for one thing: the deep love of country that has bound it together and liberated the best of the human spirit. Destroy that love of country and the idea of America – for that is what she is, in the end… simply an idea of freedom and the pursuit of happiness – eliminate that binding love and the reactor will explode. And when it does, there will be no more light – no more medicine, no more art and poetry, no more iPhones and MRI scanners and jet travel, no more Fifth and First Amendment rights, no more security and peace… in fact, no more hot running water.
Cut those cords of love of and pride in country – as the elites have cut them in every civilization before us – and from your seat on the moon you will see the brightest light in history wink out. The rest of the world will soon follow.
How long will the next darkness last? A few centuries? All of the readily available tools to build a new civilization – the ores, the coal and oil – all these are gone. Monks in stone cloisters cannot build photovoltaic cells. If this civilization falls, as have all others – from a lack of belief in itself – then civilization and medicine and science may very well never return.
Those are the stakes.
And how – pardon the profanity – how ironic is it that those libertines, those most determined to be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, and at no cost to themselves… how ironic, how pathetic, how tragic, how infuriating and indeed, how insane is it that they – they alone – now control the mythology and the message of the workshop of our identity?