Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Tragedy or Hope

The things you find when putting together course materials… I was trawling through the Internet Archive, trying to find some short video material on postwar history that I could use to illustrate some points for the planning theory class. And of course I couldn’t help but get distracted when one of my searches pulled up: Tragedy or Hope: Educating 1960s campus protesters as to “what’s right with America.” Online reviewer Max Grody comments appreciatively:

This is just as appropriate today, except the creepy self-loathing sorts in America today can barely get more then 50 people to go to any protests. Thank god.

Though it is a strange idea, with revolutionary American clubbing down the dumb kid, it makes sense. Nothing wrong with America except the lazy abdicate their participation in government. Most who criticize America slough their responsibilities and cry because the world doesn’t dance to their childish, narcissistic whims. Instead they wish to enslave everyone to work half heartedly for communist ideas, or socialism (communism-lite).

In the 60’s people really purchased sophistry wholesale, and it still screws up this country. If this was tighter, with a slightly better direction, it should still be shown today…. if we have to indoctrinate our kids, why not use positive messages?

Indeed.

What interested me most in the film, I have to admit, is what was chosen as the main positive message – which is, in the words of the film, “America’s contribution to the world in materialistic ways” – material invention (or, where even this film becomes self-conscious about its more elaborate claims, something more like the capitalisation or commercial distribution of invention…). Our protagonist John Smith – “honours student, football star, Vietnam veteran” – has chosen “the way to anarchy and self-destruction” because he fails to appreciate America’s material contribution to the world – apparently he was rendered vulnerable to communist propaganda, because, like so many youth of his time, “he is a victim of irresponsible parenting – he has missed the stabilising influence of a good home and religious upbringing” and has therefore fallen under the influence of the wrong people, who have led him into “drugs, loose morals, and wanton destruction”. Fortunately for John, his many ancestors who return to haunt him during the short, as well as a concerned and clear-thinking history professor, are able to compensate for this lack, and turn John from his radical ways – just in time, for he was on the verge of opening the doors to let rioters in to destroy the medical books from his college’s library…

This piece is apparently a slimmed-down version of a longer effort titled Brink of Disaster, which I haven’t viewed. These films are part of a collection of materials on the virtues of capitalism generated from Harding College.

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