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The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture Paperback – August 28, 2012
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"A Manichean analysis from a strident new voice from the Right---for liberals, something intended to ignite antagonism; for the like-minded, a buttress against the opposition." ---Kirkus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
David Mamet 's Glengarry Glen Ross won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1984. He is also the author of Writing in Restaurants and On Directing Film, both available from Penguin.
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"The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of America's Culture" is Mamet's provocative assessment of the damage Liberalism is doing to America, as well as Mamet's account of his conversion from Liberalism to Conservatism.
The details of Mamet's conversion - in some ways it was more of a realization than a conversion - are scattered across the book. Mamet was in his 60s when he began to look closely more closely at his beliefs. He read Friedrich Hayak's "The Road to Serfdom: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition." He came to realize that he lived as a conservative to survive, supporting his family without relying on anyone else. Two friends from his synagogue introduced him to works by other notable Conservative writers, including Milton Friedman, Shelby Steele, and Thomas Sowell. Jon Voight gave him "Witness" by Whitaker Chambers. Mamet was thus exposed to political and cultural ideas he had never encountered before, and the ideas made sense to him.
Many of the chapters are essentially essays on Mamet's views on feminism, global warming, Israel, school shootings, multiculturalism, higher education, and life lessons from growing up in Chicago.
As a former Leftist, Mamet is well-suited to describe the Left's insecurities and dysfunctions. In Chapter 21 he points out Liberals can't afford to notice their policies hurt the country. If they voice any doubt about Liberalism they risk getting expelled from the herd. Further, Liberals have contempt for anyone who doesn't accept Liberal dogma. Mamet experienced scorn from Leftists after his conversion. Their common reaction to him was, don't you care? Reasonable people might have different opinions on the best ways to address social problems, but the Liberal impulse is to call into question the character of non-liberals. "Selfish!" "Greedy!" "Racist!" So how do they cope with the obvious failures of the Obama presidency (high unemployment, high deficits, acrimonious race relations, millions more on government aid than under Bush, etc., etc.)? The herd supplies the explanation: it's the Opposition's fault.
A recurring theme is Mamet's conviction that Liberals don't recognize basic realities of life, like where wealth comes from. Mamet makes that case brilliantly. "The great fault of my generation is not ingratitude but incomprehension," Mamet writes in chapter 35. He tells the story of his young daughter who had an heiress as a schoolmate. The two friends were talking about bedtimes when the heiress said before bed every night she opened the small refrigerator in her room and took out her usual snack: berries and yoghurt dipped in honey. When asked who put the snack in the refrigerator, the heiress paused for awhile, and then said, "I don't know."
So it is with Liberals. It never occurs to them someone puts the snack in the refrigerator, someone takes a risk on the schemes which become the automobile, the airplane, the new medicine, the business that hires workers. So instead of supporting exploration and exploiting resources, Liberals restrict oil drilling, demand banks make loans to people who can't repay them, and lay extra burdens on wealth creators.
Mamet pulls no punches. His writing is bold, even strident on occasion. I found it a wonderful book, very much worth reading.
But this book has nothing to do with Mamet’s talent at his craft. The book is instead a distressed discourse about his views on the evils of what he believes is liberalism. It’s about his heady and doctrinal reversal of political affiliation, from his youthful leftward leanings to his now rightward conservative fellowship and tribe.
There’s much to admire about Mamet’s dramatic works. His body of work is intense and alive. He’s considered an iconoclast and a writer of powerful dialogue. But the tone of this book comes across a bit like it was written from a favorite uncle who is now a crank. You love him, but you’re careful who you invite to the house when he’s around. Times, and people change.
The book is a bit politically dated since its copyright date of 2011. In it, he writes of his displeasure over the election of President Obama, who he says represents “…a decent into socialism,” “… the herd mentality of slavery” and all things bad.
In the book, Mamet explains his views of the usual right-wing deceits. It’s a war. Conservatives are good. Liberals are bad. He argues for the use and the safety of nuclear power, the abolishment of “politically correct” language” (It stifles spontaneity he says… and it does), and dismisses environmentalism as a left-leaning religion contrary to common sense.
Unlike most conservative analysis of the politically Left, Mamet does not rail against all the usual suspects to which the Right feel victim. Following his comment that, “Our culture is being destroyed by the left,” Mamet castigates liberal Jews of his own faith, Liberal Arts majors, those who not only run, but flock to film schools and all politicians, left and right. Unmentioned are the liberal lawyers (the ACLU, civil rights and lentiginous kind), the doctors (the Doctors Without Borders type), teachers (who would unionize), the press (mainstream), the creative of Hollywood (the George Clooney’s, Barbara Streisand’s and the Oprah types), the non-Republican rich (the Soros and Buffet kind) and any hard-working stiff who sees value and power in organizing people to fight for their demands. Liberals, Mamet writes, “reject wisdom,” …are lazy and “…don’t know the value of work.”
If this is the kind of bushwa that fills your brain (or if this is the kind of bushwa you want to fill your brain with,) I think you’d be better off spending a half an hour or so with TV’s Fox “News”, a few minutes with Rush Limbaugh’s radio program or a perusal of Ann Coulter’s web page (At least Ann Coulter has a sense of humor). To touch Mamet’s genius, look instead to his dramatic works. His Glengarry Glen Ross, and American Buffalo are rightly placed on any list of America’s great literary works of art.
Mamet does have an interesting slant on a couple of the usual conservative canards. The concept of Climate Change, he says, is a liberal ruse. And though it’s not quite the “Chinese Hoax” perpetrated on the United States by wily Asians (As Trump, America’s current conservative standard bearer warns), it’s instead, he says, a Left Wing metaphorical cry “… that the sky is falling,” a misguided alarm that liberals hope, he says, will turn us all into “pagan” tree worshiper who long to sit around the tribal campfire
On abortion, no mention is made of women’s right to choose, the argument over life’s beginnings or the legislation of morality. Instead, Mamet posits that the liberal support of abortion rights is really about the Left’s strategy to limit overpopulation.
Mamet’s argumentative strategy is that of the political caricaturist. The most intemperate and self-indulgent of the opposing party is used to typify its principles, and then lampooned as crazy.
All of us, Right and Left alike, wince when from behind our political banners comes a rag-tag group of misfits; white supremacists and gun-nuts on the right, and anarchists and dubious new-age healers on the left. The political fringe make easy targets.
The hotheads on the right amass assault rifles and gargantuan ammunition clips. They target-practice on human silhouettes with faces they project to be the “bad guy’s” unlike themselves, shooting at factions who vote heavily democratic (when they are allowed to vote).
The firebrands on the Left want the Right quarantined to marginal tracts of land (in the South perhaps, where they have a head-start) where they can play war-games and find other scapegoats for their misery while leaving the rest of America, especially on the coasts, alone (The long-running petition to gather support for the secession of Texas from the United states has been signed in great numbers by liberals. If the secessionist’s get their way, there is hope that the liberal- leaning and musically inclined city of Austin can be gerrymandered into the state of Colorado).
Any right-wing admonition against the Left wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the US constitution. And Mamet writes that America’s political arguments must default to the “first principles” of the Constitution. Mamet is prescient in this book when he writes that the American Constitution is “…a document based not upon the philosophic assumption that people are basically good but on the tragic confession of the opposite view.” This fact was not lost on the framers of our constitution, who created a document to blunt the abuse of power by the few by decentralizing authority and imbuing power to all citizens, even the marginalized.
This idea of liberty for the many rather than a narrow concept of power has always been troublesome for the politically conservative; an ideology usually enamored of the past, resistant to change, and dazzled with autocrats and plutocrats. There is reason to believe that at America’s beginnings the conservative ethic would have rather had a King George Washington rather than an untried system that would give power to who they would consider as rabble.
One though can understand the value of Mamet’s polarized reality. “Life as war” is creative grist to the dramatist. Conflict is at the heart of all good stories. May the best man win, or be beaten to a pulp by the experience. It’s theatrical. And weather we are talking of a liberal or conservative playwright, the up-side is that there’s money in the portrayal of conflict, verbal and otherwise.
This is a must-read book. Buy it in hardback, rather than Kindle, and, after you've read it, pass it on to an "independent".
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