Dealing with an unrealized guilt

It has been a bit of a topic of discussion lately about how anti-war films are not doing well at the box office. These are the anti-US and anti-soldier films that portray the US and its soldiers as evil and its enemies as thoughtful and well intentioned. This is the boomer philosophy of the glorification of the victim as shown in an unrealized guilt over having more than the other and in not meeting the standards of those who gave them their freedoms of livelihood and expression.

Raymond Ibrahim looks at another facet of this in The Good, the Bad and Beowulf. Hollywood hates Christianity, loves the “Other.” The issue is the smearing of Christianity in the movies. This efforts steps up the anti-US rhetoric to a new level but gets back to the same fundamental guilt. These movies are an attempt to rationalize behavior that creates guilt and to impugn those sources of authority that build civilization and character that has been deemed worthy by one’s parents. It is a guilt for abandoning those characteristics that correlate with social vitality and health and individual expression and freedom. It is an attempt to come to grips with the contradictions of immediate desires with the knowledge of what such a lack of restraint will bring.

By now, the oft-recurring negative portrayals of Christianity in major Hollywood movies have become hackneyed and predictable. … A favorite being the attempt to try to depict pagans as “open-minded” and “free-spirited” peoples, or, quite anachronistically, as Medieval counterparts to the modern, secular, liberal. The idea is that pagan peoples — unencumbered by the suffocating forces of Christianity — are happy, passionate folk, able to live life to the fullest.

So, according to these films and their subliminal messages, we are to understand that all pre-modern Christians who were zealous over their faith were (and thus still are) all hypocrites — or worse — while all truly good “Christians” were (and still are) discreet, indifferent, skeptical, and cautious of Christianity, such as Balian and Arthur. Furthermore, according to these films, all non-Christians were either liberal and “laid back” (e.g., pagans), or noble, upright, and truly pious (i.e., Muslims). That pagan peoples habitually engaged in barbarous practices, such as human sacrifices, cannibalism, and slavery, or that Muslim law, then and now, is characterized by extremely draconian measures, such as stoning fornicators, subjugating non-Muslims and women, and, under certain circumstances, still sanctioning the institution of slavery is, of course, never mentioned. Nor is the fact that Christianity abolished things like human sacrifices, stresses forgiveness, and its ultimate law is to love God and one’s fellow man (Mark 12:30-31).

At any rate, while Hollywood is on a crusade — or jihad — to defame Christianity, it would do well to remember that it is because of Christian civilization that they are even able to make movies in the first place. Not only is Christianity fundamentally responsible for what many a Western liberal takes for granted, that is, the freedoms and advancements of Western civilization, but much of the historical records that movie-makers are able to exploit, warp, and subsequently rake in millions from were compiled by Christians.

You can see this same phenomena elsewhere. The TV series that emphasize anthropology often seem obsessed with ennobling tribal cultures, especially in Africa or the Americas. The portrayal is often idyllic as in being one with nature without any attention to the grubby issues of a short live spent trying to avoid famine, disease, predators, and inter-tribal warfare over scarce resources.

For instance, in one recent show, a decedent of a tribal US Indian waxed eloquent about the wonderful sharpness of the flint knives his ancestors created. He did acknowledge that they traded for the steel of the invading settlers because steel was more durable. What that recognized was that the settlers were able to use a material where they could find a balance between brittleness, which makes for sharpness, and durability. Instead of just chipping an edge off flint, the settlers used natural materials with complicated processes and knowledge to create tools that were tailored to their needs. It seems that some think we should adapt to nature as it is rather than learn how to adapt nature to our needs.

Who is better in touch with nature? The culture that has to find flint and chips it into disposable tools or the culture that understands the secrets behind a reddish rock such that they can create steel tools that can be recycled? Of these, which is glorified and which is impugned in many of the so-called academically oriented public education treatises?

The fundamental fact to deal with is that Christianity was the driving force behind Western Cultures. Christianity not only provided values related to prurient pursuits but also towards charity, industriousness, honesty of inquiry and thought, and the worth of the individual. These values are not inherent in human nature and it is a life-long struggle to accommodate them. The fact is that the success of Western Cultures in eliminating slavery and otherwise fostering individual rights stands alone. Therein is the dissonance.

Many can now afford the luxury of the connections of fantasy to reality. They can be selective about what they learn from the past. They can then use that distorted reality to rationalize their own lapses from those values that irritate them but that they know must have worth. One result is the ‘acting out’ of a delusion on stage and screen. The lack of interest in the broader community is an indicator that many do understand just what these presentations represent and are not yet willing to join in the delusion.

[update] Roger Simon describes this in Hollywood’s Phony (Anti)War – The Sequel.

In fact, they are close to the biggest no-nos of all for them in their daily lives. Who is worse than a sexist pig? Only a violent, murderous sexist pig who wants to take over the world. It then becomes a complex balancing act indeed to make a movie that ignores or downplays this in order to criticize the US as the larger villain. No one has been able to come close to pulling off this balancing act in a film. In fact, it may well be impossible because it is fundamentally dishonest.

fundamentally dishonest – conflicted – dissonance – in need of intellectual integrity. The path is not often clear nor easily seen.

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