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Commentary :: Environment
Lord of the Rings: Philosophical Poison
31 Dec 2003
The righteous anger of the ancient Ents is unleashed upon Saruman's tower -- leafy Luddites who wreck machinery, kill workers, and wash away the blight. The message is hard to miss. It is right out of the Earth First! ideological handbook.
December 31, 2003

When I first read the Lord of the Rings as a child, I was moved beyond words. It was like entering a boyish fantasyland of adventure, danger, and romance. Tolkien painted Middle Earth with such poetic beauty that I wanted to unsheathe my sword and come to its rescue. His portrait of evil was captivating in its relentless malevolence.

Upon hearing that it was to be made into a movie trilogy, I was somewhat pessimistic. I doubted that any production could do the books justice. I was skeptical that the soul of the story could be captured on the big screen, and feared that the beloved tale would be butchered by Hollywood.

But I have to hand it to the makers of this series. By God, they did it. With each episode, they just kept getting better. The scenery is entrancing. The action is breathtaking. The characters blossom in their heroism, humanity, and beauty.

But now, decades after my first reading of the series, my perspective has changed. My "propaganda radar" is always on, and it picks up smuggled concepts and hidden political agendas like a tireless bloodhound. Decades of bombardment by the cultural Marxists have forced me to eat the apple of Eden. I see the good and evil and can no longer bask in that wonderful innocence of childhood.

As much as it genuinely pains me to say it, this movie trilogy is philosophically corrupt.

May old Tolkien forgive me, but the ideology embraced by the Ring trilogy is extremely harmful to those of us on the libertarian/paleoconservative right. It is more than harmful, it is downright dangerous.

I realize that this borders on sacrilege ... but before showering me with hoots of derision, hear me out.

Generally speaking, I see two politically-charged ideas advanced by this series.

First, and of lesser importance, is a strong anti-technology message that is plainly evident. The heroes are warm and fuzzy people who live in pastoral environs. The Hobbits farm peacefully in their delightful shires. The Elves live in their grand forests. The dwarves live in their rugged mountains and caves.

Cities and industry, on the other hand, are portrayed in the worst terms imaginable. Saruman's demesnes are downright Dickensian. Deformed orcs labor in satanic mills, mass-producing their evil progeny. The very Earth is despoiled as forests are mowed down, leaving behind barren moonscapes of poisoned soil and air.

This could have been written by Ralph Nader.

But luckily for Middle Earth, this industrial blight is erased by the righteous anger of the ancient Ents. They storm from the remaining forests like environmentalists attacking an SUV dealership. These leafy Luddites wreck the machinery, kill the disfigured orcish workers, and wash away the blight in a giant tidal wave.

Like it or not, the message is hard to miss. It is right out of the Earth First! ideological handbook.

While this Marxist/environmentalist propaganda is annoying, the more serious problem is the attack on "isolationism."

America, and much of the Western world, has had a long-running conflict between two irreconcilable views of the purpose of our civilization. One group, most aptly typified by the Jacobins of French Revolutionary fame, believes that society is an idealistic pursuit of utopia. This school of thinking holds that there must be a unifying goal which must be pursued relentlessly in order to justify society's collective existence. From the Crusades to the present Iraq War, the Jacobins believe that only by throwing our bodies (not their bodies, mind you ... but ours) into the maw of war for the "higher purpose" that currently enthralls them will we morally justify our existence.

The opposite pole, typified by the America First movement of 1930s fame, holds a position usually described as "conservative." This group believes that the purpose of society is to provide a framework of liberty so that the people can go about living their lives. It holds that the purpose of society is to permit the people to raise their children, work at their chosen career, and worship God with as little interference from distant authority as is possible. It is the belief in a Republic, not an Empire. It requires a military of minutemen, not centurions. It believes in "community building" at home, not "nation building" abroad.

The movie that the Ring trilogy most recalls in my mind is Casablanca. That too was a wonderfully made production with first-rate acting. But it too was a pot-shot at "isolationism." That movie revolved around a character who sulked about his own failed love life rather than lift a finger to enter the fray of world war. He was portrayed as a rather pathetic "man" who would rather cry in his drink than do anything concrete to save the world.

In the Ring, an implacable evil arises from distant lands. The Hobbits, (who one thinks are portrayed rather like our beltway elites view Americans in small-town USA), are content to live their myopic little lives instead of going off Crusading. But they can't just live their little lives. They cannot think that there is any moral righteousness in building a shire and enjoying their family. Not when there are orcs that need killing.

It is this Manichean view of reality, along with the futility of "isolationism," that is the real underlying message of the Lord of the Rings.

The psyche of our elites is essentially one endless loop of Lord of the Rings, with themselves starring as Gandalf (the wise one who must convince everyone else of the need for the Crusade). Their worldview, which in the American context I believe arose from the righteous fanaticism of New England Puritanism, focuses on a continuing series of Saurons. Southerners, Spaniards, Serbians, Muslims, etc., have each, in turn, served as the evil straw man against which the elites can release the grapes of wrath and swing their terrible swift sword.

Those who oppose their plans are either isolationist hobbits, cowardly human villagers, or Saruman-like turncoats.

The problem with this "Middle Earth" view of reality is that it does not accurately reflect the world around us. Arabs are not orcs. Milosovic is not Sauron. The Albanians are not elves. This philosophy of endless Crusading will leave us with mounds of corpses, a bankrupt treasury, and an Empire instead of a Republic.

So as much as we might enjoy swinging our make-believe sword at those imaginary orcs, adulthood beckons. Serbian nationalists and Muslim fanatics can never destroy our Constitution. But the ethos of endless war just might succeed where they fall short.

* * *

Steven LaTulippe is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in the United States Air Force for 13 years.
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31 Dec 2003
About as deep as buffalo shit! (I mean knee deep!) And this IS shit! One thing about OUR government...It steals from ITSELF. More contries owe us, than we owe them...The U.S.A. will never go under. Unless WE take it there.
Re: Lord of the Rings: Philosophical Poison
01 Jan 2004
The sweet little Republic of free individuals that right-wing "libertarians" long for was superseded long ago by the very industry they adore. As usual, despite false dichotomies, capitalism and statism are proceeding hand-in-hand. If you want philosophical reasoning that is "deeper" than Marxism, Earth First!, and right-wing market worship, check out Social Ecology - particularly the works of Murray Bookchin. Uh, we do actually have some serious global ecological problems you know, and they are rooted in capitalism as such. As for LOTR, I think it's a nice little story that expresses pre-capitalist but largely conservative values.
Re: Lord of the Rings: Philosophical Poison
01 Jan 2004
Steven LaTulippe needs to get out more...