Sunday, September 27, 2009

Boomers in the Barbarian Invasions

We just saw the movie "The Barbarian Invasions" (English subtitles), which we got from Zip. A very good movie about a dying man and how he interacts with people, and sums up his life, in his last weeks.

What strikes me the most is that even though this guy and his friends don't really seem to have huge regrets, they admit that they have made one serious mistake after another. The movie comes close to my own formulation that "the boomers are always wrong about everything." (The actor playing the leading role was born in 1950, and I believe his character also gives that year of birth).

Here's the long quote from imdb:

Rémy: We've been everything: separatists, supporters of independantists, sovereignists, sovereignity-associanists...
Pierre: At first, we were existentialists.
Dominique: We read Sartre and Camus.
Claude: Then Fanon, we became anti-colonialists.
Rémy: We read Marcuse and became Marxists.
Pierre: Marxist-Leninists.
Alessandro: Trotskyists.
Diane: Maoists.
Rémy: After Solzhenitsyn we changed, we became structuralists.
Pierre: Situationists.
Dominique: Feminists.
Claude: Deconstructionists.
Pierre: Is there an -ism we haven't worshipped?
Claude: Cretinism.

But "cretinism" comes up in another conversation. Remy says that in the early days of China opening up, a beautiful woman came from China to the university where he taught, and he was delegated to have lunch with her. Hoping, as usual, to take her to bed, he decided to say something nice about recent events in China, and he actually said something like "your Cultural Revolution was really quite positive," or something like that. He says that he could tell from the look on her face that she was wondering if he was working for the CIA, or rather was the stupidest person she had ever met. Immediately, he was sure she was leaning to the latter view. Remy now realizes that nothing could be stupider than praising the Cultural Revolution. "Cretinism doesn'’t sink any lower."

I had a colleague in the U.S. (who was always very kind to me--I don't reward people very well) who was an expert on China, and explained to me briefly one day that the crackdown at Tiananmen Square resulted from a mix-up in communications. Surely it is more likely, whether we defer to experts or not, that the Chinese leadership was basically united in thinking that the protests had to be stopped. If there was some dissent among the leadership, it was limited. So the protests were in fact stopped, and similar crackdowns have continued to this day, whether there seem to be "liberals" rising to the top or not.

From the script on-line, here's how the conversation continues after the link between fatuous left-wing so-called thinking, and cretinism.

Why were we so dumb?
-Are we to infer congenital stupidity?

Not at all.
-Intelligence isn't an individual trait.

It's collective,
national, intermittent.

Oh, a new theory!

Athens, BC
Euripides premieres his Electra

Two rivals attend,
Sophocles and Aristophanes.

And two friends, Socrates and Plato.
Intelligence was there.

Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio,

on facing walls, two painters:
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

An apprentice: Rafaello.
A manager: Niccolo Machiavelli.

Philadelphia, USA, - .

Declaration of Independence
and the Constitution.

Adams, Franklin, Jefferson,
Washington, Hamilton and Madison.

No other country
has been so blessed.

I was born in Chicoutimi,
Canada, in .

It's a miracle you're not dumber.

in everyone was dumb,
in Athens and Chicoutimi.

In Italy you'd have supported
the Red Brigades.

Now it's Berlusconi.
-Philadelphia voted George Bush.

You see, you're not that dumb.

Intelligence has disappeared,
and it can take eons to come back.

From Tacitus to Dante was what,

The Arabs kept intelligence alive.

It may not be their fault, but the boomers have been almost unbelievably stupid.

I guess this refers back to the title. We actually get a glimpse of the 9/11 attacks, with some fool on TV saying this represents a new barbarian invasion. Denys Arcand, the writer and director of the movie ( born in 1941), suggests that the rise of the boomers has itself been a kind of invasion by barbarians.

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