David Mamet on his political awakening:
I spoke with my first conservatives at age sixty. My rabbi, Mordecai Finley, a centrist, and a founding member of his temple, Endre Balogh, took the time to talk to me. I was impressed not by their politics, which, at the time, made to me no sense, but by their politeness and patience. They gave me a book, and the book was White Guilt, by Shelby Steele.
It brought to mind an old Providence, Rhode Island, answer to a difficult question, “What do you want, the truth, or a lie . . . ?”
Having spent my life in the theatre, I knew that people could be formed into an audience, that is, a group which surrenders for two hours, part of its rationality, in order to enjoy an illusion.
As I began reading and thinking about politics I saw, to my horror, how easily people could also assemble themselves into a mob, which would either attract or be called into being by those who profited from the surrender of reason and liberty—and that these people are called politicians. My question, then, was, that as we cannot live without Government, how must we deal with those who will be inclined to abuse it—the politicians and their manipulators? The answer to that question, I realized, was attempted in the U.S. Constitution—a document based not upon the philosophic assumption that people are basically good, but on the tragic confession of the opposite view.
I examined my Liberalism and found it like an addiction to roulette. Here, though the odds are plain, and the certainty of loss apparent to anyone with a knowledge of arithmetic, the addict, failing time and again, is convinced he yet is graced with the power to contravene natural laws. The roulette addict, when he inevitably comes to grief, does not examine either the nature of roulette, or of his delusion, but retires to develop a new system, and to scheme for more funds.
The great wickedness of Liberalism, I saw, was that those who devise the ever new State Utopias, whether crooks or fools, set out to bankrupt and restrict not themselves, but others.
I saw that I had been living in a state of ignorance, accepting an unexamined illusion and calling it “compassion,” but that there were those brave enough to work their way through the prevailing slogans of their time, and reason toward a consistent, practicable understanding of human relations. To these, politics was not the manipulation of the ignorant and undecided, but the dedication to the defense and implementation of just, first principles, for example, those of the United States Constitution.
I saw that to proclaim these beliefs in individual freedom, in individual liberty, and in the inevitable evil of surrender of powers to the State, was, in the general population, difficult, and in the Liberal environment, literally impossible, but yet men and women of courage devoted their lives and energies to doing so, undeterred not only by scorn but by despair.
I will now quote two Chicago writers on the subject, the first, William Shakespeare, who wrote “Truth’s a dog must to kennel; he must be whipped out, when Lady the brach may stand by the fire and stink”; the second, Ernest Hemingway, “Call ’em like you see’em and to hell with it.”1
- Mamet, David. The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (pp. 9-10). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.