Monday, November 19, 2012

Han Solo intuitively knew, what John Locke deeply understood, and which the 47% find unbearable to hear

Han Solo intuitively knew, what John Locke deeply understood, and which the 47% (and more) find unbearable to even hear.

So... to hear it noised about lately, especially by 'modern conservatives' (Jumbo Shrimp), culture is not important to politics.


Pardon me for having a little philosophical fun with the idea, but if that's true, why are they so damn hard to separate?

For something that's not so important, it's really amazing how impossible it is to separate even the lightest matters of modern day 'culture' from anything and everything else you might know, or wish you didn't know, about the deepest roots of our political concepts and their day to day application. Even in something as seemingly 'separate' as the 2012 political scene, 1970's sci-fi movies, and 17th century English philosophers, they are in fact so deeply intertwined, that the attempt to separate them, will enmesh you even more deeply, drawing you even deeper into the reach of 16th century English philosophers and 4th century BC Athenians to boot.

For instance, in a story from last week, George Lucas sold the rights to his Star Wars movies to Disney, and in the article is a reference to who shot first between Greedo & Han Solo. If that doesn't ring any bells for you, try Googling "Han shot first!", and your browser will groan under the weight of hits.

There ya go, you need look no further for the poppiest of pop culture, tying into the roots of our political philosophy, and our current electorate. Wha...? You didn't catch that? Ok, lemme fill in the details for you.

What 'Han shot first!' is all about, is a scene from the first Star Wars movie, where one of the heroes, Han Solo, demonstrated that he intuitively knew in his bones, what philosopher John Locke deeply understood (as did our Founders who followed him), and which a minimum of 47% of our 2012 electorate find to be a truth so unbearable to their entire being, that they will go to great lengths to obfuscate and obliterate any and all connections between them.

Which Reality must find deeply amusing.

May the Force of Culture be with you
George Lucas, circa 1970's, when making Star Wars, was following his understanding of Myth, of the Hero and the heroes quest, as illustrated by his friend & mentor Joseph Campbell and his writings such as the Power of Myth, and as such he found himself portraying within Star Wars, some very deep mythopoetic truths to a generation that the entire 1960's and the rest of the 1970's had been working so hard to obliterate.

I saw Star Wars the first time when I was just shy of 16 yrs old, and it was exhilarating. Not because the writing and acting and directing were top notch, they weren't (far from it), but because for the first time in ages, here were heroes fighting villains, here was Good opposing Evil, because it was evil... and winning! For a generation whose T.V. & movies had been taken over by anti-heroes, or, as with Clint Eastwood movies, the disillusioned once-heroes, who fought on only out of habit, not for any belief in what was right - Star Wars was an awakening!

The particular scene which ties pop culture to history, and to our politics and the 'relevance' of today, is the Star Wars Cantina scene, where Han, when confronted by a gun brandishing Greedo, stealthily draws his own blaster from under the table, and shoots first, without warning, killing Greedo, without the least qualm or regret or concern over its 'fairness'.

As directed by the Mythologist persona of George Lucas, circa 1970's, Han illustrated a clear and vital truth, a truth which John Locke, circa 1689, spent a sizable amount of ink in reasoning through, justifying and defending, and which the 47%, circa today, not to mention a sizable number of the remaining 53% of our electorate... find to be an inconvenient truth, at best, and highly disquieting.

That understanding which, not without flaws, was what John Locke expressed in the second of his Two Treatises of Government [1691], when he said, in describing the several states of war that exist between peoples, that
"...he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life..."
and that,
"§ 18. This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i. e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it."
That, which the previous 11 chapters of Book 1, and the two previous chapters of Book 2, were required for Locke to make his point in prose and discourse - and all of that was wordlessly communicated by Han Solo pulling his blaster out under the table and putting a fine point on his punchline "I'll bet you have", and killed Greedo.

That scene made perfect mythic sense, because it expressed a deep and vital truth, the same truth which Locke was able to establish and elaborate upon philosophically .. but oh what a can of worms it was for the leftist ideologue which Lucas became, because that truth - the wrongness, if not downright evil, of using power to force others to comply with your wishes - is a central core of the timelessness of conservatism.

George Lucas the ideologist, and no doubt a great many of his friends, found this scene and what it demonstrated (you'll often see Han's original actions described as those of 'a cold blooded killer' - and Greedo? Like the Palestinians, his aggression goes unmentioned), to be an unbearable truth, perilous to their every position and claim, and so in the 1997 release, despite two decades of viewers having seen the original movie where Han clearly shoots the first (and only) shot, Lucas actually went back and doctored his movie, not only to enhance it with new special effects, but to cleanse it of inconvenient truths.

For as every leftist knows, the 'bad' guy, must be given every opportunity, and then some, to make other choices, even at the risk of 'the good', and so Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic crew altered the film to make Greedo shoot first, though, luckily for Han, missing him from a distance of 2 or 3 feet, so that Han Solo finally had the 'moral high ground', not to mention the 'fairness', needed to legitimately return fire and kill Greedo.

The idea of a pre-emptive strike by 'the good' upon 'the bad'... that was something that was intolerable enough by the 1990's... can you imagine how Lucas & friends felt about it after George Bush made the scene? brrrughhh!. The problem for them, is that when you try and force Art & Myth to serve ideology, you wage war upon what is good and true.

What the character, the mythos of Han Solo conveyed in that brief scene, of pulling his blaster out under the table and blasting Greedo, casually, without deliberation or concern or regret, in that one moment it gave lasting form to a truth which reasoned understanding requires volumes of careful conceptualization through a supporting philosophy in justice, ethics, rights and more.

The power of Art and of Culture, is that through such scenes and tales, the essence of elaborate philosophies can be distilled and conveyed and their wealth spread around to the entire population, without their even realizing it. I've said before, with only a bit of my tongue in my cheek, that Star Wars was what made Reagan possible, that without the revival of the deeply American spirit of Good opposing Evil, and that it should, and could win, then Jimmy Carter might have held on to power and pushed through those programs which, instead. had to wait another 40yrs for Obama to do.

Art, Myth, Religion, do have the power to do that; which is just one reason why they are so important, and why conservatives ignore them at their great, great peril, to dismiss such things as 'trivial', is lunacy. It's often difficult for people like me, who are so quick to recommend and defend heavier works like Aristotle & Locke and so forth, to admit that Western Culture probably owes a far greater debt to those distilled concentrations of the truths they expand upon. We The People are given concentrated doses of cultural understanding through such 'light' material such as Nursery Rhymes, Aesop's Fables, and popular myths such as the Wild West Westerns or their cousins such as Star Wars.

You don't understand the Power!
 And of course with Luke & Han promoting the Light side of The Force of culture, We The People are given equally strong doses from The Dark Side, especially in our time, through the glories of easy victim-hood, class envy, injected through music, gratuitous sex, drugs, etc., which, as Yoda would say, isn't stronger, but is "Quicker, easier, more seductive", and if not countered, will carry the day - for while the Light Side requires a conceptual understanding that takes time to build (the role of Education), you can feel the power of The Dark Side immediately, in your physical senses & perceptions.

You've no doubt heard, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. George Lucas, faced with the 'unfortunate' truth he spread around the world through his blockbuster, and which was in glaring opposition to his own political beliefs, used his own power over his movies, to, very George Orwell like, attempt to erase it. But Lucas'd act of hiding the truth, actually illustrates another truth from his own movies, transforming himself into Darth Vader, the technological terror and embodiment of exerting Power over Truth, with his Ends justifying any and all of his Means.

In Lucas's attempt to use his power to alter and dispense with the mythic truth his original work portrayed, he draws us back even further in time to Sir Francis Bacon, or at least to the phrase popularly attributed to him, that
"Knowledge is Power"
which has it mostly wrong. What Bacon actually said, was that,
"II. The unassisted hand and the understanding left to itself possess but little power. "
"III. Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect; for nature is only subdued by submission, and that which in contemplative philosophy corresponds with the cause in practical science becomes the rule."
George Lucas illustrates the line "since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect" quite well. And more importantly, Bacon said what is anathema to all things leftist, in the Arts, in Economics, in Politics, that,
"Now the empire of man over things is founded on the arts and sciences alone, for nature is only to be commanded by obeying her."
Knowledge is not Power, Power results from knowledge and your adherence to it. Those who seek knowledge in order to gain power over what is true, inevitably corrupt the knowledge they think they've acquired.

They tend, as did George Lucas, to make elaborate pretexts for doing what they want, not because it was right, but because it was easy. For what those for whom the 'Ends justify the Means' implicitly grasp, graspingly, is that in thinking that 'knowledge is power', they conclude that having power over knowledge, will create even more power for them. Conveniently forgetting that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The truth is that power is a side effect, a disquieting one, of attaining knowledge. Power is something, a troublesome something, which those with considerable knowledge, find themselves to have been made unwilling custodians of. And worst of all, if you do not make the constant effort of seeing to it that your power conforms to your knowledge which is kept serving what is Good, Beautiful and True, rather than the other way around, it will consume you.

I can imagine Lucas in a time traveling sequence, going back to face his 1970's self, the skinny child who was the father of his now bloated older man, and saying,
"Lucas, you are my father!"
And 1970's Lucas would doubtless, gazing on the twisted and evil countenance of himself using power to obliterate truth, would wail,

Poetic Justice incarnate.

There is something which art & story can convey in a slightest detail of pose or illustration, convey it to anyone watching in a fraction of a moment, which sums up a knowledge that requires volumes of understanding to approach. It is why Shelly, riffing on Plato, said that
"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world".
, and why Aristotle called Poetry a greater truth than history,
"...It is, moreover, evident from what has been said, that it is not the function of the poet to relate what has happened, but what may happen- what is possible according to the law of probability or necessity. The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The work of Herodotus might be put into verse, and it would still be a species of history, with meter no less than without it. The true difference is that one relates what has happened, the other what may happen. Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular...."
Art conveys Truth, and the understanding of it, in such a way that it fills the receiver with unexpected, and unlooked for, power, the power to choose how to act - which is a very different thing from the power to choose how others must act.

George Lucas couldn't bear the idea that the Truth he illustrated in Star Wars was in complete opposition to his political positions, and he used the power his movies brought him, to try and eliminate it.

What he may or may not have also actually grasped, was that that Truth, which Locke provided the knowledge necessary for supporting an understanding of, applied not only to such obvious things as the justness of pre-emptive war, but in opposition to anyone who seeks to use power over others, for their own purposes.

The leftist ideals he promotes, advocating using the power of the state to impose upon the few, to force them to live as he sees fit, and to take what does not belong to them, in order to spread the wealth around to those many who have not earned it, but want it, the 47% (which includes many of the most wealthy among us, such as George Lucas), have put themselves into a state, which John Locke clearly understood to be, an act of war upon the rest of us, and with all that is Good, Beautiful and True as well, and which even the most seemingly lightweight aspects of culture, are the great transmitters of.

And people like Lucas, Obama, Democrats and not a few Republicans, find that thought, the idea that Culture is vital to politics, to be simply unbearable; or as Luke might say,



mushroom said...

I'm pretty sure there are only three Star Wars movies.

I'm older than you by close to a decade. I was working and hanging out with a friend who was in a Science Fiction club. It was mainly an excuse to get together and drink Jack-and-Coke, but I will never forget how much time we spent talking about all the cool stuff from the Original. It was Flash Gordon done right. Just like Raiders was Secret of Incas writ large.

It's a shame Lucas lost contact with the myth.

John Lien said...

That was excellent Van. I doubt that Lucas thought about his motives as well as you did for him.

That Locke quote was very interesting. If the thief has your liberty and he says he isn't going to harm you, what's to say he doesn't change his mind? Best to kill him.

Ex-Dissident said...

Your post was strangely prophetic. Han Solo would have shot this son-of-a-bitch from Connecticut, the day before he went on a killing spree; the day when a 20 yo nutcase got inside an elementary school to have a bizarre argument with the principal. There were likely many moments when the righteous would have pulled the trigger and avoided the school massacre. Same could be said of the jihad psychiatrist from Fort Hood.