One reason that grand utopian schemes never work is that human beings really do not understand each other. I don’t just mean that nowadays we have lost touch with eternal truths about human nature, although we have. I mean that people who are different from each other really cannot predict how the other will react to things, or how they will interpret them. This becomes clear every time I assume that even a Democrat will understand some simple, indisputable fact, and instead they spin bizarre fantasies I never could have dreamed of. The way they keep finding excuses to believe in global warming no matter how much of the “evidence” is proven to be forged is one example. But this is not only about liberals and conservatives, there are infinitely more divisions across which we can baffle each other. Did you know that there are people who liked the second Hulk movie better than the first? I have met at least three of them! In the flesh! And they had no motive for lying about it!
It’s really appalling how much I learn from Cracked. Thanks to it, I just a few days ago found out that innumerable people took Gordon Gekko as a role model.
To put this in my personal context, when I saw this movie, I was a 17-year-old in the process of memorizing the complete works of Ayn Rand. I was a staunch capitalist. I went to that movie with no idea what it was going to be about; I was going to see the actress who played Madison the mermaid.
Even at the age of 17, even though the movie was an indictment of the corruption of capitalism, I understood perfectly that Gordon Gekko was, you know, bad. I didn’t even leave the theater going, “How dare those pinkos criticize our wonderful system!” because the message was nothing so simplistic. No doubt the movie was interpreted by many (and probably intended by its makers) as an indictment of capitalism as a whole instead of as a warning about where the system can and does go wrong, but any pro-capitalist with an IQ higher than that of a golden retriever should understand the movie’s message of “this right here is where things can go wrong and we need to keep an eye on that”.
But it turns out that an awful lot of people took the movie, not as a cautionary tale about a flaw in the system or as the story of an individual bad person, but as an instruction manual.
Over the years, the film’s screenwriter Stanley Weiser has been approached by numerous people who told him, “The movie changed my life. Once I saw it I knew that I wanted to get into such and such business. I wanted to be like Gordon Gekko”. In addition, both Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas still have people come up to them and say that they became stockbrokers because of their respective characters in the film.
Okay, people, if you can’t understand what a pro-capitalist teenager understood about that movie, you should probably be… well, locked up, actually.
Which a lot of such people are now, with more to come, so there you go.
For me personally, the lesson here is, “You have no clue what is going on in other people’s heads. Indeed, you couldn’t imagine anything so crazy or stupid if you spent centuries trying. So don’t assume you have a clue what’s going on.”