We had always assumed that the playwright David Mamet was, as he described himself recently, “a brain-dead liberal.” But, lo! it is the season of Easter, miracles are abroad, and Mamet, in the pages of The Village Voice no less, revealed himself to have undergone a political metanoia. Mamet’s account of his achievement of what a friend of ours calls “political maturity” is noteworthy. It is a chrysalis-to-butterfly evolution we’ve witnessed often in intelligent people of good will and sound instincts. “I took the liberal view for many decades,” Mamet admits, “but I believe I have changed my mind.”
As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life.
Mr. Mamet goes on to guy NPR and other politically correct “organs of national opinion.” But his political maturation has involved more than revulsion against the media. By his own account, it has involved a revolution in the way he regards—well, just about everything, including the United States and its place in the world.
I’d observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal … individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
Most readers of The New Criterion may nod in assent, but remember, this was published in The Village Voice. Will it, we wonder, be the last time David Mamet appears in its pages?
Mamet’s awakening brought him to a new clarity about other matters, too: about “corporations,” for example, “hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live,” or the “‘Bad, Bad Military’ of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world,” or the free market: “I began reading not only the economics of Thomas Sowell (our greatest contemporary philosopher) but Milton Friedman, Paul Johnson, and Shelby Steele, and a host of conservative writers, and found that I agreed with them.” Mamet has written an extraordinary apologia that gives one faith in human nature. It may not, this side of paradise, be perfectible, but clearly it is educable.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 26 Number 8, on page 3
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