And even then, it goes deeper than existential issues, all the way down to the ontological and spiritual. The latter two categories have to do with who we are and why we are here. For Obama, it's pretty simple: we are nobody special, and I am here to control you. Or, he is special and you are not.
Ironic, to say the least -- but this is always true of the left -- that Obama wants to stop policing the world. Instead, he just wants to police us. For him, we are the problem, not Iran or Egypt or Libya or Russia or North Korea. Which is the same problem Iran, Egypt, Libya, Russia, and North Korea have with their subjects.
This is precisely what Phillips is saying: "Obama’s agenda has been crystal clear from the get-go: to increase the power of the state over the citizen at home, and to neutralise American power abroad. Four more years of this and he’ll almost certainly have succeeded. The impact upon western security could be cataclysmic."
She speaks of security, which is again an existential issue. But then she gets to the ontological: "Britain and the Europeans love Obama because they think he will end American exceptionalism and turn the US into a pale shadow of themselves" (emphasis mine). We will become someone else, someone we have never been and were never intended to be.
However, Phillips then says something that leapt out at me: "What they don’t realise is that, all but lobotomised by consumerist rights, state dependency, victim culture, sentimentality, post-religion, post-nationalism and post-Holocaust and Empire guilt, Britain and Europe are themselves fast going down the civilisational tubes."
But that word, lobotomized. First of all, we spell it with a 'z.' But as it so happens, the other night I watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with my son. I've seen it so many times that I was able to mute or fast forward the age-inappropriate parts.
I must have seen the film five times within the month it was released in 1975. The question is, why did it speak to me? After all, I was only 19, but more to the point, still a quasi-animal, although a harmless and good-natured one -- an amiable barbarian.
I was in college at the time, but it is fair to say that "learning" was the last thing on the agenda. I'm not sure I even knew there was such a thing as "graduate school," but the idea of continuing school beyond the bare minimum would have struck me as absurd -- unless there were some kind of dramatic payoff, such as extending adolescence into my late 20s. And so there was.
I suppose that many on the left would interpret OFOtCN in sociological or political terms, and this may even have been the author's conscious intent, for all I know. But for me it has deeply religious overtones, and is spiritual through and through.
Anyway, one reason I wanted the boy to see it is that lately we'd been watching a lot of crappy horror movies. It seems that every horror/monster movie ever made is shown in October. Boys have no qualms whatsoever about blood and gore, so I'm not worried about that -- so long as it isn't the propagandistic kind of gore that deals with "climate change."
After watching a dozen or so of these artistically vacant horror films, he could tell how truly bad and emotionally unsatisfying they are -- he could see that something vital was missing, something that defines the difference between art and dreck. So it was an auspicious Teaching Moment.
We actually had some preliminary conversations about this -- for example, how in a poorly done film you don't care about the characters, or how these films teach nothing, or how they have no satisfying resolution. Toward the end of one of them, he said "I don't see how they're gonna wrap this up in five minutes." And he was right. Everybody dies. The end.
Anyway, I wanted to contrast these with a great film, so he could see the difference. We actually watched The Gladiator too, and he could see right away that its violence is entirely different from the gratuitous violence of the horror films. But he could also see how the film made you care about Maximus from the very start, and how you identified more deeply with his character as the film proceeds.
Back to OFOtCN. I didn't expect him to say this, but Tristan discerned right away that R.P. McMurphy is Maximus, while Nurse Ratched is the evil Commodus (played by Joaquin Phoenix). Clearly, in both cases we're seeing a kind of dance between light and darkness, which he picked up right away.
He also totally understood the idea that McMurphy is Jesus. In this view, the insane asylum isn't "corporate America," "the establishment," "fascist Christianism," or some other leftist bogieperson.
Rather, it is the world, a fallen world in desperate need of redemption. From the opening scene, McMurphy provides this redemption, as his "spirit" at first disturbs this stifling world, and then begins "entering" the other patients.
After all, at the time, 2000 years ago, Jesus was also understood to be nothing more than a common criminal who was a nuisance to the world of Rome (which was the world). His Light was deeply disturbing to the darkness, so it had to be eliminated and deluminated. Or at least that was the best laid plan of mousy men.
Speaking of Jesus, there is a scene in which McMurphy hijacks the bus and takes the patients out on a boat. He says to them You're not nuts, you're fishermen! You don't say.
And just as Jesus heals the deaf and blind, McMurphy "heals" the "deaf and dumb" Big Chief. He also heals Billy of his stutter, at least until Nurse Ratched cracks down on him with the threat to inform his mother.
This occurs the morning after the "last supper," when McMurphy bribes the night watchman and they have a spirited all night party (with lots of spirits smuggled in). Remember, they're still in the mental institution/world, but no longer "of" it; somehow they are "set free" within its confines. Nothing has changed except their interior horizon.
But that won't fly, any more than it flew for the Romans. In the end McMurphy is crucified -- in his case, lobotomized -- and order is restored.
But not so fast. Something strange then happens. Because of McMurphy's influence, the Chief realizes his true stature. He has become "big as a mountain," and is ready to escape with him. (McMurphy's first words to the him are something like "Goddamn it Chief, you're about as big as a damn mountain!")
But the lobotomized McMurphy is "gone," without two cerebral cortexes to rub together. For him to remain in that condition would be analogous to leaving Jesus up on the cross to serve as a warning to all: come to life, and you too will die. The Chief won't allow this to happen, so he smothers McMurphy under a pillow.
Then it is Pentecost: the spirit fully enters the Chief, he hoists the hydrotherapy console from the floor (lots of water imagery in the film), chucks it through the barred windows, and escapes over the horizon into the great wide open.
I try not to talk about politics too much around the boy, since he's entitled to his childhood slack. Thus, I was a little taken aback when he pointed out that Nurse Ratched = Obama and that his supporters are lobotimized.
And lately the boy has taken to asking, Which one of you nuts has got any guts?