Thoughts,words and deeds

Most people harbor bad thoughts. It’s the civilizing instincts we learn over a lifetime that help us tamp down those thoughts. Thus, while we may hate, really hate, the boss who destroyed our career, we don’t kill that boss — or at least most of us don’t. “Going postal,” for all the press it garners, is a rarity. For most people, their bad thoughts remain just that — bad thoughts.

The reason I’m thinking about thoughts is the latest story about Mel Gibson. Mel Gibson’s always been tied to anti-Semitism because of his father, who is an anti-Semite in the old-fashioned Catholic tradition. This is something the modern Catholic church is trying with great vigor and success to stamp out — and part of the reason why Gibson’s father has broken with mainstream Catholicism, which has no room for his hate mongering.

When Mel Gibson made his big movie, The Passion of the Christ, there was huge uproar about whether or not it was anti-Semitic. Although I didn’t see the movie, I came away with the impression that it was a fairly accurate retelling of the Passion as described in the New Testament, with all the attendant baggage that carries. It certainly wasn’t friendly to the Jews, but it was also insufficient to spark an American Kristallnacht. It’s impossible to tell whether the latter is what Gibson would have wished to occur.

Mel Gibson is once again in trouble for suspicions that he harbors ill will towards Jews, and this time he’s convicted out of his own mouth. According to a credible report, Mel Gibson made a wild, anti-Semitic tirade:

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: “F*****g Jews… The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson then asked the deputy, “Are you a Jew?”

The thing is, when he made this tirade, Gibson was rip-roaring drunk. In other words, remove the mask of civility that maturity and social constraints impose, and you discover that Mel Gibson is, in fact, the anti-Semite everyone thinks he is. However, that’s not where Mel Gibson wants to be in the public eye, either because he’s embarrassed by his deepest, darkest thoughts or (more likely, I think) because harboring those thoughts will affect his bottom line. In any event, he is now trying to distance himself from his statements:

“I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable,” the actor-director said without elaborating.

My question, and one I don’t know how to answer, is how far we allow bad thoughts, if they’re not accompanied by bad acts. Normally, I’d say we shouldn’t control thoughts at all, we care only about acts. This is why I find the thought police taking over American college campuses so despicable and 1984-ish. But what about a situation when someone does an act — say, making The Passion of the Christ — which seems to be a subliminal forum for the thoughts — such as anti-Semitism? If you’re scooting in the direction of bad acts, is it enough to deny your spoken thoughts? I really don’t know. And I’ll admit that I’m handicapped in this regard by the fact that I’ve never liked Mel Gibson at any stage in his long Hollywood career. I’m therefore not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In any event, I doubt that Gibson’s latest flirtation with anti-Semitism will affect him much. I think the movie The Passion was the big career divide for him, separating the fans from the non-fans. For me, the whole episode — the drunkenness, the major crime of drunk driving, the epithet spewing, the effort to avoid arrest, the anti-Semitic rants — is enough to condemn him for being a disreputable, unappealing, anything-but-admirable character, and if I hadn’t already stopped watching his movies twenty years ago, I’d stop watching them now.

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  • Contratimes

    The assumption made here is rather disturbing: alcohol unleashes the real self. Is that even true? You write:

    In other words, remove the mask of civility that maturity and social constraints impose, and you discover that Mel Gibson is, in fact, the anti-Semite everyone thinks he is.

    If it is the case that the real self is revealed when alcohol causes one’s inhibitions to drop, then none of us is real when sober. Surely, if you were sober when you wrote this post, then we must conclude that this is all so much vacant civility; your true self is no doubt hidden and rather monstrous. Moreover, all those horrific actions performed — and all the broken promises uttered and miscalculations made — by millions of people while drunk prove that horrific action, broken promises and miscalculations are at least justified by being incredibly real and honest, with no veneer of civility covering things up: people are vile to the marrow. Surely, too, all those women who found themselves pregnant after a drunken one-night stand revealed, in that moment of inebriated passion, that they were, to the core, lovers of promiscuity. Or are these not the sort of implications we should be taking from your position?

    Surely you see the problem. Surely you also see the problem with a conversation about a man — still innocent, by the way — who was arrested for DUI. Yet, we talk about something he SAID WHILE DRUNK, and not the fact that he was drunk while driving. Why do we even KNOW what he said, and how is it legally germane to the charges against him?

    Answer: this is about gossip, smearing, and denigration. It is not about truth, justice, love or mercy.


  • Andrew

    I can see your point of view, but I also see that people make mistakes. Like you said, he was drunk and not in control of his actions. Alcohol can completely reverse your personality. A devout Jew or Christian, for example, could strip down and expose themselves (e.g. Noah) because all of their inhibitions that are part of their personality are removed.

    I’m sure having a anti-Semantic father has a lot to do with what he said. Each of us inherit something something from our parents that I’m sure we wish we never had. It could have even just been a switch that flipped in his head when he was angry and drunk to where he started spouting stuff he had been subject to as a kid.

    I’m not saying that any of this excuses his behavior. His major mistake was drinking in the first place. As he has apologized and repented for his one-time actions (while drunk), I think he deserves another chance, or at least the benefit of the doubt.

  • Bookworm

    Tennyson wrote that Nature is “red in tooth and claw.” Having children confirms this. Without constraints imposed against them, little children have the most vile, avaricious, aggressive creatures imaginable. As adults raising these children to function in society, we address these very anti-social instincts. Some, we obliterate altogether; some we merely sublimate.

    On the one occasion I got drunk, I just sat and giggled. Does this say that I have no bad instincts whatsoever or just that I’m a happy drunk (with a really unhappy hangover, hence the one-time-only experiment)? Who can say.

    All I can say is that we know with certainty that people do bad, bad things when alcohol removes their inhibitions. Alcohol doesn’t create the bad, bad things. It takes off the brakes in people’s minds. Some people without breaks giggle, some rob stores, some molest children, and some give voice to their inner anti-Semite.

    By the way, Mel’s drunkeness could equally well have taken off the brakes to his inner belief that he can leap from bridges without getting hurt (as many small children believe). In that case, the news story might have been about Gibson suffering serious fractures when, while drunk, he tried to fly off a bridge.

    In other words, not all of our sublimated impulses are evil; some are stupid, some silly, some loving. But to the extent that some are evil, and we spend an inordinate amount of waking energy suppressing them, well, yeah, alcohol makes the difference in giving those voice and energy to those thoughts and acts.

  • Ymarsakar

    I agree with myself. Meaning, what Bookworm first brought up is also something I was thinking about but have not written.

    Specifically, when Bookworm asked what was the line between seditionous thought and harmless thought. I’ve been wondering that as well when I was catching too short clips of the Triumph of the Will. I was specifically wondering how you draw the line between propaganda designed to induce hate and free speech.

    I can tell the difference, but I have not scientifically analyzed the methodology of how I can tell the difference. But suffice it to say, that making a movie can be clearly labeled an action. People going to see the movie, can be clearly labeled an action. Speaking is also an action, which is why it can be limited. But thoughts, pure abstract thoughts in a journal or something? I don’t think they should be limited at all.

    I was thinking that alcohol does not show the true you, simply because I remember that alcohol removes inhibitions. So it makes things funnier, in that there are no social hangups about what is not funny or offensive. When I got drunk, I just went to sleep, thoughts were so hazy. It was my body demanding to be purged of alcohol, of course.

    I think there are two kinds of inhibitions. Mental training inhibitions, which are somehow set deep into your psyche and personality that alcohol cannot touch. And societal inhibitions, which limit your behavior but not how you think or feel. Alcohol strips these societal inhibitions out. Mel Gibson was probably following the new testament closely in his book, because he did not want to give into his anti-semitism. When people are drunk, they tend to go into stream of consciousness mode. They will say whatever is on their mind.

    In light of this thinking, Bookworm’s thoughts on the subject bear a striking resemblance. I don’t got much against Mel, I think it’s cause I get him confused with Clooney sometimes. But the movies I did see, were interesting, in that Mel could give you this look on camera that was kind of wild and psychotic.

    Without your inhibitions, you are not you. However, it does show you at the core, independent of society. Who are you if you were truly free and society had no control over your behavior? That is what it tells. If you were ever fully conscious while drunk and could think introspectively, then you should try getting real drunk and start thinking about things, stuff that you blog, and see if you can remember what crops up.

    An alternative to regression hypnosis perhaps, as a thinking exercise.

  • T.S.

    Here’s a poll from World Nut daily:

    I’m with Bookworm on this one.

    I got drunk plenty of times during my gloriously misspent youth and never once ranted againt the Jews. I never suddenly adopted my parents’ attitudes either.

    I acted like me. But without the usual inhibitions.

  • expreacherman

    Book, Great read….

    The primary issue of Mel’s drunkenness and his anti-Semitic rants are terrible but are completely overshadowed by His movie, The Passion — which is a sham.

    I did not waste my time seeing it but a friend (formerly Catholic) did and wrote some excellent reviews. It surprised me that so many “Fundamental Christian” leaders were conned into encouraging their church members to see it.

    The movie strayed from Scripture with more than just literary license, it dwelled upon — and dwelled upon — and dwelled upon the suffering of Jesus with no more than a slight mention of the Glorious Resurrection — which fact, witnessed by hundreds, proves the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus is no longer on the cross of the crucifix — but He Is Risen!

    Mel promoted a hyper-Catholic doctrine which, if analyzed by honest Catholics, bends their beliefs into an unscriptural mysticism.

    Mel needs to look to the Savior, whose story he so distorted, and trust Jesus alone to be his Savior. That could help cure him of his alcoholism and his anti-semitism.

    But Mel probably won’t listen to me. ;-))


  • zhombre

    I will also concur with Book on this one. I’ve been drunk more times than I care to admit, and often been belligerent when drunk, but never launched into any kind of anti semitic or racist rant that I can recall. People don’t say or do things if the disposition to speak or act isn’t already present, however latent, however repressed, however much they may regret it when in a more rational state. Gibson disappoints me. His rancor toward Jews is a parochial attitude and his bullying police officers reduces him to typical self-aggrandizing Hollywood prick. Regarding the Passion, I’ve seen it, own a copy of the DVD, and I think a good if not great movie, far too graphic. I try to judge an artist by their work not by their lives because most artists’ lives are as wretched if not more wretched and squalid than anyone else’s.

  • Don Quixote

    Hi Contratimes,

    Just because your true self comes out when drunk, it does not necessarily follow that your true self is any different than your undrunk self. The drunken self may be the same as the sober self (as I think it would be with Bookie) or it may be very different (as it was with Gibson). All we know for certain is (1) alcohol lessens your inhibitions and (2) and uninhibited Gibson is not a pretty sight.

  • Trish

    It surprises me when people accuse Christian fundamentalists of believing that “the Jews killed Christ”, when in fact that was one of the errors of the Catholic church that fundamentalism was designed to correct. In fact the idea that anyone “killed Christ” misses the point; His death was necessary to redeem humanity. If no one had “killed Christ”, we would all still be damned.

    But I think the suffering of Christ should be the important point of the movie. Christians tend to gloss over this. Christ’s triumph over death is the victory he won for us all, but too few of us realize what He sacrificed to buy us redemption.

    Jews are not villains. Jesus and all his followers were themselves Jews. I’m sorry that Mel Gibson has such a vile attitude towards them; it taints any message he is trying to convey. He is apparently letting alcohol control him; that’s a grim fate for anyone. Probably the worst result of his irresponsibility is the impression he gives that Christians are Anti-Semites. It’s not true. I hope he gets some help.

  • Earl

    I have no idea whether Mel Gibson is an anti-semite or not. However, I think it’s possible that he could produce an anti-semitic rant without actually being anti-semitic – meaning that he really doesn’t hate Jews and does not believe the nonsense he spouted while drunk.

    I say “I think…” because I’m not trained in psychology or psychiatry — I’m just talking from experience with my own brain. Inside the “lizard brain” in the back of my head, I see myself as a fat kid…..based on my experiences when young, and the almost constant messages received from my Mom (bless her heart – she had [and still has at 84] the SAME problem, learned from HER Mom). Both Mom and grandmother were always dieting and getting us kids on diets, as well. We weren’t any of us truly obese, just normal chunky kids.

    When rational and in control of my brain, I know that it isn’t true (although I have NEVER been skinny — when I weighed 150 pounds during radiation treatments, I never lost my fat roll…it was just smaller!), because I can look in the mirror and read the scales. I’m six feet and about 190, so you can see I’m still not skinny. I have the feeling that if I were to get drunk (which isn’t going to happen), I might just lose the ability to talk to the lizard brain, with all its messages implanted there so long ago, and I’d simply see myself as “fat”. Another good reason not to drink!

    I’m going to propose that a similar scenario explains why a (hypothetically – we don’t know) NON-anti-semitic Mel Gibson would give vent to the rant he did while drunk. Mel was raised by a vicious anti-semite – I have never heard anyone deny it…not even Mel. In his brain are terrible things about Jews – built up over years and years of hearing them spouted by the major authority figure in his life, and at the most vulnerable time for all of us, childhood. Today (I suggest it is possible that) Mel Gibson believes none of these things, and (if I’m worth anything as an analogy) he has tried desperately to rid himself of them. A lifetime is not long enough, folks….when his rational self is incapacitated by the use of alcohol, it is the old messages that come roaring back unchecked.

    Perhaps none of this is true – perhaps the man is an anti-semitic jerk. I do hope that others will offer me the charity of refusing to jump to the worst conclusion possible when I’ve been an idiot….especially when there is another explanation that meets the test of reason. Of course, someone who really knows their psychology may be able to blow my entire scenario right out of the water.

    Say a prayer for Mel Gibson – a fellow sinner with very real problems. For one thing, pray that he can stay on the wagon.

  • Bookworm

    Earl: I wouldn’t be surprised if the terrible childhood pronouncements Gibson certainly heard spouted out of him when he was drunk. The question is whether they’re subliminated but believed, or sublimated and rejected. That’s why I’m still a jury that’s out, although I will say that my dislike for him as an actor makes it easy for me to be doubtful of his bona fides.

    By the way, I’ll admit that we Jews are a bit sensitive. My mother always said “Never marry a non-Jew.” I asked, “Why?” “Because,” she said, “one day, you’ll have a terrible argument about something and he, in the heat of the moment, will turn to you and say, ‘You dirty Jew.'” My mother was the product of a most unhappy mixed marriage and, while I’ve never asked, I suspect that she saw that worst-case scenario played out, and it affected forever her view about the true philo-Judaism of even one who marries a Jew. I’m not sure that one needs to be so worried in 20th or 21st Century America, but that certainly was a real scenario in early 20th Century Europe.

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  • Contratimes

    It may indeed be the case that alcohol removes inhibitions; but the true self might be those inhibitions. In other words, that which is removed might not be a cover, but the very essence of who a person is. Why would we conclude (or even suggest) that something blurted out while poison is coursing through a person’s veins is coming from that person’s heart? Perhaps it is spewing from his demon.

    It is disconcerting that someone could write (as #6 above):

    I did not waste my time seeing it [Gibson’s “Passion”] but a friend (formerly Catholic) did and wrote some excellent reviews. It surprised me that so many “Fundamental Christian” leaders were conned into encouraging their church members to see it.

    Gibson’s film on the last few hours of Christ’s life is a powerful and brilliant work. Yes, it includes some dubious touches, but they are hardly germane and they are surely not heretical. The resurrection of Christ might indeed have proven His Divinity; but a Christ, a God Incarnate, who does not suffer by taking the sins of the world — the blame for everything — upon Him is neither a savior nor a God. The Passion is the climax; the resurrection the denouement.

    That some deemed the film “too graphic” miss the larger point: Christ’s crucifixion was far more graphic than the film could ever depict. For one thing, Christ most likely hung on the cross naked. Just imagine that. And as for this idea that Christ is no longer hanging on the cross — that Catholics are fixated on a dying, injured God — the crucifix symbolizes that Christ’s sacrifice is eternal, his very wounds still with him even after his resurrection. God is broken when making us whole.

    As for the controversial allegations of anti-semitism in Gibson’s film, or in the New Testament itself, what is entirely overlooked is that the offending passages in the Gospels — and perhaps in the Pauline epistles — were written and believed by Jews. They were not Gentiles who wrote such provocative words: they were Jewish men. Were Matthew, Mark, John, and Paul thus anti-semites? I will let my Jewish friends decide that. But if it is true that they are anti-semites, then does it not follow that anti-semitism has Jewish roots?

    A tough, tough question.

    Peace to you, always.

  • Kitty

    If that’s the standard, then Hillary is anti-semitic and racist, too, and she was completely sober.

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  • reader_iam

    Bookworm: I’m an admirer of yours, though I’ve never commented here, but I must say that I cannot agree with the implications, if the logic is carried through, contained in this paragraph:

    My question, and one I don’t know how to answer, is how far we allow bad thoughts, if they’re not accompanied by bad acts. Normally, I’d say we shouldn’t control thoughts at all, we care only about acts. This is why I find the thought police taking over American college campuses so despicable and 1984-ish. But what about a situation when someone does an act — say, making The Passion of the Christ — which seems to be a subliminal forum for the thoughts — such as anti-Semitism?

    Respectfully, this is far scarier territory to me than the drunken rantings, whether emblematic of true feelings when sober or not, of one actor/director, famous or not, who may have jumped the shark. He’s being pilloried–absolutely appropriately!–in the media and blogosphere, so the system is working! To go farther than is to proceed into dangerous territory indeed–at least if one believes in the principle of, to put it simplistically, “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

    And overreacting to Gibson’s assholery of the other night by calling for an investigation into his alleged hate crimes threatens to debase the very meaning of such a category, not to mention others. I’ve blogged about that at DWM, if you’re interested.

  • reader_iam

    I’m not saying that YOU are calling for any such thing, of course!!!

  • Bookworm

    Reader_iam, you’re right that I’m not calling for any punishment for Gibson’s thoughts, other than social ostracism. I’m not even going to boycott his movies, because I’ve always boycotted his movies. I’m just looking at Mel and wondering when you can start condemning a drunk for what he says. There’s been a lot of back and forth here about whether Mel really is anti-Semite, whether he’s just an ugly drug, whether he’s fought against or internalized his father’s outspoken beliefs, etc. I gues I’m just trying to figure out if there is a true to Mel’s drunken ravings in which case, again, I wouldn’t demand his arrest or punishment — just his being shunned by those who care.

  • reader_iam

    It seems to me that you can condemn a drunk’s nasty words quite apart from whether those words reflect his true feelings or not. Does that make sense? I mean, he said them, which makes him at best a jerky drunk, even if he’s actually not an anti-semite, virulent or otherwise. I personally would not want to draw global conclusions from something someone said when drunk (whoever above made reference to the possibility that the sober restraint is the marker of character has an interesting point), but that’s different from not holding the person accountable at least in the sense of: “This is another reason you cannot handle alcohol! Look at what you said! Shame on you–that’s inexcusable.” You know, sort of along the lines of the classic 12-Step program and its accountabilities. I mean, isn’t part of that not making excuses?

    One thing that did catch my eye in the comments section of another blog (not DWM) was the actual blood-alcohol level recorded which, while over the legal limit and impairing, really wasn’t all that sky-high, relatively speaking. I’m sure I’ve had many rational conversations with people who probably would have clocked in at .12 (I think that’s what it was) but were seemingly well aware of what they were saying. Of course, individual people respond radically differently to the same level of alcohol, and, again of course, temperament, temper and so forth also come into play. Still, it’s an interesting point that commenter made.

  • Andrew