Pompous Movie Thoughts

A discussion over at

‘s journal prompted me to write the following.  It’s something I had meant to write on this journal a while back, but now I can’t remember if I ever got around to it.  So here it is:

It’s become very popular lately in both lefty and libertarian circles to conjure up images of the Orwellian authoritarian state our country is headed towards. This is probably not a bad idea, since I think people need to be afraid of the direction we’re going. But the flaw in a lot of these depictions is that they portray the coming dystopia as being the result of the conscious efforts of Evil Men. See V for Vendetta, as just one example. Great movie, but the totalitarian regime is almost cartoonish in it’s malice and odiousness. This fits neatly into the world view of a lot of people these days, who see the fight for liberty primarily as a fight to get one man and his cronies out of office, after which Wiser Heads can get on with the job of telling everyone how to live their lives.

What Brazil succeeds at where almost every other dystopian fantasy fails is in relentlessly portraying the true banality of evil. In Brazil the mindless civil servants systematically stripping human life of dignity and freedom aren’t evil, per se – they are just doing their jobs. Which history tells us is what 99% of tyranny is composed of – people just doing their jobs, trying to feed their families without drawing too much attention to themselves.

Brazil shows tyranny arising naturally and inevitably from bureaucracy, rather than being imposed by a few lone sociopaths. And in this it is one of the most realistic political movies ever filmed.

On the other hand if you just want the satisfaction of a guy single-handedly bringing down The System using kung-fu and lots of C4, V for Vendetta is definitely the movie to see. While you’re at it, check out Equilibrium, an underrated and under-promoted pro-liberty martial arts action flick.

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  1. Equilibrium kicks ass. You can buy it at Wal-Mart or Best Buy dirt cheap. Under or around $10 and well worth it if you ask me. But then again I think Christian Bale is hot. šŸ˜›

    Did you see “300”? I haven’t seen it yet. :/

    1. Seriously? I always look for it whenever I go movie shopping, but I never see it… guess I need to just bite the bullet and buy it online.

      300: Yes, and it’s very pretty.

      1. Yuppiers. I was at Wal-mart the other day and I saw it. I got my copy at Best Buy. But Wal-Mart 9.99 or 7.50 or whatever it was in their cheaper racks.

  2. Evil men

    I think that the “evil men” theory of politics is a trap when trying to deal with history.

    Yes, there are such things as “evil men” like Hitler, Stalin, Lincoln and Pol-pot. But they are never the true motivators of statist tyranny. Hitler didn’t cause Germany to become NAZI. He just was at the bleeding edge of a nation-wide hysteria and rode it like a surfer rides the wave. He was the figurehead until he became the goat, and scapegoat for German apology to the world.

    No, it was the little people, doing their jobs and accepting the little injustices and demanding the little “securities” from the state that led to that tyranny and every other tyranny in history. Single people or even small groups cannot force whole civilizations into such a state against their will. Nope, it’s incompetence, stupidity and indifference to the suffering of their fellow man that allows “evil men” to ride their wave of terror.

    And pointing to the Evil Men(tm) as the root of the evil is a cop-out that the people later can use to assuage their guilt and complicity. But History repeats itself. We are walking down that path yet again -we just haven’t picked our official “Evil Men” to be the fall guys. Perhaps history never picks them until after the fact when we need a goat to sacrifice for our cooperative sins…

    1. Re: Evil men

      “Yes, there are such things as “evil men” like Hitler, Stalin, Lincoln and Pol-pot. But they are never the true motivators of statist tyranny.”

      “No, it was the little people, doing their jobs and accepting the little injustices and demanding the little “securities” from the state that led to that tyranny and every other tyranny in history.”

      With a little research, one can also find that most regimes of this nature are also brought to power by another segment of the population: profiteers. The rich and powerful that have so much to gain from a government that answers to them and serves their interests rather than those of it’s people. Hitler had Hamburg-Amerika and North German-Lloyd Shipping, among other industrial giants who stood to benefit from the abolishment of unions and the profits from providing manufacturing for the iminent re-arming if Hitler took power. Today we have Haliburton and the energy industry in general.

      1. Re: Evil men

        They are all just pieces on the chessboard. They are playing their parts and filling a niche that needs to be filled in the regime. While they are not pawns by any means, they have roles to play and their moves are limited by their shape and use.

        The Knight can move in a big L-shape, the Rooks move up/down and left/right and the bishop moves at diagnals. The poor pawn can only move straight up the board into his destruction and can only bring his puny attack at an angle and close range.

        Even the chess player is limited by the rules of the game and while the possibilities seem endless are not entirely so.

        Those that MAKE the rules of the game and wish to enforce them on their fellow man are the ones who cause us all to submit to so much horror and bloodshed.

        “Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”
        -Robert A. Heinlein

  3. Hear, hear. people who think bush is the most evil president ever and going to take over the world (I’m mocking them of course) are giving him far to much credit.

    1. Most Evil?

      I don’t even like thinking in that term… It’s so ill-defined..

      I would argue that Bush is one of–if not the most–incompetent Presidents ever–he makes Nixon, Carter, and Hoover look relatively decent and truly gives Harding a run for his money for being the most “out of touch”….

      Bush cannot take over the world–if someone talks like that, they are just delusional… what he can do–and has succeeded in doing quite well, is make the world a profoundly less safe and secure place through his incompetency, half-assed ness and stubborn refusal to deal with reality when it doesn’t suit his purposes…

      And I’m not even going into his hypocrisy… He’s not single handdedly going to create a dystopia.. but I do think he has managed to bring us closer to a dystopic future than move us away from one… Something that I cannot remember any American President doing (well, maybe Nixon a bit…but not really) in a long long time..(if ever..)

      1. +1

        Lets just say on the cosmic accounting book -he’s a big minus in the table of doing good or bad.

  4. Love Brazil…

    .. but I also like V for Vendetta–although the graphic novel was more subtle…

    In any case.. I would merely argue that any attempt to claim that evil is merely on or the other of these is a false dichotomy… Not all evil derives from bureaucratic banality. Darfur is not just from Bureaucracy..(although the vile UN bureaucracy is doing its best to help it suceed…)

    Rather.. we should always realize that evil not only comes from consciously evil choices that people make to harm(evil men) on others.. but also by people’s choices to allow this harm to occur (bureaucratic..)

    I think the movie “Boondock Saints” gets it pretty right.. The priest at the beginning nails it–We must all fear evil men, but what we must fear most is the indifference of good men… and a bureaucracy can so easily become a place where good men become indifferent–(and it can become a tool of pure evil when evil men get put in charge of them–i.e. Stalin–the ultimate Bureaucrat…)

    Just my perspective..

    1. Brazil

      I think I would generally agree with that analysis.

      And V is certainly a more satisfying movie. At least so long as you don’t think too hard about what came after V’s little revolution…

      1. True…

        Exactly… that part–the messy part.. is left in virtual neverland…

        In any case.. although I know you aren’t a big fan of his.. you might find the new NIN album interesting.. the whole viral marketing of it– the basic storyline of a future dystopia set in 2022 when an authoritarian religious gov’t has taken over and is drugging the water supply with something that supposedly protects the populace from “bio-terror attacks”–but actually seems to have the effect of making people impotent, giving them religious hallucinations, and also a variety of various ailments that cause them to buy more medical products (like acid reflux, etc etc..)

        Check my entries a few entries back–the whole album is actually up online and can be listened to streaming.. The first time I heard it, I thought–cool.. but the more I listened to it.. the more excellent it became.. “In this Twilight” “the Warning” “The Great Destroyer” and “Zero Sum” are my favorites (with “capital G” in all its funkiness being another one in a different way..)

        just a suggestion..

    2. Re: Love Brazil…

      See quote on my LJ side bar. . .

      It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you – whom do you betray and whom do you encourage? (Ayn Rand)

      1. nice quote..

        I’ve never bought into the pc-liberal attitude of “tolerance==everything is equally good.”

        That’s just willing abnegation of your fucking cognition.

        It’s a belief that is the antithesis of all enlightenment thought.

        Instead, realizing one’s own limitations and being inherently skeptical of all things–so that you are forced to evaluate everything and thus are able to choose whether you think a belief is supported or good or whatever–that is what we all–of all political persuasions–should embrace..

        We don’t have to agree–but we need to know why we disagree and be able to see the strengths and weaknesses of all of our points..

        and now I must get back to work!

  5. Heh.

    Stating that Bush *isn’t* evil, and then saying Haliburton *is*, misses the entire point. Heck, even if I agreed that Bush *was* evil, you still miss the point by labeling a corporation. The fact is, that even if a few people at Haliburton in the high seats have fiendish schemes, the people who make up the corporation from the VPs to the secretaries to the shareholders are just people trying to make it in life. They have kids, they raise families, they worry about car payments, and some of them (the ones with positions in Iraq) probably worry about getting shot at or blown up just like everyone else.

    That’s the whole point. Real evil–terrifying, nasty, evil–isn’t created typically out of the fiendish schemes of one man (or one small group) but out of the widespread apathy and inertia of a corrupt system. Fiendish, nasty, evil would’ve turned a handful of Nazi fanatics into psychopathic murders of Jewish people–murderers who would’ve been inevitably killed vigilante-style (if nothing else) by a population afraid for itself.

    Systemtic, everyday, ordinary evil allowed the Holocaust to occur. If you ever travel to Germany or a concentration camp (or just do some research on it) what springs out most isn’t that the Germans killed a lot of Jews–its that the extermination of the population was absolutely systemic. Planned. Detailed. *DOCUMENTED*. They had hard data on how many people you can fit in an oven, how many loads an oven can process per day, how long it takes to load one, the caloric needs of one slave laborer, the amount of work you can expect from one slave laborer, etc, etc, etc. The entire system was anything but random.

    That type of evil is far more horrifying, in my opinion, and it’s precisely the type that’s hardest to root out. Part of rooting it out, however, is realizing that the vast majority of the people involved in it (especially if you’re using an example like Haliburton) aren’t doing their jobs with any intent to be evil (here the Holocaust example breaks down a bit in comparison). Trying to find the root of the problem in a modern situation where the issue isn’t as clear-cut and obviously wrong is therefore quite a bit more difficult.

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