My heart is that of a dashing, adventurous, passionate young man.
My head is that of an old fogie who believes in following the rules.
Nothing explains this better than the opening scene of my favorite movie “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp” written and directed in the United Kingdom in 1943 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
The movie follows forty years of the life of an officer in the British army, Clive Wynne-Candy.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z3UNoImE2Y
The film begins during the middle of the Second World War. There are training exercises going on at the British camp, pitting two teams of soldiers against each other. Major General Wynne-Candy, now a senior officer, is the leader of one squad. He is pot-bellied formal gentleman of the British old guard. The other squad leader is “Spud” Wilson, a brash young lieutenant.
On the day before the exercises are to begin, Wilson’s team “captures” Wynne-Candy relaxing in a Turkish bath. Wilson has struck early, breaking all conventions. He ignores Wynne-Candy’s protests that “War starts at midnight!”
“This is a new type of war with Hitler,” says Wilson. Wynne-Candy’s old-fashioned gentlemanly methods are to be scorned. He is called Colonel Blimp.
I first saw this movie at a repetory movie theater with my father. He loved movies about the Second World War, particularly those made in Great Britain.
The themes of this film have stuck with me for years, particularly the tension between “what is right” and “what is necessary.”
I respect “Spud” Wilson and the way he plays Colonel Blimp for a fool. He believes that the only way to defeat Hitler is to show Blimp that his ways are irrelevant. Being a gentleman is weakness.
In my heart, “Spud” Wilson embodies how a modern man should live his life.
But my sympathies lie with old fogie Colonel Blimp. Without him, there would be no moral center to the story. There is something noble about being a 19th century born gentleman, even when facing your fiercest enemy.
It is not a surprise that this blog is named “Citizen of the Month.” I was very turned on by the concept of citizenship and democracy when I was a wee lad in a public school in New York City.
This brings me to an uncomfortable conversation I had with someone online about the the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. I’ve been reading a lot about it, and frankly find it very exciting. People are finally getting angry about some of the inequalities of our society. I told this woman about how I loved her passion (represented by the 100 tweets an hour on the subject she puts on my stream) for social justice. These are citizens of American enjoying their liberty of free expression.
But when I saw her retweet something factually untrue in one of her tweets, I brought up this up. Politely, like Colonel Blimp.
“It doesn’t have to be all true. We have to get the word out to stop the 1%.”
I found this an odd statement, and didn’t quite jibe with my view of “truth, justice, and the American way,” as spoken by one of our country’s greatest leaders, Superman.
Superman would never LIE to defeat his enemy!
I appealed to her reason, bringing up her enemies — the wealthy conservative overlords of the far right.
“But remember how we were all going crazy when conservatives were saying that Obama wasn’t a citizen or that he was, god help us, A MUSLIM? They also knew it was untrue, but said it anyway just to create trouble. Isn’t it the same thing that you are doing? How can we criticize them if everyone does it?”
“This is different. What we believe in is financial equality, and what they believe is moronic.”
And after this discussion, I thought about my favorite movie, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and how the themes of that story are still reverberating in my head so many years later.
I’d like to be more political, but when people get too emotionally involved in any cause, or read too many Ann Rand books, they start to believe that they are above the law because only their ideas are right. Lying and manipulation is OK, as long as it supports what you believe.
That’s a sad thought. And as our world becomes more and more controlled by PR, Marketing, and Media firms, it seems as if this will just become the norm, if it isn’t already. Since real life is too complex for anyone to use as a sound byte, the truth becomes the least important part of any campaign.
Colonel Blimp’s gentlemen is surely dead in a world where the ends justify the means, even in conversation.