May 14th, 2020

You don't need to be embarrassed for having values

Near the end of 2016, when Alan Thicke passed away, I wrote a post defending his role as a representative of what he self-deprecatingly called "corny family values", as if there was some shame or embarrassment in representing such a thing. I insisted, as I still do today, that there is no shame in standing up for something valuable, and that people should not feel guilty for defending what is good in humanity. I bring this up because I recently read this blog post from Robert Hardy's "Filmmaker Freedom" blog, which as the title makes pretty clear is about the difference between "films" and "movies". It's rare that I'll see someone actually making this distinction; most native English speakers would assert that the words are synonyms. But Hardy makes an impassioned case for the value of art in cinema, arguing that a "film" is a work of art which communicates ideas and artistic inspirations, while a "movie" is a commercial product which exists primarily to satisfy audiences into paying money for it.

As a side note, Hardy has plenty of other articles on his site about the value and virtue of making films as art, like this one, titled "One Simple Mindset to Ensure You Never Fail as a Filmmaker". The title is deliberately made to sound like clickbait, as Hardy acknowledges in the article's first paragraph, but the article itself is a brilliant commentary on the artistic and creative process and what separates people who make real art from people who are making art as a means rather than an end. It's great reading for anyone who values the importance of great art. Then there's this monumental article, which looks like it's about establishing a vision as a filmmaker, but which is really, by proxy, a blueprint for developing an appreciation for life itself and forming visions and plans for your life's future, regardless of whether you're a filmmaker or not. Robert Hardy isn't just someone who loves movies (oops, I mean films), although he is clearly that; he is a genius in the truest sense of someone who combines experience, inspiration, and wisdom, and uses these combined assets to create something insightful, intelligent, and original. Some people might go their whole lives without producing a single piece of writing which is this perceptive and important, and Hardy just spews this stuff like it's a piece of cake.

But the reason why I bring all of this up with regard to what I wrote about Alan Thicke is that Hardy's article about the distinction between "films" and "movies" begins with the caveat: "I can almost guarantee that to some of you, I'm going to come off as sounding like a pretentious, arrogant douche throughout this article." After then stating his initial premises, Hardy repeats this caution: "I can hear some of you groaning already, thinking to yourselves, 'man, this Robert Hardy guy sure is a pretentious asshole.'" Just as Thicke felt the need to acknowledge people who think his values are irrelevant, Hardy also feels the need to acknowledge people who think that he's "pretentious" and full of himself just because he believes in something.

On the one hand, I just can't help but wonder: What kind of world do we live in when people who have the courage to believe in something find it necessary to publicly denigrate their values? It is literally a crime against humanity that actual "filmmakers", the people who are trying to create real art that is important and meaningful, feel the need to denigrate themselves for the sake of "moviemakers" who produce the populist, mass-produced trash that pollutes the entire world's culture. People who want their films to mean someting do not need to feel ashamed for this. It's literally the difference between life meaning something, and life meaning nothing. If life ever seems meaningless, it's the fault of people who make it so. Meaning is something shared among human beings, and the meaninglessness in the world today is the fault of people who have stripped it of all meaning. Most people do not want life to mean anything. Their attitude is: "Meaning is boring, and people who want anything to matter are boring, arrogant assholes who just want to ruin our fun. Life is only enjoyable when nothing means anything".

On the other hand, being willing to acknowledge opposing stances to your ideas shows a certain self-awareness which is lacking in precisely those people who want life to mean nothing: The people who most loudly campaign for "human rights" tend to be the people who most significantly lack value in their lives, and feel the need to have some government proclaim the value of their lives so they can feel self-important, since nothing they do is actually important. Few people who go outside marching and waving signs have the self-awareness to say "There are people who, for various reasons, disagree with us"; their attitude toward anyone who disagrees with them is "Anyone who doesn't support our cause is a bad person who should literally die and deserves to be attacked by whatever means we have available". It does seem important to have the self-awareness to recognize and admit that there are people who disagree with you, and that those people should have a chance to voice their disagreement, whether it is valid or not.

What must be understood, however, is that life itself is a means, not an end, and if anyone is ever to live for any reason, they must avoid the populist "Nothing really matters, you can do whatever you want, and meaning only gets in the way of having fun" attitude which is the prevailing attitude among the heaps of trash that pollute our planet. You do not need to be ashamed, self-conscious, or embarrassed about fighting this lazy, apathetic, self-entitled nihilism. The urge to be inoffensive toward people who are actively destroying everything that is valuable on our planet is only contributing to the total destruction that is running rampant through global society and culture.