Lord of the Rings: Movie Magic, but Philosophical Poison

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When
I first read the Lord
of the Rings
as a child, I was moved beyond words. It was
like entering a boyish fantasyland of adventure, danger, and romance.
Tolkien painted Middle Earth with such poetic beauty that I wanted
to unsheathe my sword and come to its rescue. His portrait of evil
was captivating in its relentless malevolence.

Upon
hearing that it was to be made into a
movie trilogy
, I was somewhat pessimistic. I doubted that any
production could do the books justice. I was skeptical that the
soul of the story could be captured on the big screen, and feared
that the beloved tale would be butchered by Hollywood.

But
I have to hand it to the makers of this series. By God, they did
it. With each episode, they just kept getting better. The scenery
is entrancing. The action is breathtaking. The characters blossom
in their heroism, humanity, and beauty.

But
now, decades after my first reading of the series, my perspective
has changed. My "propaganda radar" is always on, and it
picks up smuggled concepts and hidden political agendas like a tireless
bloodhound. Decades of bombardment by the cultural Marxists have
forced me to eat the apple of Eden. I see the good and evil and
can no longer bask in that wonderful innocence of childhood.

As
much as it genuinely pains me to say it, this movie trilogy is philosophically
corrupt.

May
old Tolkien forgive me, but the ideology embraced by the Ring
trilogy is extremely harmful to those of us on the libertarian/paleoconservative
right. It is more than harmful, it is downright dangerous.

I
realize that this borders on sacrilege…but before showering me with
hoots of derision, hear me out.

Generally
speaking, I see two politically-charged ideas advanced by this series.

First,
and of lesser importance, is a strong anti-technology message that
is plainly evident. The heroes are warm and fuzzy people who live
in pastoral environs. The Hobbits farm peacefully in their delightful
shires. The Elves live in their grand forests. The dwarves live
in their rugged mountains and caves.

Cities
and industry, on the other hand, are portrayed in the worst terms
imaginable. Saruman's demesnes are downright Dickensian. Deformed
orcs labor in satanic mills, mass-producing their evil progeny.
The very Earth is despoiled as forests are mowed down, leaving behind
barren moonscapes of poisoned soil and air.

This
could have been written by Ralph Nader.

But
luckily for Middle Earth, this industrial blight is erased by the
righteous anger of the ancient Ents. They storm from the remaining
forests like environmentalists attacking an SUV dealership. These
leafy Luddites wreck the machinery, kill the disfigured orcish workers,
and wash away the blight in a giant tidal wave.

Like
it or not, the message is hard to miss. It is right out of the Earth
First! ideological handbook.

While
this Marxist/environmentalist propaganda is annoying, the more serious
problem is the attack on "isolationism."

America,
and much of the Western world, has had a long-running conflict between
two irreconcilable views of the purpose of our civilization. One
group, most aptly typified by the Jacobins of French Revolutionary
fame, believes that society is an idealistic pursuit of utopia.
This school of thinking holds that there must be a unifying goal
which must be pursued relentlessly in order to justify society's
collective existence. From the Crusades to the present Iraq War,
the Jacobins believe that only by throwing our bodies (not their
bodies, mind you…but ours) into the maw of war for the "higher
purpose" that currently enthralls them will we morally justify
our existence.

The
opposite pole, typified by the America First movement of 1930s fame,
holds a position usually described as "conservative."
This group believes that the purpose of society is to provide a
framework of liberty so that the people can go about living their
lives. It holds that the purpose of society is to permit the people
to raise their children, work at their chosen career, and worship
God with as little interference from distant authority as is possible.
It is the belief in a Republic, not an Empire. It requires a military
of minutemen, not centurions. It believes in "community building"
at home, not "nation building" abroad.

The
movie that the Ring trilogy most recalls in my mind is Casablanca.
That too was a wonderfully made production with first-rate acting.
But it too was a pot-shot at "isolationism." That movie
revolved around a character who sulked about his own failed love
life rather than lift a finger to enter the fray of world war. He
was portrayed as a rather pathetic "man" who would rather
cry in his drink than do anything concrete to save the world.

In
the Ring, an implacable evil arises from distant lands. The
Hobbits, (who one thinks are portrayed rather like our beltway elites
view Americans in small-town USA), are content to live their myopic
little lives instead of going off Crusading. But they can't just
live their little lives. They cannot think that there is any moral
righteousness in building a shire and enjoying their family. Not
when there are orcs that need killing.

It
is this Manichean view of reality, along with the futility of "isolationism,"
that is the real underlying message of the Lord of the Rings.

The
psyche of our elites is essentially one endless loop of Lord
of the Rings, with themselves starring as Gandalf (the wise
one who must convince everyone else of the need for the Crusade).
Their worldview, which in the American context I believe arose from
the righteous fanaticism of New England Puritanism, focuses on a
continuing series of Saurons. Southerners, Spaniards, Serbians,
Muslims, etc., have each, in turn, served as the evil straw man
against which the elites can release the grapes of wrath and swing
their terrible swift sword.

Those
who oppose their plans are either isolationist hobbits, cowardly
human villagers, or Saruman-like turncoats.

The
problem with this "Middle Earth" view of reality is that
it does not accurately reflect the world around us. Arabs are not
orcs. Milosovic is not Sauron. The Albanians are not elves. This
philosophy of endless Crusading will leave us with mounds of corpses,
a bankrupt treasury, and an Empire instead of a Republic.

So
as much as we might enjoy swinging our make-believe sword at those
imaginary orcs, adulthood beckons. Serbian nationalists and Muslim
fanatics can never destroy our Constitution. But the ethos of endless
war just might succeed where they fall short.

December
31, 2003

Steven
LaTulippe [send him mail]
is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in
the United States Air Force for 13 years.


        
        

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