I can't honestly say I'm a revolutionary or that I have ever even aspired to being a revolutionary. I'm much too pragmatic in a Burkean sense—18th century political philosopher Edmund Burke, that is, who I believe once said, "You say you've got a real solution, well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan"—to want to sweep away everything that's come before just because I hope for a future that promises something better.
As a practical matter, I gravitate more toward evolution than revolution, or at least I prefer a messy compromise that gets me a step closer to my goals to a perfect plan that goes nowhere and leaves me mired in the status quo. Which means if to get you to watch Chaplin's City Lights I have to run down Pennsylvania Avenue with the blogging equivalent of boxer shorts on my head, so be it.
And a necessary component of
(Of course, we're talking about what I would call engaged dissent, dissent grounded in fact and reasonably logical argument and a respect for a difference of opinion without bullying or feeling bullied. But that's a subject for another day.)
I was thinking about the role of dissent this past weekend after "Zak in the ATL," a fan of Norma Shearer, took exception to my blithe dismissal of the Oscar-winning actress (here and here). And he's was right to, of course. As I wrote in reply, "It's a big tent we've pitched here at the Monkey and we encourage all points of view. Hopefully, your enthusiasm for Norma Shearer's work will counter my own crabbier response and will encourage readers who stumble across this blog to give her a try. ... The goal of this blog, for me at least, is to encourage my readers to see as many movies as possible. I hope you stick around to cheer Norma on in the future and argue in support of your favorites."
Because that's really the point of the blog, right? To inspire you to see movies you might otherwise have missed, if only to prove to yourself that I am an idiot. The only proper way for movie fans to address a difference of opinion is to watch the movie. (Coincidentally, the only way to celebrate complete agreement is to watch the movie—indeed, the answer to every question for a movie fan is to watch the movie. Which perhaps explains why so few world leaders ever blog about the movies.)
I have another reason, though, a more selfish reason, for encouraging your dissent.
As you may have already guessed, I've actually spent the last ten months telling you what I don't know about the movies, and I've had to do quite a bit of scrambling to develop a working knowledge of the films of the silent and early sound eras. I've enjoyed the effort and hopefully the pleasure I've felt researching old movies has translated into some interesting essays.
But as I (very) slowly grind on toward the future, I find I have seen more and more of the top movies of a given year or if I haven't seen them, I'm at least aware of them and am chasing them down. In other words, I am arriving at my comfort zone. And as I become more comfortable, I am convinced blind spots will develop, that I will ignore movies I've already seen and dismissed, or assume an opinion I formed in my youth is an opinion I would still hold in my dotage. I'm counting on you to keep me on my toes.
If you don't feel comfortable disagreeing with me, this blog will never get anywhere.
"For in this very thing lies the difference between freemen and those that are not free," said Edmund Burke. "In a free country every man thinks he has a concern in all public matters; that he has a right to form and a right to deliver an opinion upon them. They sift, examine, and discuss them. They are curious, eager, attentive, and jealous; and by making such matters the daily subjects of their thoughts and discoveries, vast numbers contract a very tolerable knowledge of them, and some a very considerable one. And this it is that fills free countries with men of ability in all stations."
"But when you talk about destruction," he added, "don't you know that you can count me out."
Hear hear, Edmund, hear hear.