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The Conviction of Man

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by NeverAmI, Mar 12, 2010.

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  1. NeverAmI

    NeverAmI Satisclassifaction
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    I found a rather intriguing quote in this book I am reading. I wanted to share it:

    "In Western films the self must above all be silent and self-sufficient, but capable of exploding into brutal murder while maintaining a disarming smile. The Western hero, in fact, provides the best proof that sustaining a convincing self is the basis for enhancing cultural meaning*. With nothing but penatrating eyes, charged silence, and an IQ of 80, why does this character thrill audiences to the core? The Western hero conveys little more - but nothing less - than unshakable conviction that underneath it all there is genuine meaning in man's action."

    Do you agree or disagree, why?




    *I believe when Ernest discusses the murderous man, he doesn't state that the West places significance on murder, but rather on the overwhelming conviction portrayed by the actor, regardless of what acts one commits. The actor focuses on a seemingly infallible sense of self that cannot be suppressed by any entity outside itself.
     
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    #1 NeverAmI, Mar 12, 2010
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2010
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  2. Questingpoet

    Questingpoet Not Afraid to Use His Beard
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    I'd be interested to know who wrote this. Was it a "Westerner"? I think this is a short-sighted statement, written like many things are, to get a loud reaction. While having truth in it, it once again reduces something of a large and complicated nature to a few bits of (on the surface) wise sounding words. For every wisecracking, fly-by-the seat of his pants John McClain (Die Hard), there is a the stoic, deep thinking Maximus (Gladiator) type. To further this example, although in Gladiator he is a man of action and violence, he is also one of great feeling and depth. He is a General out of a deep sense of duty and honor to his country and his emperor. He is a gladiator because he is forced into it, and refuses to die until he can avenge his murdered family and perhaps expose the false emperor--again a strong sense of duty.

    For every example of a shallow hero, I can find his opposite. I don't think it's western culture so much that has failed in finding proper "heroes" to idolize, its the mainstream Hollywood culture that tries to force feed us the same cookie-cutter bullshit over and over. Did we really need a Die Hard three and four?! There are many well rounded heroes in smaller films and novels. I get the sense this person is refering mainly to film and not what is written in our books and novels. Ever read the "Dark Tower" series by Stephen King? A great example of the perfect western hero. He is both a man of action, and a deep thinker. Indeed the only reason he has outlived all his contemporaries is because he has a brutally sharp mind. A rather limited statement on his part unless there is more to it that you haven't posted.
     
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    #2 Questingpoet, Mar 12, 2010
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  3. Norton

    Norton XXXX

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    What do you think the writer means by "cultural meaning?" I don't know.
     
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    NeverAmI

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    It was written by Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning (1971).

    It is only in reference to film and it really doesn't portray the overall context in which the book is written. It isn't trying to depict the West as one way or the other, but simply making an observation. I think it is an isolated depiction of how the west is portrayed by its major box-office movies, not by independent film or literature. It was primarly comparing and contrasting, I think, to the predominantly popular movies overseas. This is also in context to the 70's but I wanted to see if people believe it applies to today's Western culture.
     
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    NeverAmI

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    Yea, I suppose it is not possible to correctly analyze the quote without further context.

    What I have understood by what I have read so far is that he believes we are social creatures and our society reflects the "need" we all have to create a role and fulfill that role in order to give our existince meaning. He infers that human beings are the only creature to apply symbological significance to our own self-worth. So cultural meaning, if I understand correctly is the symbological significance that a culture places on the roles established within it.

    I believe when Ernest discusses the murderous man, he doesn't state we place significance on murder, but rather on the overwhelming conviction portrayed by the actor, regardless of what acts one commits. He focuses on a seemingly infallible sense of self that cannot be suppressed by any entity outside itself. He states that is something that the West is intimately attracted to.

    In the beginning of the book he states that the child understands "me" before "I." This means that the child only first understands oneself in a socially context (me) before understanding oneself as a private/separate entity from everything outside the body (I). Much of this is thought to be caused by the inability to function as a newborn, our need for nourishment which is only achieved by sources outside oneself, then the need to become self-sufficient.

    My paraphrasing really doesn't do it justice though, I don't think.

    With that quote, I think of The Godfather, The Sopranos, Goodfellas, Scarface, Gangsta Rap, etc.
     
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    #5 NeverAmI, Mar 12, 2010
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  6. Questingpoet

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    Now that is an interesting quote J. It makes sense to "me". ;) I follow what you are saying.
     
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  7. Barnabas

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    "unshakable conviction that underneath it all there is genuine meaning in man's action."

    Maybe I'm interpreting this wrong but, to say that western movies tend to put meaning to action isn't false. Though I wouldn't agree that it always has to be violent or murderous.

    Atticus Finch's actions had meaning when he was the only lawyer in a southern town who would defend an accused black man.

    Paul Crew refuses to throw the game at the end of the "longest Yard" knowing that he would spend his life in a prison.

    the list goes on and on, We often make movies about ideals and principles into actions.
     
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  8. Moxie

    Moxie Absent-Minded Professor

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    I like westerns, although I do think that they were an episode of self-discovery in time for the culture of men - who they actually were, to who men were 'supposed to be.'

    To me, men in the Western's were caricatures of how men were supposed to be in earlier decades. Strong, silent, manly, always capable, with gentleness towards women (as long as they were 'good), and the main emotion they were allowed to express was anger. Being as that was the only emotion they expressed, it's unsurprising that rage is what happened instead.

    I'm thinking now that this is still true in our movies today. We have lots of movies with male heroes - and again these male heroes are being painted as role models of a sort, or a description of what Hollywood believes men see themselves as, at their best, or worst. These days our male heroes are smart, inscrutable (whether they are good or bad, no one knows), cunning, but still, often filled with rage. Today's stories are often not about love anymore, unless it's a side affect, or a movie meant for women. They're about action, self above all, and punishing the bad, the good and themselves.

    Interesting quote NAI. :)
     
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  9. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    Even further, there is often to be found the message that it would be shameful and immoral for a man to not be so strongly convinced. Such people are ultimately shown as evil. It seems any form of weakness is evil, by default. Better go blinded by conviction than to admit mistake... The problem is not in the movies though; they are just reflections.
    [​IMG]
    Actually, if we go back in history, we would find similar patterns even in medieval fairy tales. At least when it comes to conviction, crusades, sacrifice etc. We could even argue that the god's image in some belief systems matches the same pattern. It's not new, but it doesn't have to be like that forever.
     
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    #9 enfp can be shy, Mar 12, 2010
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  10. Norton

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    This is interesting. "Me" is an objective pronoun and "I" is subjective pronoun. Grammatically, things happen to objects. Subjects make things happen. Things happen to young children before they make things happen as individuals. "Me" is the object of extrinsic power while "I" effectuates intrinsic power. That is, "I" is the instrument of will. So, yes, I guess it is logical that, in child development, "me" occurs before "I."
     
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  11. Norton

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    The Western Hero is a myth that, because of history and culture, appeals to Americans. Unfortunately, this myth conveys a lot of emotional baggage that has real world consequences. The Western Hero is simplistic, unreal, and overly contrived. Like most myths, he/she never existed. Yet, Americans have bought into this myth completely. In our society, despite its complexity, the individual is paramount, convictions are never compromised, and the community suffers from the residue of this myth. The truth is, people must find their own meaning in life. Yet, for many reasons, many people look to relics of the past for their meaning.

    The typical idea of the lone cowboy or lawman never really existed. Cowboys were generally uneducated farm hands who were relatively small so as not load down their horses. Many lawmen were thugs and murderers hired to protect the interests of the wealthy. This "wild west" period didn't last long, perhaps the 20-25 years that preceded the advent of the transcontinental railroads. It was over quickly, yet the myth persists because it fits the way Americans wish to perceive themselves. It is used to justify "property before people" and partly explains why many Americans are anti-Government without considering how much they actually rely and depend on the benefits of Government. If good people are self-reliant and independent, then people who are poor and dependent are bad. It has always amazed me how, by appealing to such a myth, many politicians are able to convince people to vote against their own best interests.
     
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  12. muir

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    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6X56vWHFGGU"]YouTube- bill on arming the world[/ame]
     
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  13. Flavus Aquila

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    I think that courage and the ability to completely master one's emotions are more fundamental to the Western character.

    Self-assurance is the consequence of knowing that one's fear will not disable one's ability to act as a situation may demand.
    Even the fear caused by the consequences of brutal violence do not restrain the hero from brutality when it is required.
     
  14. enfp can be shy

    enfp can be shy people vs the bad people?
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    Is holistically physiologically impossible. So we get bursts of uncontrollable anger, as a result of long periods of seemingly mastered emotion. However, our culture is not based on holistic analysis, but rather on who laughs "last", even though nobody is last, except in the fairy tales, with beginning and end. In other words, the hero status really is a deceptive trick, as the OP describes it.

    And courage is usually just the strong desire to defeat those, who are supposedly the "bad" guys in the fairy tale.
     
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    #14 enfp can be shy, Mar 13, 2010
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  15. Flavus Aquila

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    Its impossiblity (or improbability) in reality is what makes the fiction mesmerising.
     
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  16. muir

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    I think the overly simplistic morality of the western has had a damaging effect on the collective mindset of northern americans

    The good guy wearing the white hat, the bad guy wearing the black hat

    The bad guy wrongs the good guy and the good guy stands upto him...its all so clear cut and straight forward. It is very easy for the public to then assume that their country, which creates these moral parables is always the guy wearing the white hat and in fact when they go to war, all they are doing is standing upto the bad guy.

    Bush junior even behaves like a gunfighter...the hands by the side, ready to draw, the power walk, the squinty gun fighter eyes...the texan gunslinger, ready to take on evil around the world (but is he wearing a white hat, or black hat or does his hat have shades of both?)

    Film has been used as a powerful propoganda tool since it was first created. 'The Birth of a Nation' shows the KKK as the good guys attacking some black men to Wagners 'The ride of the Valkyries'.....a moral ambiguity used to great effect by Coppolla in his 'Apocolypse Now' when the helecopters blow the crap out of a vietnamese village, failing to differentiate between combatants, women and children. Its worth bearing in mind that when 'The Birth of a Nation' was released in 1912 it was very popular.

    DON'T TRUST HOLLYWOOD is i think the lesson to be learned from that one

    The irony of John McClane blowing the crap out of 'terrorists' in the die hard films is not lost on people outside the USA as many people around the world view the US as the biggest terrorist in the world
     
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    #16 muir, Mar 13, 2010
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