Famed Playwright, Filmmaker, Author, etc. David Mamet is making some waves with his latest book. The story, “playwright turns conservative” much like the story “man bites dog” begs for public expression.
Apparently in 2004 Mamet discovered that he reviled conservatives but didn’t know any. His Rabbi suggested that civility according to the Judeo-Christian ethos challenges us to understand our adversary before we disagree with them. Not only that, but one ought to be able to state their position in a way in which they will agree. Mamet took up the challenge and began reading conservative books, but not before he tried to sway his Rabbi, Mordecai Finley who was of all things, a Republican. Andrew Ferguson writes:
He began sending Finley books, potboilers of contemporary liberalism like What’s the Matter with Kansas?
“They were highly polemical, angry books,” Finley said. “They were very big on sympathy and compassion but really they weren’t”—he looked for the word—“they simply weren’t logically coherent. And Dave is very logical in his thinking. Dave thought What’s the Matter with Kansas? had the answer for why people could even think to vote for a Republican—it’s because they’re duped by capitalist fat cats. I tried to tell him that people really weren’t that stupid. They just have other interests, other values. They’re values voters.
“That’s one thing he began to see: The left flattens people, reduces people to financial interests. Dave’s an artist. He knew people are deeper than that.”
Before long, when Finley didn’t budge, the books from Mamet stopped arriving, and Finley asked if he could send Mamet some books too. One of the first was A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution. In it Sowell expands on the difference between the “constrained vision” of human nature—close to the tragic view that infuses Mamet’s greatest plays—and the “unconstrained vision” of man’s endless improvement that suffused Mamet’s politics and the politics of his profession and social class.
“He came back to me stunned. He said, ‘This is incredible!’ He said, ‘Who thinks like this? Who are these people?’ I said, ‘Republicans think like this.’ He said, ‘Amazing.’ ”
[Wish a few more Republicans in Washington thought that way].
Mamet is now fairly outspoken about two tenants in particular. The complexity of society and the benefits of competition.
Thomas Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions (referenced above) maintains that the conflicts between liberals and conservatives really boil down to disagreements on a few core issues.
If you’re still reading this, I’ll summarize some of the topics over which liberals and conservatives share little common ground.
1. Human Nature
2. The Nature of Knowledge
3. Visions of Equality (opportunity or outcome)
4. Visions of Justice (results oriented or process oriented)
One’s answers these to these questions pretty much indicates one’s feelings about Traditional Marriage, Credentialism, Religion, the Welfare State and a host of other issues.
Though MTV and Sesame Street often make it seem that it is more important to have views than to have reasons, with the slightest analysis we might agree that the reverse is true. I think Mr. Mamet would also agree.