Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Minor Skirmish In the Culture Wars

Trey Givens has posted a video of a high school class walking out of a performance by a monologuist, Mike Daisey, who uses adult language.

One of the people walking out poured water on Mr. Daisey’s notes, which is destruction of private property and wrong. (The man later apologized.)

According to Playgoer, Mike Daisey wrote in an email,
"it's a sobering reminder that speech is never free unless it is defended ardently."
This has nothing to do with free speech. Unlike leftists on college campuses, the audience members who walked out of Mr. Daisey’s show did not try to shut him up. Aside from the fool who dumped water on the notes, the Christians were quiet and orderly as they left the theatre. Any audience member has a right to walk out of a show.

Personally, I thought the part of his act on the video clip was funny. Profanity in humor doesn’t bother me much unless it becomes overbearing and an end in itself. Mike Daisey strikes me as a likable, liberal performer. In Mike Daisey’s blog account of the event, however, he comes off as a leftist subjectivist. What really bothers him is that the Christians passed judgment on him, which he (rightly) notes is a contradiction of Christ’s character.
I doubt I will ever forget the look in his face as he defaced the only original of the handwritten show outline--it was a look of hatred, and disgust, and utter and consuming pride.

It is a face I have seen in Riefenstahl's work, and in my dreams, but never on another human face, never an arm's length from me--never directed at me, hating me, hating my words and the story that I've chosen to tell. That face is not Christian, by any definition Christ would be proud to call his own--its naked righteousness and contempt have nothing to do with the godhead, and everything to do with pathetic human pride at its very worst.
But they are not simply fools and idiots--I saw them. They are young and old, they are teachers and students, they are each and every one of us. We are the same family, even if it hurts. The hard truth is that you reap what you sow, and I will not sow hatred and discontent--I refuse. I will not forget what that man, older than I am today, did to my work. I will not forget the cowed silence of those who left. I will not forget their judgment and their arrogance--but I will not hate.
He is making Evan Sayet’s point: to the modern left passing judgment is the root of all evil. And note that his reason for not judging them in return is collectivism, “We are the same family….”

I read that this video has had over 70,000 hits on YouTube. I suspect that most people are like me and had never heard of Mike Daisey before. Those Christians walking out of his show will probably be the best thing that ever happened to his career.

Since I used the term "Culture Wars," the reader might ask, "Which side of the war are you on, Myrhaf?" I have some sympathy with both sides. I bemoan the loss of standards in our culture that has come about with the New Left's cultural revolution. At the same time, I recognize that some traditional values were bad and I'm happy to see them gone. Capitalism and the Enlightenment, after all, were the original destroyers of such traditional values as feudalism, church power and "the divine right of Kings." Capitalism's first enemies were religious conservatives. But ultimately, I cannot profess allegiance to either side today, any more than I could accept the philosophies of intrincism or subjectivism. I would like to see a culture of reason and artistic romanticism develop, which is still, as Ayn Rand called capitalism, the unknown ideal.


Mike said...

Just because I say that speech is never free unless it is defended ardently doesn't mean you can sacrifice me on your altar--I'm well aware that people can certainly leave. I'm more concerned with people attacking and destroying my work onstage, a fact which is obvious from my writings on the subject. Don't suborn me into whatever agenda you're constructing--my reactions and assessments of the value of passing judgment VARY ACCORDING TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES, as they do for all rational people.

If you'd like to deconstruct my thinking I suggest you become familiar with my work--and for the record, I would be delighted if this asinine event had not occurred. I would still have my notes, and my career, which has been flourishing, would continue. Instead I am responding to people named Myrhaf on teh intarwebs who haven't the faintest idea about me or my work.

Yes, that's my fault and responsibility--I own that. I should have my head examined.

Myrhaf said...

Thanks for commenting, Mike. I think you're very funny and talented.

madmax said...


I just wanted to say that I totally love your blog. To use an expression, you are "my kind" of Objectivist. What I mean is that there are many disagreements amongst Objectivists about politics, art (especially movies), war, etc. But I almost always find that after I read one of your blog entries I say to myself "he must have read my mind." And this is especially true for the way you are able to detect the presence of altruism in the culture. To paraphrase Tom Cruise from Risky Business, "you can smell altruism as if it were dog shit."

Thanks again for maintianing a great Objectivist blog.

Myrhaf said...

Thanks, Madmax. I always enjoy your comments.