Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Brothers Warner

I am watching the long version of a documentary on the Warner Brothers by Cass Warner Sperling, The Brothers Warner, and I'm being recalled to history as ethical text. Harry Warner was a great man in many ways, and he insisted on following his moral conscience in his film-making. In 1934 he pulled Warner Brothers out of the highly profitable German market. 1934. Years before anyone else dared to put their profits on the line.

I was impressed by this but I was more impressed by his thwarted attempt to make a movie called Concentration Camp that same year. Though most people never suspected the extent of the horrors of these camps, people knew the basic outline of what was happening, but ignored it in favor of ease. They never made the movie becasue they were censored by the production board. In fact the production board refused to let them make any anti NAZI films before Confessions of a Nazi Spy in 1939.

My personality profile places me firmly in the group of people who have no particular desire for change, or challenges to the status quo. When it comes to most issues, I feel only an ambivalence toward such things because my focus is on relationships with people and fighting the man inevitably means putting relationships at risk. Oddly, I am more comfortable with personal change and I enjoy moving between cultures and sub-cultures for the same reason: I see intercultural movement as relational in nature and adapt quickly because it fosters relationship.

Now, I think I should apply the insights of theological hermeneutics (or perhaps the hermeneutic of suspicion) to the ethical reading of history. In the story of the prodigal son, we must read ourselves as the inhospitable older brother, in Anna Karenina we must read ourselves in the degenerate cast, in the Gospels we must read ourselves on the side of the murderers of Jesus, in Gulliver's Travels we must be both the Yahoos and the transformed Gulliver (but not the Houyhnhnms). If I read the ethical text of history with this suspicion of self, I must come to the conclusion that I would be an isolationist; therefore, I must beware of my tendencies and fight them even though my position seems perfectly logical to me.

Does that constitute advocacy of actions against logic in the name of ethics?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]