Thursday, November 01, 2007


It is amusing to see a passing reference in National Review to the movie Elizabeth: the Golden Age as a “Catholic-bashing costume party.” Having seen the movie I don’t remember any discussion of theology (although the costumes were excellent.) I generally find movies inferior to the theatre because of the lack of dialogue and scant verbalization of the character’s thoughts. After all, it’s thinking that motivates people. I enjoy seeing a character’s deliberation especially if principles and abstract ideas are involved. But back to the movie:

Where then is the “Catholic-bashing?” In the movie Philip does more bashing of England and Elizabeth than vice versa. Ah, but that must be it! Philip is seen to be explicitly religious in his motivation. Is it his Protestant-bashing that makes the movie Catholic-bashing? Early in the movie Elizabeth is shown to be tolerant of her Catholic subjects if they remain loyal. The law must be concerned with deed and not belief, she says. We see no such tolerance in Philip.

What does history show? First of all, the Catholic Church didn’t take mass apostasy lightly. And Protestants weren't trying to establish pluralistic societies. Religious wars would last into the next century after Elizabeth. Contrary to the view of the Catholic Encyclopedia, the “victory of Protestantism” wasn’t “complete” prior to the defeat of the Spanish Armada. This defeat secured England’s sovereignty and freed the Netherlands, both which were leaders in individual liberty and freedom of conscience in next century.

Elizabeth is often seen as enlightened for her time. But what of Philip? From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

“Philip's spare and elegant appearance is known from the famous portraits by Titian and by Anthonis Mor (Sir Anthony More). He was a lover of books and pictures, and Spain's literary Golden Age began in his reign. An affectionate father to his daughters, he lived an austere and dedicated life. ‘You may assure His Holiness,’ Philip wrote to his ambassador in Rome, in 1566, ‘that rather than suffer the least damage to religion and the service of God, I would lose all my states and an hundred lives, if I had them; for I do not propose nor desire to be the ruler of heretics.’ This remark may be regarded as the motto of his reign. To accomplish the task set him by God of preserving his subjects in the true Catholic religion, Philip felt in duty bound to use his royal powers, if need be, to the point of the most ruthless political tyranny, as he did in the Netherlands. Even the popes found it sometimes difficult to distinguish between Philip's views as to what was the service of God and what the service of the Spanish monarchy.”

Spain, at that point in time, found it hard to separate God and state even more so than other Catholic nations. But Spain wasn’t without individuals who contributed to the intellectual advancement of liberty. During Philip’s rule, Francisco Suarez criticized the divine-right theory of monarchy in his De Legibus. While building on Aristotle and Aquinas, he argued for “the natural rights of the human individual to life, liberty, and property, he rejected the Aristotelian notion of slavery as the natural condition of certain men.” The state, in his view, “is the result of a social contract to which the people consent.” However, it would be Holland and England that first embodied those views.

By the way, the movie is worth seeing. Given Hollywood's taboo against showing heroes in serious movies, especially war movies, Elizabeth is a welcomed entry. If it is because she is a woman that allows this exemption, so be it. We need more movies of this kind.

Update: "The film’s patriotic theme had greater resonance for domestic U.K. critics. Michael Gove, speaking on BBC Two's Newsnight Review, said: ‘It tells the story of England’s past in a way which someone who’s familiar with the Whig tradition of history would find, as I did, completely sympathetic. It’s amazing to see a film made now that is so patriotic ... One of the striking things about this film is that it’s almost a historical anomaly. I can’t think of a historical period film in which England and the English have been depicted heroically for the last forty or fifty years. You almost have to go back to Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare’s Henry V in which you actually have an English king and English armies portrayed heroically." Source BBC2


Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

Why not a movie about Oliver Cromwell?


11/2/07, 9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a movie about Oliver Cromell, called (surprisingly CROMWELL), but it focuses on Cromwell as a defender of liberty against Royalism and glosses over the less pleasant stuff. Ironically, Cromwell is played by an Irishman, Richard Harris. The movie is worth seeing, especially for Harris' performance.

11/2/07, 1:33 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Pop quiz! Who said: "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell and George the Third ... "? Googling not allowed!

11/3/07, 8:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*guesses* Burke?

11/3/07, 12:44 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Perren said...

"This defeat secured England’s sovereignty and freed the Netherlands, both which were leaders in individual liberty and freedom of conscience in next century."

Once again your knowledge of history and its relationship to freedom is admirable and enlightening.

Can you recommend a one-volume history on the subject? Something on the order of Freedom: History of an Idea, but fact-based rather than just philosophical abstractions?

11/3/07, 6:00 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

My favorite Cromwell quote (in reference to Charles I) is "...he has been educated beyond his intellect."

11/4/07, 3:42 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Farmer, not Burke but let's wait until more people guess.

Jeff, I wish I had one volume like that. It's tough pasting together parts of the picture from dozens of books. One reader sent me a draft of a part of a book he is writing that looks promising. I have to urge him to finish the book.

Beamish, delightful quote!

11/4/07, 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I googled. Not surprising, though.

11/4/07, 2:11 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

In a recent issue of either Time or Newsweek, some moron wrote a favorable comparison of Hillary and Elizabeth I.

11/5/07, 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick Henry is the source of the quote.

I had grown up thinking Cromwell was a bad guy: not because of the Drogheda massacure and the rest of the "unpleasantness" in Ireland (about which I remained ignorant until the movie came out and some people were outraged that Harris, an Irishman, would portray Cromwell as a good guy, but because of Alexandre Dumas' sympathetic depiction of Charles I and the Royalist cause in his THREE MUSKETEERS sequel, TWENTY YEARS AFTER. (But then Dumas' D'Artagnan novels all romanticize royalism, despite Dumas' republican sentiments.) The Henry quote was the first time I realized Cromwell was considered by some a hero in the cause of liberty.

11/5/07, 9:37 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Holland may have championed the economic rise of the middle class but as for ideas ... ask Spinoza, he had a real easy time with the open minded Dutch.

11/5/07, 10:57 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

"I generally find movies inferior to the theatre because of the lack of dialogue and scant verbalization of the character’s thoughts."

Well the common wisdom is that western cinema developed from photography and Japanese cinema from the theater. Unfortunately most all of Japanese early silent cinema (they were late adopting sound) was destroyed in the war so it's tough to fully test the thesis. Their films of the 50's and 60's and the theatrical origin may have something to do with that.

However when you mention the character's thoughts it is best to look at film as a different medium and realize its strengths. Try Resnais's "Muriel". The editing is brilliant and though it seems very disjointed that is key to the basic purpose of demonstrating the effects of memory on the characters actions. In Resnais, reason is always only part of the formula and often not the most important.

Even in his most conventional film "La Guerre Est Finie" which examines an anti fascist in the waning days of Franco reason has its limitations.

So you err in finding the theater inferior when it is more a case of it being your preferred medium as you choose to ignore other points of view.

11/5/07, 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's your opinion of musical theatre mr. ducky? I find it much, much more emotionally persuasive than either film or "regular" theatre. When Lloyd Weber gets serious, like in Les Mis or Phantom, its' almost as moving as opera.

11/6/07, 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wagner seduced a nation with it...

11/6/07, 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Das Nibelung...

11/6/07, 10:24 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Farmer, if you have a Netflix account or similar you might enjoy the second part of Fritz Lang's "Das Nibelung" (in fact you would probably also enjoy the first).

I share your fascination with Teutonic legend and found Lang's dedication of this film (the story of the last stand of a group of Teutonic knights) "To My People" ironic for a Jew in Weimar Germany. But the Jewish population was fairly nationalistic.

It reminds me of an exhibit I saw at the museum in Munich of Teutonic themed painting and I just stood there and thought to myself, "This is a warrior people".

Move a Nietzschean to tears.

11/6/07, 4:28 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

I'm not a big fan of musical theater Farmer, especially the recent stuff. I do like Rogers and Hammerstein quite a bit.

A film I should hate is "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" but I watch it once in a while just to marvel that he pulled that off.

11/6/07, 4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But that's what Nietzsche hated about Wagner... and why he preferred Bizet. To him, Wagner was a step backwards, towards sentimentality, towards Christianity... much like the Reformation.

Nietzsche, "The Case of Wagner"

I have granted myself some small relief. It is not merely pure malice when I praise Bizet in this essay at the expense of Wagner. Interspersed with many jokes, I bring up a matter that is no joke. To turn my back on Wagner was for me a fate; to like anything at all again after that, a triumph. Perhaps nobody was more dangerously bound up with Wagnerizing, nobody tried harder to resist it, nobody was happier to be rid of it. A long story!— You want a word for it?— If I were a moralist, who knows what I might call it! Perhaps self-overcoming.— But the philosopher has no love for moralists ... neither does he love pretty words ...

What does a philosopher demand of himself first and last? To overcome his time in himself, to become "timeless." With what must he therefore engage in the hardest combat? With whatever marks him as the child of his time. Well, then! I am, no less than Wagner, a child of this time, that is, a décadent: but I comprehended this, I resisted it. The philosopher in me resisted.

Nothing has preoccupied me more profoundly than the problem of décadence,—I had reasons. "Good and evil" is merely a variation of that problem. Once one has developed a keen eye for the symptoms of decline, one understands morality too,—one understands what is hiding under its most sacred names and value formulas: impoverished life, the will to the end, the great weariness. Morality negates life ... For such a task I required a special self-discipline:—to take sides against everything sick in me, including Wagner, including Schopenhauer, including all modern "humaneness."— A profound estrangement, cold, sobering up, against everything that is of this time, everything timely: and most desirable of all, the eye of Zarathustra, an eye that beholds the whole fact of man at a tremendous distance,—below ... For such a goal—what sacrifice would not be fitting? what "self-overcoming"! what "self-denial"!

My greatest experience was a recovery. Wagner is merely one of my sicknesses.

Not that I wish to be ungrateful to this sickness. When in this essay I assert the proposition that Wagner is harmful, I wish no less to assert for whom he is nevertheless indispensable— for the philosopher. Others may be able to get along without Wagner; but the philosopher is not free to do without Wagner. He has to be the bad conscience of his time,—for that he needs to understand it best. But confronted with the labyrinth of the modern soul, where could he find a guide more initiated, a more eloquent prophet of the soul, than Wagner? Through Wagner modernity speaks most intimately: concealing neither its good nor its evil, having forgotten all sense of shame. And conversely: one has almost completed an account of the value of what is modern once one has gained clarity about what is good and evil in Wagner.— I understand perfectly when a musician says today: "I hate Wagner, but I can no longer endure any other music." But I would also understand a philosopher who would declare: "Wagner sums up modernity. There is no way out, one must first become a Wagnerian ..."

11/6/07, 6:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The insight that our actors are more deserving of admiration than ever does not imply that they are any less dangerous ... But who could still doubt what I want,—what are the three demands for which my wrath, my concern, my love of art has this time opened my mouth?

That the theater should not lord it over the arts.

That the actor should not seduce those who are authentic.

That music should not become an art of lying.


11/6/07, 6:58 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

If Nietzsche were alive today, he'd be a critic at Rolling Stone magazine, and still sneering about the fact that more Americans have bought the Bodyguard (Whitney Houston / Kevin Coster movie) soundtrack than the Eagles Hotel California album.

11/7/07, 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, Mr. Beamish, he'd probably applaud the fact that more people bought Village People's Dionysian LIVE AND SLEAZY album than all the recordings of Wagner's PARSIFAL combined. (Which reminds me that, as my prize for identifying the source of the Oliver Cromwell quote, Jason is giving me an full-color autographed 8x10 photo of David Hodo, the Village People's Construction Worker. Thanks, Jason!)

11/7/07, 9:43 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


LOL! Yes, Certainly! And he's writing loads of letters to Bruce Springsteen pleading with him to do an album with Gary Numan.

11/7/07, 12:58 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

"While building on Aristotle and Aquinas" ... poor William of Ockham, the big hitter in freeing thought from religious doctrine.

He and the Black Plague probably had more to do with this the Elizabeth.

But Ockham doesn't play nice with Ayn "Lightweight" Rand's ideas of universals.

11/13/07, 10:24 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Today's topic"

The pre-Enlightenment Reformation-era Christians had a biblical worldview that allowed them to see every aspect of life (including art, culture, etc.) as belonging to God.
Therefore they could think in a non-compartmentalized manner and be active in all these areas. This caused them to be on the cutting edge of society, true world history makers.

11/14/07, 11:52 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

...and it's also odd that you should pick a single adjective from the article which isn't representative of its content at all.
What the article came down to was an attempt to paint "Hollywood" as a bunch of left leaning anti-American bogey men.

I submit that Hollywood is nothing but a group of free market slugs putting out whatever they think will sell and quality doesn't sell too well these days.

I can understand why the writer chose to remain behind a pseudonym, he might have been responsible for "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer". Proof that there is too much "product" out there. "Product", that's what the two slugs from New Line on the Charlie Rose show called their lineup as the boasted about releasing "Rush Hour 3". They're giving us the full Ayn Rand.

I feel lucky that I was an impressionable adolescent during an artistic golden age. Went down to the Brattle Cinema to see "The 400 Blows". Of course a lot of that French and Italian stuff was subsidized but that's not the reason it was so superior to American film. Japan had a very strict studio system and ran circles around Hollywood in the 50's and 60's.

No, it goes to an anti intellectualism in the culture and I don't know how the articles author can blame the left for that.

11/15/07, 11:15 AM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...

The pre-Enlightenment Reformation-era Christians had a biblical worldview that allowed them to see every aspect of life (including art, culture, etc.) as belonging to God.
Therefore they could think in a non-compartmentalized manner and be active in all these areas. This caused them to be on the cutting edge of society, true world history makers.

Ah... a world without leftists...

11/17/07, 12:37 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Would you care to comment, Beamish or is it that you didn't understand?

11/18/07, 2:47 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


Was it not leftists of the "post-Enlightenment Reformation era" that "compartmentalized" thought?

11/18/07, 10:24 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Hard to say, Beamish. Since you use the word "leftist" in a careless, undifferentiated manner it's impossible to reply.

Leftist is just a catch all for you. I don't expect the right to escape thinking completely with their emotions, their far to gone to recover but I hope you understand why your use of "leftist" is simply ignored. Was John Locke a "leftist".

11/19/07, 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, have trouble with the term "leftist." I occasionally use it, because most people other than Ducky seem to know what I mean; but because I'm too conscious of the historical derivation from French history (which derivation, if you followed consistently, would make contemporary "liberals"
today's "right wing") to be comfortable with it. I like the approach of eonard Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education. In his FEE writings he rarely, if ever, used "conservative" or the modern bastarization of "liberal," or "left-wing" or "right-wing." He simply wrote about people who were "pro-freedom" (meaning, consistently pro-freedom) and everyone else. I don't think he ever used a label for the other side, although I prefer the Anglo-Saxon translation of "Staat-shtupper."

11/19/07, 1:07 PM  
Blogger (((Thought Criminal))) said...


I think in these days and times when the definitions of "leftist" and "idiotic" are ontologically inseparable, you would know what I mean.

Needless to say, in your question, ask yourself who the "right-wingers" were that removed the "biblical worldview" that allowed "non-compartmentalized" thought.

Or, realize your "today's topic" is itself rather churlishly "compartmentalized."

11/20/07, 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Jason!

11/20/07, 8:56 PM  

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