|Taking the Cultural Temperature||Breaking Liberal Taboos on Education|
by Christopher Chantrill
July 03, 2004 at 8:00 pm
EVER SINCE relativity and quantum mechanics were invented in the early twentieth century, people have wondered: What on earth does it all mean? Wonder no more. Now theres a movie to explain it all to you: What the Bleep Do We Know?
Thats right. Now theyve made a movie about the wonders of modern physics, recent discoveries in neuroscience, and the nagging questions they raise about reality, spirituality, and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. A film by William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, and Mark Vicente, What the Bleep is doing a good business in about 15 art houses on the left coast and Colorado. Maybe it will expand soon to a theater near you.
But how do you make a two-hour movie about quantum mechanics, neuroscience, reality, and the meaning of life without putting everyone to sleep? You mix together a blend of talking heads, computer special effects, and throw a narrative about a talented, angry photographer, and hope that people will come.
This being the twenty-first century, the talented, angry photographer is the hearing-impaired Marlee Matlin, the star of Children of a Lesser God. And the problem we are trying to solve is to help her become the outstanding person and creative artist she was always meant to be. But first shell have to deal with her anger so she can throw away the anxiety pills.
If you think that this sounds like some dreadful liberal morality tale, where good and evil are tossed out as narrow-minded bigotry and then smuggled in the back door in the service of creativity and compassion, youd be right. But it still manages to be a good movie. Its crew of colorful talking heads is first-rate; its computer animation of sub-atomic particles, cartoon human emotions, and neuro-peptides is passable. And it has a Polish wedding that features a big argument about polkas.
As you may know, if you have ever watched a liberal morality tale, you cannot become the free, creative person you were meant to be unless you get rid of your demons, here represented as addictive emotions being pumped out of your hypothalamus as neuro-peptides. How do you do that? You realize that you not divided against yourself but really are already the One you were always meant to be.
The one thing you must also transcend is the limiting notion of good and evil. The God of good and evil is a blasphemy, says the talking head professor of theology, Dr. Miceal Ledwith. The true god is creativity, all the talking heads agree.
This is a great movie for the creative classes, the elite readers of The New York Times, listeners to NPR, and secular liberals in general. It fits into their belief systems like a peptide into a cell receptor. No doubt that for a talented and skilled deaf photographer its true that all she needs to do to solve her problems is to lose the anger and learn to love her body. But what about the rest of us?
For instance, what about the 400 million believing Pentecostals worldwide? We are talking here about a religious movement that has gone from zero to 400 million in a hundred years. What about the 70 million house church Christians in China? We are talking here about a religious movement that has gone from zero to 70 million in about thirty years.
We are talking about 500 million people here in two spontaneous religious movements that have flourished in spite of, and sometimes in the teeth of persecution from the worlds elite creative classes. In an age when the cultural elite has insisted that the only evils are racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia, they believe profoundly in good and evil, that Jesus Christ as a personal Savior, who died for our sins.
Are these people all blasphemers, as Dr. Miceal Ledwith would have us believe? Or is it possible that enthusiastic Christianity is a practical belief system that promises salvation for ordinary people just as the religion of creativity promises salvation to angry creative artists?
Its something to think about, isnt it? Why is it that in spite of a century of public education and the withering testimony of German philology hundreds of millions of people still believe in a personal God and in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior? For some reason they believe that the way out of addiction and anger is through the love of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins.
What the Bleep is another social indicator that despite the efforts of the ACLU, the educated elite is edging back, if not to religion, at least to some form of spirituality. It would be nice if the elite werent so dogmatically determined to differentiate itself from the enthusiastic Christian Other.
Buy his Road to the Middle Class.
The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness...
But to make a man act [he must have]
the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove
or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action
But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie
that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing
[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm
Civil Societya complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churchesbuilds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust
In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, The Scientist as Rebel
Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says we should....
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity
What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph
When we received Christ, Phil added, all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh
I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all.
In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion
We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.
E. G. West, Education and the State