SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2017
A deep meta-story, twice told: When did the incomparable, award-winning Daily Howler go meta?
You're asking a very good question! To answer your question, we'll refer to a classic film we watched again last night.
The film to which we refer is Werner Herzog's Aguirre, The Wrath of God, the 1972 West German epic which is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
It popped up for free in our On Demand listings this week. Decades later, we decided to give it a watch.
The film in question is a study of human lunacy and delusion. As recently as 2012, Roger Ebert had it on his list of the ten greatest films of all time.
We'd mark it down a tiny tad because its first half is more striking than what happens down-river. But as we read this morning's papers, we kept seeing Aguirre's themes leaping up off the page.
What happens in Herzog's film? According to the leading authority, its story "follows the travels of Spanish soldier Lope de Aguirre, who leads a group of conquistadores down the Orinoco and Amazon River in South America in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado.
"Using a minimalist story and dialogue, the film creates a vision of madness and folly, counterpointed by the lush but unforgiving Amazonian jungle."
The film is set in 1560, shortly after the Spanish conquest of the Inca. A hardy band sets off in search of El Dorado, but falls under control of a lunatic leader. Things go downhill fast.
Regarding historical accuracy, the film seems to be in the ballpark, though nowhere near the box seats. In the broader sense, the lunatic thinking explored in the film seems to have been an actual part of those not-so-distant times—and, alas, of our own self-assured era.
Are we humans still like that? When we suggest that we actually are, we mean to include the disordered thinking which now runs rampant within our own liberal tribe.
Let's give us liberals some credit! We're able to spot the disordered thinking which is widespread Over There. We're much less able to spot the disorder which clutters our own tribal "thinking." But that intellectual disorder is vast and wide, not unlike the Amazon as seen in Herzog's film.
As we've disclosed in the past week, some lesser Olympian gods have recently agreed to share the history of our "human race." Here's the broad outline of what we've been told in several late night visits:
Long ago, Zeus of the aegis allowed sacred Homer to warn us about our comical human nature. He let Homer tell us many stories about how easily we were deceived by various tricks the other gods played on us, for their amusement.
Sacred Homer issued these warnings. But over time, our sources claim, Zeus of the aegis changed.
Indeed, our sources suggest that Zeus may be battling dementia. "He hasn't been himself for millennia," one of our sources claims.
As Zeus became a bit more cruel, he sent Aristotle to earth with instructions to deceive us in a more primal way. "Man [sic] is the rational animal," the great alleged philosopher is widely said to have said.
Zeus decreed it; Aristotle said it. From that day right through to this, we liberals have believed it, at least about ourselves.
We liberals find it very hard to spot our own manifest folly. Did Aguirre's ridiculous band regard local South American peoples as less than human? That's the way we liberals react with regard to the folk Over There!
Again, let's give credit where due! Most of the people on Aguirre's raft came to see that he was crazy. We modern liberals don't yet rise to that level with regard to our own "intellectual leaders" and our own tribal follies.
We can see that The Others are nuts. But we can't spot the nuts Over Here!
This morning, we thought of Aguirre, The Wrath of God as we read this news report about the "plan" of D.C.'s new public schools chancellor. We thought of Aguirre, The Wrath of God, when we read this pitiful New Yorker "Shouts and Murmurs" piece.
It was written by Megan Amram, a 30-year-old comedian who prepped at Catlin Gabel School then graduated from Harvard. How childish do you have to be to think that piece is humorous or insightful? And yet there it is, in The New Yorker, our most brainiac liberal mag!
We thought of Aguirre, The Wrath of God when we read Bret Stephens' column in the New York Times (and when we read some of the early comments). Mika Brzezinski doesn't seem to be a liberal, but we thought of Aguirre as we perused the first few pages of her second memoir, Knowing Your Worth, a memoir written by one of our highest-ranking TV pundits.
Then too, there remains the conversation which occurred on NPR last week. One of our foremost philosophers chatted with one of our brightest journalists.
Are we modern pseudo-liberals on our way to El Dorado? On Monday, we'll finish our discussion of that NPR chat. Our discussion will be thoroughly meta, but also highly relevant.
The people stuck on Aguirre's raft were stuck with horrible leadership. That was true of Aguirre himself, but also of Spanish intellectual leaders in general.
As our 16th-century cousins helped show, we humans rather plainly are not the rational animal. It wasn't dimly true in 1560. As we pseudo-liberals make clear, it isn't even dimly the case today.
This doesn't mean that we're bad people, though we do a great impression. It may mean that we simply aren't up to the task of conducting a public discourse. Thanks to the invention of talk radio, cable news and the Net, our comical lack of mental ability has become a dangerous problem today.
You wouldn't have wanted to be with Aguirre. Should you want to watch cable news as it's currently practiced?