Saturday, April 29, 2006

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.

4 Comments:

Blogger Ayatollah Ghilmeini said...

You will be relieved to know that United 93 makes the specific point that the passengers knew they were destined to die and acted in the only way that might save themselves in the process.

7:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Scott Holleran's review of United 93 at Box Office Mojo:

http://www.boxofficemojo.com/reviews/?id=2056&p=.htm

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Holleran. The "M" word was nowhere to be found. That would be like making a film about Nazi attrocities and never identifying the Nazis as ... Nazis.

D. Eastbrook

3:14 PM  
Blogger Johnmonkey said...

The movie opens in a hotel room(s?) of the four Islamofascists. They are troubled and angsty, reading their little god book, praying on their mats, and shaving their torsos. That's as deep a picture of them that we get. No arrogance of self-assuredness, and no night-before strip club. (Remember that?) If they have any motivation, we're not given an indication of that.

There's not much action on United 93 during the first part of the movie, in spite of the fact that there's quite a bit of footage of it. Most of the action takes place in different control rooms. There's a military control room, where the day begins with a planned NORAD exercise. Once the military is interested, the guy in charge yells at one man after another to "light up all the blips" for one suspected airplane after another, while the guy in charge of him tries to get someone to okey-dokey shooting down planes. There are two air traffic control rooms, where the men track planes and wonder why someone doesn't do something about this situation. The guy in charge is played by his real-life self, and (surprise!) is shown doing everything that he should have done.

Once things start on United 93, the (in)action on the ground is forgotten. Of course, the passengers find out by calling the ground that they're not a hijacked plane but a guided missile. They quickly resolve to attack the Islamofascists and take control of the plane. After resolving this, they wait for ten or so minutes, while the people call home and sob and cry and you dear viewer get to watch. This unbelievable drawing things out continues after they start the attack, where they all pause to beat up one of the fascists instead of some doing so while the rest go on to take back the plane -- even though they've thoroughly talked over how very necessary that is.

Having dispatched the first fascist, they rush the second, who holds them off with cart, mace, fire extinguisher, and knife, while the plane plummets and jerks, throwing everyone around and drawing things out even more. After a bit, Number Two is put out of the way. Then there's a long attempt to get through the cabin door. For some reason, the plane is still in the air for this to be achieved, and for everyone to claw at the last two. Finally, everyone is put out of their misery.

I believe I can call this a snuff film because the action on the plane is so unnecessarily and unrealistically prolonged. I didn't actually yell out, "Get on with it!," but I was inspired to a few times.

One of my fellow viewers had to bail out early on because the movie made him sick. Not from the story or the emotions, but because all the cameras film fairly close up and constantly jerk around. You might think, though I wouldn't, that this would be fine when the passengers are rushing the fascists, but it is done all the time, even in a boring staff meeting of traffic controllers. The cinematography works against the movie throughout all of it.

Any inspiration, resolve, respect, patriotism, that I left this film with, I brought into it with me. Sorry, I thought it was crap.

1:22 PM  

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