Today is


   "A word to the wise ain't necessary --  
          it's the stupid ones that need the advice."
					-Bill Cosby

Saturday, February 05, 2005


"My duty is to my heart" . . .

I just watched Mulan II (I have two young girls), and -- I kid you not -- "my duty is to my heart" appears to be the explicit message of the film (as it was in the Princess Diaries II). In the immortal words of Ryan O'Neal at the end of What's Up, Doc? -- that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If you want a succinct and hilarious refutation of the idiotic notion that one's duty is to one's heart, watch the "Be Like the Boy" episode of The Simpsons.

Duty is a category which is by definition separate from "heart." It represents all those things -- family, tradition, state, law -- which have a claim on us that transcends personal affection and selfish desire. For goodness' sake, what does our generation make of Antigone? ("Antigone? Huh?" -- never mind.)

At the end of Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence (and in the finale of Martin Scorcese's film adaptation), the story's protagonist, Newland Archer, watches from a bench as his grown son enters the home of the woman whose love Archer had renounced years before for the sake of his family. Is Archer a sad figure or a tragic figure? Is he simply a pathetic man who has "missed out" on the love of his life? Or is he a man who has sacrificed his great love -- a love which, however grand, is ultimately only personal -- to the demands of duty and who has lived to see his sacrifice become quaint in the eyes of the younger generation? I suppose he is, in a way, both men; he is a tragic figure poised on the brink of a brave new world which looks back at him and says, "How sad, dude -- don't you know your duty is to your heart?"

49 Comments:

Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Jeez, Kate Marie. If you eliminate "my duty is to my heart" you take away all the guilt eliminating justification for dumping one's spouse and kids for some new honey bunny. Duty? Heck, who wants to feel BAD when causing others such pain and misery while pursuing the dude/babe du jour of one's heart? (Oops, parden my French.)

February 05, 2005 11:32 AM  
Blogger Wonderdog said...

Great post, Kate. As a father of a 20 month old son, I've watched Mulan too many times to count (have yet to see Mulan II). I actually like the movie very much and it's one that I can at least still stomach after dozens of viewings. However, I've always had difficulty with a particular scene in which Mulan's father is commissioned to fight for China to defeat the invading Huns. The exchange goes something like this:

Mulan: You shouldn't have to fight! There are plenty of young men to fight for China.

Father: It's an honor to protect my country and my family.

Mulan: So you'll die for honor!!??

Father: I will die doing what's right!

...To which Mulan runs off in a huff. While I'm sure the intent of the movie makers is for us to side with Mulan in this exchange, I'm always on the father's side. "Impudent brat", I often think.

February 05, 2005 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bart's inner child" is the episode you are refering to. I just got the fifth season box set, and so far that is the only episode I watched off of it :)

February 08, 2005 6:02 AM  
Blogger Grumpy Old Man said...

Duty to something other, maybe even higher than oneself. Hmmm.

What a concept, in an age of individualism!

My mother's ghost nods sagely. Well said.

February 08, 2005 6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kid's films are often pretty creepy if you bother to pay attention to the ideas being promoted - it's like they've been written by people who'd read 'Brave New World' as a self-help manual.

But this isn't a new phenomena. My generation had "Free To Be You and ME" - probably the grand daddy of the Absolute Narcissism school of social therapy.

February 08, 2005 6:40 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

I've 3 little girls so we've watched Mulan 2 at least a dozen times at this point. However, I found it interesting that they quickly lost interest in it after the first initial onslaught (Again Daddy!). My 8 year old said it was sad because the girls didn't do what they promised. Guess we are doing alright raising them despite the Disney indoctrination.

February 08, 2005 6:46 AM  
Blogger Jeff the Baptist said...

Yup. Ever watch Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron? The moral is White Men are Evil.

February 08, 2005 6:56 AM  
Blogger Roger S. Mitchell said...

You make an interesting point about Archer Newland at the end of Age of Innocence. I'm reminded of a detail from that final chapter:

"As Archer listened [to his young adult son], his sense of inadequacy and inexpressiveness increased. The boy was not insensitive, he knew; but he had the facility and self-confidence that came of looking at fate not as a master but as an equal. 'That’s it: they feel equal to things—they know their way about,' he mused, thinking of his son as the spokesman of the new generation which had swept away all the old landmarks, and with them the sign-posts and the danger-signal."

I suspect that is still true. It is not merely the supposition that "your duty is to your heart" but the notion that in pledging allegiance to "your heart" you become fate's equal, a fabulation that is much easier to maintain when there are no danger signals around to warn the impetuous.

February 08, 2005 7:13 AM  
Blogger Wacky Hermit said...

Yeah, I didn't like "Spirit" much either. When the horse valiantly breaks free and destroys that train, all I could think of was "yeah, he wants to be free, but what gives him the right to endanger people's lives? He's a HORSE, for crying out loud."

There was another one, I forget the name but it was something like "The REAL Story of Jack And The Beanstalk" whose message was "Evil corporations want to rape the environment!"

I usually take the opportunity to discuss these points of view with my kids and make sure they understand there is another side to the story. I don't mind them hearing viewpoints I don't agree with, but I definitely want to make sure they hear the other side as well. I tell them what I think and why I think I'm right, and I tell them that like anyone else I hope they agree with me; but then I tell them they will have to decide for themselves what to think, and that they will not be disowned just for disagreeing. It works pretty well.

February 08, 2005 7:20 AM  
Blogger The Searcher said...

Thank you for recognizing the Disney Philosophy for what it is: selfishness. I'm actually quite disillusioned with Disney, because they're not generally just out to tell a story for entertainment, they're out to espouse a philosophy. They're almost out to indoctrinate. I haven't seen the movie, but I recognize similar themes in other movies.

Saying you have a duty to yourself is a rationalization of selfcenteredness not some virtue to aim for.

February 08, 2005 7:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try this:


1)Approach the television carefully.

2)Reach behind the television and carefully unplug the t.v. cord.

3)Pick up the t.v. (use your legs, not your back, sweeheart) and make your way to the front door.

4)Set the t.v. down carefully.

5)Repeat step three

6)Walk out to the nearest dumpster.

7)Pitch the t.v. into the dumpster. (careful not to throw your back out now.)

See wasn't that easy.

February 08, 2005 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most dispiriting aspect of this ( 30+ yr ) trend in promoting self-love as THE primary moral ambition is that such a perspective derives from the assumption that nothing beyond self gratification is worthy of a moral a/o ethical commitment. It derives from a belief that reason is futile, that human behavior convenes on dark psychic and social forces beyond our control. The advocates of such thinking do not believe that self-absorption will lead to a more profound moral basis for interacting with the world, but that there is no justification for a moral basis - nothing is true, or good, self sacrifice is a form of oppression, love is a form of personal therapy. They are seeking to anesthetize children, not liberate them.

February 08, 2005 7:54 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

The Notebook is coming out on DVD and ads for it are on TV every night around here. I read the book years back and thought it was pretty sappy stuff a la Love Story - which actually relates to this topic too. A line in the ad for The Notebook: "This isn't about keeping your promises - it's about following your heart!" [shudder] What are promises good for, then?!

And of course the immortal "Love means never having to say you're sorry" from Love Story - more destructive nonsense in the name of "love." (Full disclosure: I first read a discussion of the grossness of the L.S. line in an old Harlan Ellison book.)

But I liked Mulan.

February 08, 2005 8:01 AM  
Blogger tim said...

How happily surprised I was to read this post today! We were watching Mulan II this weekend with the eight-year-old daughter, and I perked up as soon as I heard that line, "My duty is to my heart." I turned to C- incredulously and asked, "Is that the lesson of this movie?! I can't believe it!" She immediately noticed it and agreed. And gave the daughter a quick lesson in what duty truly means, in a religious sense and otherwise.

There is a partly-redeeming scene later in the movie, when Mulan decides to make a sacrifice of her own happiness. There's an easy way out, in the end, of course, but it was good to see a partial refutation of the movie's explicitly-stated lesson.

I might blog on this later, at Hypotheses Non Fingo.

February 08, 2005 8:23 AM  
Blogger Malaclypse the Tertiary said...

As an unrepentant marketplace-of-ideas type of libertarian, I must say that I may require surgery to roll my eyes back to a forward-facing position after imbibing what I can only call myopic sanctimonious dogmatism that emanates from the right. I want to ask the collected traditionalists present in this discussion why they seem to have such difficulty holding opposing positions in their heads simultaneously. One need not jettison the entire edifice of honor and duty in order to recognize that honor and duty are evolutionary in nature. I am unwilling to swallow (and I think even a cursory look at the archeological record in this respect will refute) the notion that human notions of morality and ethics were ‘poofed’ into existence fully formed – although I know all y’all biblical literalists would probably disagree with that point. If that premise is accepted, it seems clear that the only way in which our collective notions of morality and ethics can be improved over time is through the imposition of some challenge – a challenge that derives it’s authority from something indeed transcendental. By what mechanism did the moral odium of, for example, slavery pierce the armor of tradition but heart?

I think “duty to the heart” a fine nomenclature to describe the discipline of recognizing those moments in which tradition is on the wrong side of history.

February 08, 2005 8:46 AM  
Blogger Nate West said...

Being a proponent of individual rights, I tend to disagree with both views of this. First off - it is a requirement of the individual NOT to succumb to their various whims (of their so-called "heart"), but to make decisions that are based on reason. And to make a claim on someone because of a "long standing tradition" without any reason to back it up is just as horrible.

"It represents all those things -- family, tradition, state, law -- which have a claim on us that transcends personal affection and selfish desire"

Tradition has no moral claim on an individual, even if it is proven rationally that the tradition has a positive and valid reason for the individual to engage in it. The individual may freely choose to follow it because it makes good sense, or ignore it if it does not.

The state has no moral claim on an individual. People create a state to protect their pre-existing rights, not to give them rights.

The family that one is born into has only a small moral claim on the individual. Because one does not choose the family that one is born into, one must make the best of what they have, until such time the individual is able to either leave the family and create their own (which will have a moral claim to the individual, as they created the family, and engaged in at least an implicit contract).

The law has a claim on the individual only in actions that will harm others. Protection from force & fraud is the job of the law.

One's "heart" has no moral claim to an individual either - because though one can be physically attracted to someone else, we have our mind which allows us to make choices and rational decisions. We are not animals following the whims of our hormones.

February 08, 2005 9:26 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You've hit the bull's eye here. I haven't seen Mulan II, but what you describe as the central message is also the main theme of the first Mulan film. In fact, the message in one way or another of most recent Disney cartoons seems to be, "Don't pay any attention to what your family says, what society says, what your religious tradition says, just follow your heart." Why is this so? I don't know, but I do know that those who reject the wisdom of those who have gone before are much more apt to seek life's meaning in the things they can buy.

February 08, 2005 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hollywood's plots usually have quit retarded views of love and relationships. They usually run around the sheer hormonal qualities of love conquering all. I've always been disturbed by the plots of "Pretty Woman" (rich man buys prostitute - she shops with his money and has gratitude sex with him) "Sleepless in Seattle" - woman dumps fiance for a mystery man after hearing him talk on the radio for an hour. The cliche of the mad dash to the airport to keep a lover from leaving- I guess the increased heart rate solves the serious problems that lead to the flight.

In the book "The Gift of Fear" Hollywood is described as destroying the idea of stalking- if you think about it about half the love stories involve some pretty creepy variations of stalking- portrayed as being "Romantic". The author describes jury after jury think that real world stalking is OK.

We can all say that people who follow Hollywood's lead are dumb- but it is part of culture and kids are being pickled in this stuff 2-6 hours a day. Some of it is going to sink in. Parents just have to stress the fact that your first teenage boyfriend/girlfriend WILL dump you- but that your family will always be there.

February 08, 2005 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, a nice antithesis (I think) to many of these movies are the Star Wars films. Nice good vs. evil thing, nothing about "using your heart" as it pertains to thinking only of your own happiness. And, compared to most filmed entertainment these days I was shocked at how little violence there really is.

Additionally, from what I understand, Darth Vader becomes who he is because of his selfishness and desire to hold onto things and people.

Kinda interesting.

February 08, 2005 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The theme of following one's heart in opposition to duty or tradition is hardly a new concept. While certainly the Bard cannot match Disney for mindless simplicity, I would suggest that this is a central theme to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Bleat about the inappropriateness of the theme all you like but please don't pretend it's a Disney / Hollywood invention by selectively bringing up classic literature.

February 08, 2005 10:17 AM  
Blogger Roland said...

Anonymous - what's being taken to task here is not the simple presence of the theme in the movie, but that it is lionized. The truth is that most children's entertainment teaches "follow your heart" as a true path for life. Note that Romeo and Juliet both die horrible deaths, and everyone in the play is left the poorer for their folly.

February 08, 2005 11:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the idea that "My duty is to my heart" was a central theme of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet... that's true, but it should be pointed out that R&J was a tragedy that resulted in the deaths of both heart-followers....

-TS

February 08, 2005 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I know my 5 yr old will want to rent it... but I don't automatically equate disney with evil the way some do. Nor do I trust them to teach my children all they need to know. Following Laws and Traditions ultimately removes the decision making process from the individual. The idea is that the individual sometimes doesn't play well with other individuals. In order to Standardize the way individuals trat each other there are laws. On the other hand the individual still must ultimately answer to themselves. Is the Law correct? This is the balance that must be struck in order to live in a society and within yourself. TO cast away the rule of the heart is a ludicrous as to say traditions have no value. Either they work together, or the lessons once learned, will be painfully learned again. In short things are seldom as black and white as people wish. Guiding a child to learn that lesson, is difficult. They may never even seem to know until later, when they take up your own sword and make their own decisions.

February 08, 2005 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I avoided the Spirit movie after seeing a theatrical trailer. Ditto Pocahontas and Brother Bear. Mulan is a movie I enjoy watching, although has that schizoid Disney quality of attempting to simultaneously be a serious drama and a wacky comedy. Personally I think it's Jerry Goldsmith's score that lends most of the gravitas.

I happen to like Powerpuff Girls, too, although I don't notice anything glaringly sexist in it the way some other commenters here seem to. The "men" in that show are all freaks -- the Red Guy, Him, Mojo Jojo. The Professor (the girls' dad) is a fairly normal guy, if a bit stuffy. But an idiot he's definitely not.

Anyway, for sheer Disney weirdness, there's one movie that often gets overlooked in rants about political correctness: The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

My main complaint about this movie is that Quasimodo should have died at the end, the way he did in the book, and Frollo should have been pushed, rather than falling accidentally into the molten lava. :)

But think about it. This movie's core message is about sexual obsession and genocide. Frollo isn't evil because he wants to cut down trees or fence in horses. He's evil because he wants to sexually dominate Esemerelda and murder every gypsy he can find, just because they're gypsies.

In his defense, the gypsies portrayed in the movie DO seem to be mostly thieves and con men. But the blanket assumption of guilt by association is Frollo's error. It's a worthy message.

February 08, 2005 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Lucasta: Going to the Warres

Tell me not (Sweet) I am unkinde
That from the Nunnerie
Of thy chaste breast, and quiet minde,
To Warre and Armes I flie.

True; a new Mistresse now I chase,
The first Foe in the Field;
And with a stronger Faith imbrace
A Sword, a Horse, a Shield.

Yet this Inconstancy is such,
As you too shall adore;
I could not love thee (Deare) so much,
Lov’d I not Honour more.

Richard Lovelace

February 08, 2005 12:32 PM  
Blogger Roger S. Mitchell said...

Regarding Malaclypse's rejoinder about "myopic sanctimonious dogmatism" (MSD), it would be hard to think of a better definition of MSD than the act of reflexively dismissing a string of discussion replete with literary allusion and quotation as mere MSD and then coupling that with a gratuitous sneer of regional and religious bigotry (the implication all people holding this view must be southern fundamentalists who say "y'all"). As a nonbeliever and a non-"y'all" sayer, I represent a problem for this hypothesis.

Malaclypse goes on to offer another hypothesis: "...it seems clear that the only way in which our collective notions of morality and ethics can be improved over time is through the imposition of some challenge – a challenge that derives it’s authority from something indeed transcendental. By what mechanism did the moral odium of, for example, slavery pierce the armor of tradition but heart?"

Wrong answer. However heartfelt and transformative the opposition to slavery was, the main arguments were grounded in political traditions, not "trascendental" heart-following. For example, take Lincoln's Cooper Union Address: "Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories? Upon this, Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and denial form an issue; and this issue - this question - is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood "better than we.""
(Complete text here: http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/cooper.htm)

Ah, and there was a question: "I want to ask the collected traditionalists present in this discussion why they seem to have such difficulty holding opposing positions in their heads simultaneously. One need not jettison the entire edifice of honor and duty in order to recognize that honor and duty are evolutionary in nature. I am unwilling to swallow (and I think even a cursory look at the archeological record in this respect will refute) the notion that human notions of morality and ethics were ‘poofed’ into existence fully formed..."

I'm not sure what opposing position Malaclypse has in mind, as I see none here. Typically, conservatives argue that traditions represent the accretion of transgenerational wisdom about human affairs -- in other words, they should not be dismissed hastily precisely because they are evolutionary and any proposed innovation is not likely to appear fully formed and may cause more harm than good. (It is true, however, that throughout history, the reformers have often been right and the recalcitrants wrong. This is not an argument on behalf of conservatism per se.)


Finally, Malaclypse says "I think “duty to the heart” a fine nomenclature to describe the discipline of recognizing those moments in which tradition is on the wrong side of history." One might call "duty to the heart" a lot of things, but "discipline" could hardly be one of them, as it admits of nothing but impulse and passion, the antithesis of discipline.

The objection is not to the powers of the "heart," which may be considerable (one needs only look to the etymology of "courage" for a clue), but rather to the notion that the heart is the only reliable guide to truth, propriety, righteousness, and so forth and that any motive originating in the "heart" is thus justified. Parsed, "heart" seems to mean nothing more in this context than "urge," the heeding of which isn't exactly transcendental.

February 08, 2005 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have two young girls, and we don't watch TV with them at all. I think your post has been well pilloried elsewhere, but I'd like to throw in my two cents. Not every thing your child sees should have a didactic message. And not every message your child should receive should be pro-state--and duty, the kind you are all praising in the first MULAN, was duty to the family and to the state as defined by confucianism. If you were living, as I am living, in the second of two terms of a politician you despised, watching your cherished liberties, your constitution, your military, and your american way of life pissed away in the name of honor, duty, and halliburton profits, you'd be less quick to assume that the duty to elders and to the state was the supreme duty. In fact, that is (one) of the lessons of antigone--that the state can demand a duty of the individual that the individual is obligated to refuse. Of course, when republicans were living under democratic rule, they were quick to attack the very idea of duty to country (remember clinton being threatened if he went "down south" by a sitting senator? I do. Remember the endless parade of complaints about Kosovo by republican blow hards who felt that the state shouldn't be using our troops? I do. When the state doesn't reflect your values, or shore up your social status, you will be the first to demand movies that encourage your child to act as an individual first, and a subject last.

I suppose its all of a piece with your soviet stalinist realism approach to history and to pop culture that if the story can't serve a clear propagandistic purpose for the current political hiearchy it should be thrown out. But your posters seem to be just as dopey. The point of MULAN's saying that she doesn't think her father should have to fight in the first movie is that because he is old his fighting is not effective--he will die (and all that he has to offer society will die) uselessly. The fact that she is willing to go to war in his stead is certainly not an example of her "following her heart" for fun (oh, that slippery slope to free wheeling sex and disrespecting the ancestors or whatever else you are worrying about) its precisely because she priveleges her filial duty to her family over her gender and takes on the boy's role her family would deny her.

that says nothign about the second movie, which I'm not interested in. And I'm not interested in defending hollywood morality, or disney. I've kept my daughter's pretty much free of all that because I dislike the endless parade of materialism, egocentrism, and jingoism which I, of course, associate with republican family values. but I don't blog about it.

February 08, 2005 2:22 PM  
Blogger Wonderdog said...

Anonymous, you make a few interesting points, but lets try a fun game. Here's how you play. Next time you try to express your dismay with conservatism or Republicans, try really really hard to not use the word "Halliburton". It's a really fun game cuz you'll laugh so hard and get so frustrated when the word slips out!

"Halliburton, Doh! Argh! I did it again!"

February 08, 2005 2:48 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

Kate Marie, a "Soviet Stalinist"?
I'm just going to sit back and wait for her reply on that. I don't think Stalin ever had a worse enemy than KM.
Interesting post though. .flogging "republican family values" while espousing them with the no TV doctrine.
My old propaganda teachers from high school and college would also laud this post. . managed to work in just about every one of the major techinques. . glittering generalities, card stacking, the big lie, name calling, etc.

February 08, 2005 3:26 PM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

What's wrong with being a Southerner, y'all? We're not all fundamentalists, but I've nothing against them. And I've yet to see anyone thump a Bible. But, I digress. Here's opposing positions I can keep in my heads simultaneously: I believe in the Bible, creation, AND evolution. Ha!

February 08, 2005 3:42 PM  
Blogger Malaclypse the Tertiary said...

Mr. Mitchell elocutes cleverly if counterfactually, (and I’m editing for brevity):

”Regarding Malaclypse’s rejoinder … I represent a problem for this hypothesis.”I was amused by Mr. Mitchell’s wit in what has become almost a reflexive antiphon in such discussions, but I hope to prevail upon his good humor that he might accept my protestation that I had no such intent. You see, I am taken (and my peers will attest to this) to the common employ of the word “y’all” – I really dig this country and I have grown over the years to have a not-insignificant fondness for the south and its idioms, though I myself live in the middle of the country. As for biblical-literalists, I had just had a rather lengthy phone conversation with my Calvinist Pastor/Uncle with whom I always have a rather spirited discussion – I was thinking of him when I made the comment and in making it, I was acknowledging that I was avoiding discussion of that line of argumentation. I feel a bit like Lawrence Summers here: I’m sorry if I offended any Southerners or Christians, but in point of fact, I sometimes say, “y’all” and I don’t think I mischaracterized what many (most?) fundamentalist protestant Christian apologists would argue in my reputed rejoinder. Fortunately, Mr. Mitchell didn’t erroneously imply that I am a bigot, oh wait...

Incidentally, I was, I realize in retrospect, addressing my comments as much to what I intuited (rightly or wrongly) to be more than just a wee bit of big-O Objectivism floating ‘round here.


Re: ” Typically, conservatives argue that traditions represent the accretion of transgenerational wisdom about human affairs -- in other words, they should not be dismissed hastily precisely because they are evolutionary and any proposed innovation is not likely to appear fully formed and may cause more harm than good. (It is true, however, that throughout history, the reformers have often been right and the recalcitrants wrong. This is not an argument on behalf of conservatism per se.)”While I’m relatively positive our conception of ‘traditionalist conservatism’ are similar enough based upon the above that I can respond intelligently, I will seek to clarify both my position and my conception of your (or insert ‘traditionalist conservative’) position with an anecdote from some hypothetical speciation event:

A population of a particular species is geographically isolated. Due to some hypothetical mutagen, all offspring from the entire population manifest a speciation-level mutation. This mutation fails, all offspring die, all progenitors die, bloodline dies. Complete failure.I contend that with respect to the evolution of political realities, the role of the conservative is to create and maintain pragmatic orthodoxy; keeping the bloodline alive and functioning well. I see no scenario, however, under which even the most humble social innovation realized by ancestors of ours whose distance is measured in hundreds of thousands of years would be possible without the progenitors of mutation: the innovators. The religiously impetuous – a cast of whom are comprised, I will admit, by a great many who are simply entropic, but some fewer bring real and valuable novelty. Orthodoxy is the systemization of this novelty, but you don’t get one without the other. I must go on to suggest that it seems to me that the evolutionary orientation of society, if this relationship between conservator and innovator achieves some stable orbit around equilibrium, is the slow accretion – as Mr. Mitchell aptly puts it – of what amounts to an amelioration toward innovation. I mean, come on, the real diametric of conservatism is not liberalism – liberals are just folks who’ve idealized the locution of logic (central planning indeed – pfft!) – no, the real diametric is novelty itself.

Anyway, Jim Kalb gives a pretty good delineation of the difference between libertarianism and traditionalism on page 2 of this interview at 2blowhards. I, perhaps knavishly, count myself among the innovators by what seems to me to be neurological architecture, and as such, I embrace the notion that what all this accreting is getting on about is ultimately an underlying social (rational) foundation that is so much the better for all this accreting that it becomes slowly and incrementally, but fundamentally more capable of sustaining those innovators at the margin without heaping so damn much sanctimony upon them.


I apologize for the digression - back to Mr. Mitchell, and to the point of the perspicacious Ms. Marie’s post, rather than slog through the venerable Cooper Union Address, and with the recognition that I have indulged my propensity to prattle on perhaps too much already, I’ll just address this bit: ”I'm not sure what opposing position Malaclypse has in mind, as I see none here.” in response to my ”One need not jettison the entire edifice of honor and duty in order to recognize that honor and duty are evolutionary in nature.”I was too terse – the opposing position is that tradition alone is sufficient to meet the ongoing needs and aspirations of humanity and that to oppose tradition is tantamount to ‘jettison[ing] the entire edifice of honor and duty’. My reference to ‘poofed fully formed’ was to suggest that tradition did not ultimately originate from some perfect source and therefore requires reform – so to me the question is: through what human faculty comes innovation? In the most ubiquitous vernacular, the best (however clumsy) nominate I can adduce is “heart.” I can wax prolix on what I believe to be the nature of the creative process – something I do for a living – but I can tell you is that there is something which has obtained amongst the majority of those that know, something real and yet immeasurable which separates, say, Shakespeare from doggerel. We may be able to point to the mechanics of his execution, but what is missed in this analysis is the courage required to give birth to work of such significant novelty.

I return to what I felt was a rather succinct solicitude – and significant that I eschewed the more base “Slave to the Heart” – if I do say so myself, invoking “the discipline of recognizing those moments in which tradition is on the wrong side of history.” I use ‘discipline’ as a distinction to mere limbic reaction – I mean the discernment to recognize those moments in which it becomes necessary to hold an unpopular view and the courage to do so.

February 09, 2005 8:35 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

I was gone all day yesterday -- attending to motherly DUTIES. I missed our first, and perhaps only, Instalanche. Thanks to all who commented here.

Roger Mitchell, you're a man after my own heart (pun intended).

I'll respond to others as I have time.

First --

"Not every thing your child sees should have a didactic message. And not every message your child should receive should be pro-state--and duty, the kind you are all praising in the first MULAN, was duty to the family and to the state as defined by confucianism."

-- Please point me to that section of my post which suggests that everything my child sees should have a didactic, pro-state, message. In fact, sometimes the "no message" kind of entertainment is far superior to the "didactic message" kind of entertainment that Mulan II represents. The "didactic messages" my children are inundated with when they watch "family films" seems to be of the "follow your heart" variety. Forgive me for thinking they've had enough of this insipid mantra and could do with a more nuanced presentation of the conflict between duty and personal desire. As for the confucianism in Mulan -- so what?

"If you were living, as I am living, in the second of two terms of a politician you despised, watching your cherished liberties, your constitution, your military, and your american way of life pissed away in the name of honor, duty, and halliburton profits, you'd be less quick to assume that the duty to elders and to the state was the supreme duty."

Wow, you must be moments away from being carted off to the gulag. Aren't you worried that I'll send your double-plus-ungood characterization of the Dear Leader to the proper authorities and that they, with their penchant for "pissing away" cherished liberties, will come and drag you off to Room 101? I mean, come on, you'd better be more careful, considering the police state that America has become.

"In fact, that is (one) of the lessons of antigone--that the state can demand a duty of the individual that the individual is obligated to refuse."

-- That's true, as far as it goes. You forgot to mention, however, that Antigone is "obligated to refuse" the duty demanded by the state because the claims of A COMPETING DUTY. It's not a "my duty is to my heart" kind of deal; otherwise, she could have just given in to the state and gotten the boy.

"Of course, when republicans were living under democratic rule, they were quick to attack the very idea of duty to country (remember clinton being threatened if he went "down south" by a sitting senator? I do. Remember the endless parade of complaints about Kosovo by republican blow hards who felt that the state shouldn't be using our troops? I do. When the state doesn't reflect your values, or shore up your social status, you will be the first to demand movies that encourage your child to act as an individual first, and a subject last."

-- That's all very, ummm . . . impassioned rhetoric, but I'm not sure what it has to do with this discussion (are you accustomed to making such broad assumptions about your interlocutors based on their movie reviews?). The state often doesn't reflect my values, and I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "shoring up my social status," but I'm fairly sure it doesn't do that either, and I conted that teaching my children the value of individualism is not mutually incompatible with teaching them the value of duty and the importance of being guided by principles other than personal desire.

"I suppose its all of a piece with your soviet stalinist realism approach to history and to pop culture that if the story can't serve a clear propagandistic purpose for the current political hiearchy it should be thrown out."

This is a nice example of the "open skull, remove brain, insert slogans" kind of thinking that so many on the hard left seem to be engaging in these days. (Am I painting with a broad brush? Well, just chalk it up to my "soviet stalinist [sic] realism" approach to history). I hate to refer you to anything so mundane as the text of what I wrote, but you might want to, actually, you know, . . . READ it. Where, exactly, does my post advocate censorship? Where does it indicate my desire to serve the "propagandistic purposes" of the "current political hierarchy?" Your knee-jerk conflation of criticism (which is, after all, a function of those liberties you cherish) with censorship seems almost pathological, since it has driven you altogether to ignore what I actually wrote.

My post made no mention of the original Mulan, and I feel no need to comment on it.

"that says nothign about the second movie, which I'm not interested in. And I'm not interested in defending hollywood morality, or disney. I've kept my daughter's pretty much free of all that because I dislike the endless parade of materialism, egocentrism, and jingoism which I, of course, associate with republican family values. but I don't blog about it."

-- Since my post was about the SECOND movie, I shudder to think how long your comments might be when they refer to subjects you ARE interested in. And I'm not sure what your assertion that you "don't blog" about the "endless parade of materialism, etc." amounts to? Is it a boast about your admirable reticence and restraint? If so, it would be more effective if you hadn't just spent three long-winded paragraphs conjuring straw men out of thin air. Is it a tacit suggestion that I shut up? If so, it's unfortunately what I've come to associate with leftist-Democrat values. And I DO blog about it.

February 09, 2005 12:34 PM  
Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Your knee-jerk conflation of criticism ... with censorship seems almost pathological, since it has driven you altogether to ignore what I actually wrote.

Now wait just a cotton pickin' minute. Criticism = censorship? I thought during the recent election the left made it clear that criticism = patriotism (you know, when they kept accusing the right of questioning their patriotism). I'm confused...

February 10, 2005 10:25 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Exactly, C.I.V. -- you've hit on an unwritten law of the Michael Mooreon Hollywood Leftist Manifesto: when Michael Moore "criticizes," he is being patriotic; when conservatives criticize, they are calling for censorship, the crushing of dissent, and the shredding of the Constitution in John Ashcroft's, or, er, Alberto Gonzales's AmeriKKKa.

February 10, 2005 1:20 PM  
Blogger cestsim1 said...

I wrote a long reply about how my heart and my duty are completely intertwined (and, also almost completely shaped by my parents who believed in honor, loyalty, integrity, respecting one's elders, tolerance, etc. - just good liberal - hey even church-going people).....
Then I realized how useless it is. You all just spout the talking points almost word for word you have been given which I have heard from every right-wing newscaster. But, I know it is hard to disagree, go against the tide, much easier to do the group think thing....especially when you are being flattered into it: you are smarter and more moral --- you are better.

It's the way all advertising works, btw. Congrats for thinking you get the hidden message and just being marketing suckers. (Read a little Frank Luntz....he is shaping your beliefs so you might as well know his feelings on telling the people what they want to hear with the truth being optional)

February 11, 2005 2:01 AM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

Dear Malaclypse,

I don't mean to slight your arguments by being relatively brief in response to your (self-confessed) prolixity, but it seems your argument requires the acceptance of YOUR definition of "heart," as, roughly, "the courage to innovate." That definition, in my opinion, applies very little to Mulan II (though it does apply to the first Mulan). The definition I am proposing is "personal want or desire." The great religious, moral, and political innovators are guided by principles other than personal desire, and thus they have as much a sense of the conflict between what one wants to do and what one ought to do as any "traditionalist."

I would translate "my duty is to my heart" as "I do what I feel" (a la the Simpsons episode I mentioned). That's a recipe for regression, not innovation.

As a side note, I find it interesting that at least two recent films aimed at young girls offer the problem of the arranged marriage as a trope for the distinction between duty and "heart." Why stack the deck in favor of "heart" (or romantic love) by opposing it with a tradition that was "innovated away" -- in the West, at least -- hundreds of years ago? Why do these filmmakers seem to feel that some sort of didactic, "girl-empowering" message is required? And why do they insist on providing such a trite conflict and facile resolution? What it boils down to, for me, is this: if they want to explore these issues, they needn't be so dumb about it ("Whale Rider" is a fine counter example).

February 11, 2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger Kate Marie said...

"I wrote a long reply about how my heart and my duty are completely intertwined (and, also almost completely shaped by my parents who believed in honor, loyalty, integrity, respecting one's elders, tolerance, etc. - just good liberal - hey even church-going people)....."

-- Wait a minute. Do you dare to suggest that it's good to shape a child's character such that they love honor, loyalty, integrity, etc.? Did your parents think -- gasp! -- that they were "more moral" than everybody else? Or is it only when "conservatives" talk about such things that it becomes an exercise in self-righteousness?

"Then I realized how useless it is. You all just spout the talking points almost word for word you have been given which I have heard from every right-wing newscaster."

-- This is just filler. It's an easy way to avoid engaging my comments on their merits (or lack thereof). It's also a craven way of congratulating oneself on one's own discernment without having to provide evidence of it.

"But, I know it is hard to disagree, go against the tide, much easier to do the group think thing....especially when you are being flattered into it: you are smarter and more moral --- you are better."

-- Ummmm, right back atcha, dude!

Your comments seem to boil down to this: "I'm not going to do anything so mired in right-wing groupthink and self-righteousness as to actually ARGUE the point, so I'll just take up a lot of space congratulating myself (in eminently self-aggrandizing fashion) for being among the Enlightened Ones." Well, that kind of drivel may work on Mount Olympus, bub, but down here among the mere mortals we have only our feeble reason to guide us. If you'd like to come on down the mountain and argue the specifics, I'll be waiting.

February 11, 2005 1:29 PM  
Blogger stewdog said...

To J. Bryant,
I don't get it, when conservatives discuss issues, we are a bunch of knuckle dragging neandrathals following our jack booted leaders in lock step like lemmings jumping off the cliffs into the sea.
Whereas the great thinkers of the left who spout "Halliburton, Bush Lies, Can We Have Our Country Back Now, Let's not reelecte him again, Gonzales loves torture, Bush's CRONIES, No Blood for Oil" are just disagreeing with us, being free thinkers and going against the tide.
And Please, pray tell, advise us where you find "Conservative Newscasters" I can find lots of conservative COMMENTATORS on Fox news and even Scarborough and Buchannan on MSNBC, but where do your find conservative newscasters?
Jennings? Rather? Williams?
OK, I feel better now. I need to call Kate Marie and Wonderdog to tell me what to think next.

February 11, 2005 1:31 PM  
Blogger Wonderdog said...

Stewdog,

Your orduhs ees to vait until furser notice unt vee vill instruct you accordinkly. Vee are pleased vith your conformity to zee vill of Herr Rove unt der Befehlshaber W. Your compliance vith zee plan to untermine zee propoganda of Mulan II unt control zee minds of das volk is verking vell.

February 11, 2005 6:53 PM  
Blogger cestsim1 said...

As I said, I had written a really long response (taking up even more self-aggrandizing space) and then thought what's the use but you want to discuss - okay - I'll go back to where I was. (I did look over Kate Marie's profile and when we have so many common favorite books -can't remember but I think Great Gatsby, David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice and Lolita were on there - all top 10 for me too - some music and a lot of them their Hollywood movies...ya gotta believe there's a civil conversation in there).

First - I brought up my parents values because they are (my father was) hardcore liberals. If you don't feel I need to bring their values up I won't. And, I don't usually tout churchgoing as any kind of public virtue because I've found it has nothing to do with actual virtue....but, it seems to be heavily in discussion these days. If you feel it is unnecessary for me to make those kind of statements in the same sentence as being liberals, all the better.

If I sounded like I was self-aggrandizing in that - perhaps I was - I am very proud of being their daughter but...what I meant to say was that my ideals come almost exclusively from my parents, not movies, mainly not books, not peers.

I actually said you were being marketed to by being told you were "more moral" - marketing is a lot about trying to build a conceit in the audience and playing to it. (And I'm not saying I'm immune, btw, as an Enlightened One, I can be suckered with the best but...I do marketing for a living so I TRY and have an awareness of what I'm responding to and trust very little of what I hear. That's why I brought up Frank Luntz. He has worked for the Republicans since Newt Gingrich. He said and I am quoting here just "tell the people what they want to hear." When asked if it was a problem when that wasn't the truth, he basically said that was not his part of the job. He comes up with the language.) I believe you know Rove and his tactics are in line with Lee Atwater so you know to question any of his attacks (A type of political animal that comes on both sides of the fence.)

You said back atcha? Where is all this media flattery about being a liberal?

And - to the comment below you from stewdog...since every part of our government is being run by conservatives and as you know, you are the majority, then, yes, disagreeing is going against the tide. But, actually, that is not what I'm referring to. I have watched Fox (yes, I am subjected to it weekly while visiting my best friend's housebound mother) I have heard the newscasters and the news commentators - yes, the majority of the time, I woudl say the newscasters deliver slanted and biased news. It depends on what you report, don't report, etc. For example, how much will the new Social Security program proposed cost? How many Iraqis have died? You get my drift...

And the things you listed - taking out some of the hyperbole in the delivery- I mainly think they are true but that's pretty heated so starting with small distortions we are being fed....How about what did Al Gore say about the internet?

And your German imitating friend below you - you are going to hate this....do you want to know what my 83 year neighbor said - former Austrian - huge lover of America....about nationalistic push, "traitorous" dissent, govermental propaganda....? Oh, but she's old - what does she know....seems too radical to me.

I didn't even get to get into the original post - I think I've taken up enough space though....

February 12, 2005 7:54 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a LOVELY post. I just saw the movie tonight and was disgusted with the worldview. It is not biblical at all. "My duty is to my heart?" What kind of crap is that? That is the excuse people use to divorce their spouse, take part in pornography and cheating, and every other kind of immoral deed.

Thanks for posting!

Dannielle

November 10, 2007 5:12 PM  

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