United 93 and the March of Altruism
I haven't seen the new film "United 93" yet, so I can't comment on it one way or another. However, this line from a review in the WSJ (4/28/06) struck me: "This movie bears little outward resemblance to the fervently patriotic dramas that Hollywood made during World War II, films like "Guadalcanal Diary" or "Bataan" that, necessarily, stressed heroism over suffering and slaughter."
Yes--movies that stress heroism over suffering and slaughter. Whatever happened to those?
A culture will produce artistic works that largely reflect its philosophy. Increasingly, the philosophy of America includes the morality of altruism, i.e. the view that sacrificing oneself for others is man's highest moral purpose, while pursuing one's own happiness is "selfish" and immoral. Altruism has no room for traditional American heroes: those who struggle and achieve, who fight and win. The ultimate heroes of altruism are those who suffer and die in some way.
Please note: I am in no way implying that the passengers on United 93 were not heroes -- they were indeed. But they were heroes not because they "sacrificed" themselves and died. They were heroes because they fought to live. I don't know if the film brings that out, but I'd be willing to bet it slants much more towards the former, than the latter.
Why, in 5 years, have we not seen a single movie showing America heroically fighting and beating terrorists, Islamists, or evil Middle Eastern countries? Why was America able to defeat two super-powers (Germany and Japan) in less than 5 years -- but in the past 5 years has barely been able to subdue two primitive tinpot countries in the Middle East and hasn't even touched Iran while it continues to shamelessly develop nuclear weapons?
The answer in both cases is the morality of altruism. Sixty years ago, America was morally confident in its moral right to defend itself, and to utterly destroy those who would destroy it. Today, as the altruist moral theory is increasingly entrenched in the American psyche, America is afraid to stand up for itself (that's "selfish"), afraid to defend itself (let's check with the UN first), afraid to destroy its enemies (we don't want to 'hurt' anyone), and afraid to name and oppose the evil ideology, Islamism, that motivates its enemies (we can't impose our values on them!).
If WWII were fought on today's philosophy, here's how it would have gone:
- We're not fighting "Nazism", we're fighting a bunch of people who are shooting at us, who just by coincidence happen to be Nazis (and let's not stigmatize Nazis here, it's a noble idea that's been take to an extreme).
- Let's look at our own blame for this situation and ask: Why do the Germans hate us? If we had just taken Hitler's grievances more seriously and done a better job appeasing him, none of this would have happened.
- Before we launch D-Day, let's take a vote of all the countries in the world, and see if they approve.
- We can't firebomb Dresden, or any other city -- civilians might die.
- Now that we've conquered Germany, we'll let the Germans vote on what type of government to install. We can't be imposing our values on them. That's how Hitler got in? Well, so be it, "democracy" (voting) trumps everything, including liberty and individual rights.