Monday, May 24, 2010

Russell Crowe vs. the Real Robin Hood

In a recent interview about his new movie, Robin Hood, actor Russell Crowe had this to say:

"The thing that attracts me is that there's some guy out there who will work on behalf of the people who can't do something for themselves. There's a guy there who'll rob from the rich and give to the poor."

I can't help but be reminded of a certain heroic character in a certain novel written by a certain American philosopher, who made it his mission to wipe from mankind's memory the symbol of which Crowe speaks:

"I am fighting the idea that need is a sacred idol requiring human sacrifices - that the need of some men is the knife of a guillotine hanging over others - that all of us must live with our work, our hopes, our plans, our efforts at the mercy of the moment when that knife will decend upon us - and that the extent of our ability is the extent of our danger, so that success will bring our heads down on the block, while failure will give us the right to pull the cord. This is the horror which Robin Hood immortalized as an ideal of righteousness. It is said that he fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don't have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. ... Until men learn that of all human symbols, Robin Hood is the most immoral and the most contemptible, there will be no justice on earth and no way for mankind to survive."(page 577)

Ayn Rand recognized that the "meaning of the legend" and the "symbol" were opposites. Russell Crowe apparently clings to the symbol, but perhaps the movie is more true to the actual legend. About the movie, Vulture's Lane Brown saw a Tea Partyer:

"Even though Robin Hood's no-taxation, anti-government philosophy is similar to that of a certain emerging political party, Russell Crowe will have you know that his Robin Hood is no tea-bagger."

No-siree! Robin Hood would be fighting against the First Amendment, which he calls "the monopolization of media". I'm sure he was kidding.

But, sadly, he wasn't kidding in the quote cited above. In an article at National entitled, The real Robin never robbed the rich, John Ridpath, referring to Crowe's personal take on Robin Hood, had this to say:

"It’s an alarming omen to again see Robin Hood heroism mindlessly distorted. Aside from its vacuously erroneous simplicity, this standard image of Robin Hood is grounds for concern about the state of our culture."

Robin Hood, writes Mr. Ridpath, was "an agent of justice" who returned wealth to its rightful owners which "the Norman conquerors and their minions seized, by force..." He was "a defender of the common man’s right to his earned property. He was a courageous enemy of state-enforced robbery."

Furthermore, continues Mr. Ridpath, Crowe's "praising the act of robbery from the rich because it serves the poor, without explaining the context, endorses the immoral principle of forcing the able and productive into sacrificial service of the needy."

The inversion of the legend that turns a hero into the personification of pure evil reminds Mr. Ridpath of a futuristic little novel which carries a desperate warning to us. He concludes:

"Most alarming, however, is the implication of our culture accepting the Robin Hood mantra — he stole from the rich to give to the poor. To the contrary, historians report, and the movie presents by his own words what Robin Hood was after: “Liberty. Under law.” He sought the protection of private property, under law, from robbery by Normans and feudal barony.

"That our culture can unwittingly and with increasing vehemence embrace this unjust and false portrayal of a heroic and virtuous man is evidence of our culture’s intellectual decline. When such virtue is portrayed as economic redistribution for the sake of economic redistribution and equalization, we are on the road to George Orwell’s 1984 — naked tyranny over a citizenry rendered dumb through the abuse of the English language."

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