Friday, February 21, 2014

On The Lego Movie and the Importance of Creativity and Individuality

The Lego Movie is a great film and I would recommend anyone to see it.  It’s not only a funny movie but an intelligent one that has clear Existentialist and Left-wing critiques of society, but more importantly than that an examination of humanities potential and the world we live-in in a fresh, imaginative way.  However, some Socialists of various stripes are criticizing – are you really going to imitate FOX News and start bashing the messages given in children’s films? – the film for being a work of Idealism and Liberalism rather than a movie with a legitimate Left-wing message.  These people are wrong, and the shame is that it’s because they lack the creativity and openness that’s the main essence of the film that they fail to understand why the film is an expression of meaningful change and a critique of Capitalism.
Firstly, there is the obvious of criticizing the trash pop music and lamebrain comedies the American people are fed that encourages monotony, apathy and stifles creativity and intellectual growth.  Everyone has instructions for how to interact and be well-liked applying Fordist ideology to behavior in-a-sense as Zamyatin’s We does to all of society’s structures and the individuals’ routine rather than simply the workplace.  Also the true name of President Business being Lord Business implies there’s an anti-democratic and authoritarian essence to Capitalism and the psychology of the businessman.  The worker is your Average Joe who doesn’t think anything special of him and hasn’t really tried to do anything unique or stimulating because society doesn’t value these things on-whole and tacitly discourages them in several ways.
Emmett is the expression of the individual who appears to not be extraordinary, but through a conscious effort to improve himself finds himself capable of doing so – a clear expression of a true understanding of Dialectical Materialism that most Marxists fail to grasp.  It is the vulgar Materialist who says that human beings are merely material things in a materialist Universe, and therefore cannot break free from his nature.  This simplistic mentality of vulgar Materialism and Determinism is seen in the perception of Emmett being proclaimed “The Special,” the entity that was predetermined to be what that which is needed for change.  And although things are to a large degree pre-decided by physical law, we must never forget that we are still the things affecting change.  Seen in Emmett still fulfilling the prophecy due-to his Existential and material nature, not because of some prophecy. 
Dialectical Materialism’s major contribution is a difference in mentality and in action due-to the understanding both intellectually and psychologically or viscerally of the distinction, namely that we human beings are amazing beings with brains that no other creature we know of comes close to.  We become adjusted to the marvelous potential that is our lives so we fail to live everyday as the astounding realm of possibilities that it is, even in a world limited by poor education, lousy wages and class and religious forces that explicitly and implicitly make the world a less awe-inspiring place through limiting creative and intellectual potential among other things.  And that is how this film critiques Capitalism.  This critique is not only important; it is essential.  Yet because it’s not directly analyzing the conditions and critiquing the materialist and political sources behind the working class, unimaginative and frankly overall unintelligent Marxists and other Leftists will fail to comprehend the essence and significance of this message.
Man’s material nature is as a thinking thing.  So as Materialists we must never forget the fantastic fact that is the capacity of the human being to drastically alter his own perception and action from a volition created by chemical stimuli of the brain which has a complexity and elegance that is beyond my comprehension.  We are material beings, but this does not exclude us from the miraculous – quite the contrary; in a Einsteinian sense of the miraculous, the physical laws and consistent interworking of the Physical, Geological, Biological, Evolutionary, Neurochemical, Psychological are what allows amazing things to be done on a fairly regular basis whether we’ve grown numb to them for various reasons or not.  We don’t require burning bushes or Gods instructing us on high to live the lives of intense beauty and countless possibility that is limited by our own minds just as much as by material circumstance.  Small mindedness is a larger enemy to humanity than low wages; and perhaps even more-so, because it is small mindedness that both prevents unified and meaningful action of society on-large, and is the main evil of the Conservative psychology seen in President Business – AKA Mitt Romney – that allows all others to be committed. 
Business’ plan is essentially to freeze everything, being afraid of change – an obvious invocation to the Reactionary forces that want things to go back to the Nuclear family and Leave it to Beaver days of yore – and wanting to “keep all his stuff” – which I shouldn’t need to explain as the endless greed and gluttony of the business class as well-as the paranoia and warped psychology of the “Looter Mentality” seen in Conservatives and Right-wing Libertarians that believe the poor and young are lazy, which I’d agree in the sense that they lack real intellectual vitality and determination to do things grand and unique, but this of course is largely a result of our poor “industrialized” school systems, religion and business interests being synthesized in the psychology of the Christian Right.
The part of the movies that has unimaginative Socialists cry “idealism” and “Liberalism” is perhaps its most ingenious part.  After Emmett falls through what is effectively a Black Hole to allow the writers to draw back the curtain and show the Lego Land for what it is; we see that this world of creativity and wonder is the result of a child playing with the colossal Lego set that his father – hilariously played by Will Farrell – has painstakingly set-up.  This could be seen as a critique of tradition and an invocation for the young and imaginative to lead the way, but more powerful than this is how Emmett “defeats” President Business via the Son expressing a heart wrenchingly beautiful sentiment through Emmett himself, which is an incredibly intelligent “meta” scene construction as well.  He essentially tells his Father, who represents not evil or even endless greed but closed-mindedness and the common need for safety of conviction and regularity that we see in people in virtually all political and philosophical trends to some extent that you don’t have to be as you are, there’s always the human potential for improvement, intellectual and psychological growth and radical change in worldview that goes Light-years beyond petty politics.  We can appreciate and change the world for the better, so everyone – or at-least for more than current existing numbers – can live lives of unique grandeur and individually defined purpose and richness that wasn’t even conceivable before by most.  Instead of being petty and small-minded wanting everything to remain as it is and unthreatened both in the economic and the existential sense by change, even if that change is radical improvement and enhancement of the human condition.
There is a distinction between President Business, the evil Mastermind who wants to freeze all the citizens of the Legoverse and Will Ferrell as Dad, who simply is an average working class Joe who is moderately Conservative but an overall loving and decent person.  And that distinction being one is a real human being with the capacity for change while the other is an archetype of a particular ideology and its psychology.  The film isn’t saying that we can simply ask the Mitt Romneys and Donald Trumps of the world to be nicer, more human and relate to their fellow man decently, but that we can make real political and more importantly existential or perceptual change in people simply by being decent and thoughtful towards them.  We aren’t going to improve people in a realistic or fundamental way by throwing books of Marxist literature at them and arguing with Conservatives or Libertarians; what we can do however is organize politically but do so with the intention of improving human experience in a multifaceted way using a multifaceted approach.
The world is a beautiful and awe inspiring place.  Full of things both natural and made by human beings living and long gone.  It is to be cherished and experienced daringly, openly and not through the filter of systems and ideology – that is what the film is primarily about with the Existential bits added.  Only a children’s film can be so intelligent and wise through the act of play, seen in the film itself with the child talking to the father through Emmett, who embodies his subconscious mind and his essence, still innocent, creative and exploring a world full of unlimited possibilities.  Only children’s films give the backdrops to worlds of wonder and dialogue that is meaningful, intelligent, but discreet.  It is for the viewer to grasp the film’s message, rather than having it ladled for him; just as it is for the child and later adult to make for himself who he truly is, or rather taking Nietzsche’s advice and “Becoming who you are,” through the proper educational and societal help that we can all benefit from.  And to attain a world where we can all share in this material, intellectual and psychological richness and majesty, we must first start treating people not as material or ideological cogs, but complicated and dynamically material human beings living in the world, so that one day they will be to a degree never before actualized and conceived of only by those rare and immaculate minds who create the worlds of fiction; stimulating our conceptual tools through entertainment so that we may change ourselves and our world while enhancing it greatly through the genius expressed in fiction which surpasses all sciences.  And no matter how contrived or predictable it may be, I’m obliged to end this with that wisest of all Einsteinian sentiments:  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

There have been so many people who possess a cleverness and spark of creativity and craftsmanship that far surpasses mine, and I would like to express my deep gratitude for being able to share this planet with them as result of the random forces which allows us to witness their brilliance, attempt to achieve some fraction of it ourselves and be witnesses and shapers of this world.

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