Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Liberally Confused

A headline at Huffington Post the other day caught my attention : Paul Haggis: I Wrote 'Crash' To 'Bust Liberals'. Included in the piece is a brief video of an interview in which those words are spoken by Haggis.

At first I felt puzzled. I looked back to my own post about Crash and a couple of other Paul Haggis movies. :

Clip from my post of March 2013:
Crash, set in Los Angeles, puts the focus squarely on racism in the USA. The embedded message applies equally elsewhere, of course. Crash uses what I think of as "the tangled net" method of story-telling. A number of totally unconnected characters are introduced, and by the end of the movie we find they are linked in some way to at least one of the other characters, often to several. The Crash characters all have different ethnic backgrounds: African American, Middle-Eastern, Asian-American, Mexican, Caucasian, Latin-American (hope I didn't forget any). There is heavy stereotyping, and that is a drawback, but in this film it was necessary to get a point across in limited time. Each incident and reaction is drawn in extreme terms - cartoonish in fact. After I'd watched the film my first reaction was that it wasn't at all true to life, it was more like distilled version, keeping only the strongest flavours intact. It reminded me a bit of the way people sometimes train a puppy not to soil the living room carpet by rubbing its nose in the mess. Our noses were rubbed in the mess we sometimes make of relationships with others of different background from ourselves.

So as not to end on a completely negative note, Paul Haggis made sure that he did show that most characters though their bad traits were horrendous, had a decent, or even heroic, side too. Whether this was a cop out to stop audiences hating the movie I cannot say. I saw only one truly decent guy in the film - a Mexican locksmith.

I watched the video presented with the HuffPo article and confusion cleared. In the video Haggis clearly states, when asked, that he is "left of liberal" - which would have been my guess, though I wasn't 100% certain considering that most commenters to the Huffington Post article seemed to assume that Haggis is conservative, giving his liberal opponents a poke in the eye. I thought that perhaps those commenters knew something I didn't know. I was wrong.

People, or most, in the USA don't seem to get that there is a fair land left of liberal, and that liberalism, at least as it plays out in the USA, ain't always what it's cracked up to be. The kind of liberalism Haggis is pointing out is just a mini-step away from what I consider conservative-lite, and sadly there's a lot of it about.

Anyway, I did get a wry chuckle out of my own confusion, and the clear misunderstanding of those commenters who had obviously not taken the trouble to watch the video before making their observations.


mike said...

Prior to twenty years ago, it may have been easier to comprehend the distinctions between, and of, conservative-liberal ideologies. It's a bit of a jumble now with cross pollination and hybridization of the myriad factors involved in the determination...point-counterpoint.

The political, conservative right has maintained a storefront facade with their ever-increasing, on-target platforms, but then there is the middle, left, and far left (maybe a radical left, too)...each with various shared and not shared attributes...like the circles that overlap each other with commonality, yet have areas of separation.

The areas that Paul Haggis addresses are the extent of one's beliefs and how conscious is that individual of their beliefs' borders and boundaries. I think this is true for everyone regardless of beliefs. Sadly, self-image and-or public persona is cheap and it's very easy to present oneself as representing one thing, yet acting upon it in a completely different manner. All humans do this in some fashion...all of us have personal bias. Some of us are simply naive in our self-perceptions until tested or criticized as hypocritical, as Haggis points-out...other self-aspects are closely guarded and known only to confidants or are maintained as secrets.

We humans are weirdos. I'd rather error on the left of things and exhibit some sort of civility and compassion, even if I will have to constantly re-evaluate my position. Better to error on the margin of benefit rather than constriction and malfeasance...LOL.

mike (again) said...

P.S. - I didn't see the movie "Crash", so I can't comment on it.

Perhaps Haggis was exploring degrees of tolerance in that movie. The further one is from conservative right, more tolerance is displayed. Being tolerant does not have to mean believing something is correct, it simply means being able to accept a situation. Being tolerant is the "right thing" to do, whether my values support it or not.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thanks - yes, I broadly agree with you.

For me The term 'conservative' is fairly clear in its wider political meaning, even acknowledging existence of segments within it eg: Tea Party, Libertarians.

'Liberal' as a political term has always seemed foggy and woolly to me, even back in Britain, where a once thriving Liberal Party became a woolly also-ran, then disappeared, making way for what was once upon a time, pre-Blair, the true left, the Labour Party.

I never understood what Liberal Party stood for, though their members were usually inoffensive, sometimes even charming, but quite ineffective.

Here in the USA, most people appear to look on liberals as left-wing.
I guess that's because there is no left wing, so somebody has to take up the slack.

The liberal types Paul Haggis is getting at are a set of self-satisfied establishment Democrats, as well as celeb. or minor-celeb liberals who have never seen anything lefter than Hillary Clinton, and think Dennis Kucinich is an idiot. Haggis gets at them via their achilles heels.

I actually didn't get any outright political feel from "Crash", at the time of seeing the film, other than it being a very clear anti-racist message. Now that I've been directed to see it in the way Haggis mentioned, thinking back on it yes, it was there, for anyone watching for that aspect of it.

What tickled me about this whole thing was that commenters immediately thought Haggis simply had to be conservative in order to give a liberal a poke in the eye, because they are so unused to anyone BUT conservatives doing so. Even Bill Maher, supposedly left of left, doesn't do it (at least hardly ever), but then he's one o' those limousine liberals himself.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Not exactly that. Haggis was showing how overtly liberal people, when under certain pressures, can become as racist as the worst imaginable bigot. You more or less explained it in your original comment I think.
It's easy to be anti- whatever until push comes to shove - a crisis of sorts - then true colours, and the depth or shallowness of ones surface "label" sometimes emerges.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I liked the movie a lot.

I also thought it was trying to make the point that, despite what some politically-correct folks might like to believe, anyone (of any ethnicity) is capable of racism, bigotry and/or cruelty. It's what we humans do to one another sometimes.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes that's right, that was another important point made by the film.

An old Kingston Trio song jumped into my mind as I thought about that - "Merry Minuet" - some of its lines

The whole world is festering
With unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans,
The Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs
South Africans hate the Dutch
And I don't like anybody very much...........
They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

R J Adams said...

"...there is a fair land left of liberal...", yes, and it's called 'Socialism'.

Oh my God! What have I said? The sky's just fallen in, the sun's gone out, and it'll rain for forty days and forty nights without ceasing.

Oh no, sorry, that's just climate change.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ Oh heck! I think you get to turn to stone or something now RJ......