Some Of Our Children Who Can’t Appreciate Hitchcock



“Gramsci and Hedges underscore the fact that learning must be directed by a strong moral and ethical framework.” — from Pedological Advice for Perilous Times

Adapted from Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent, Hitchcock’s Sabotage was released during a time of mounting unease and fear of war on the international scene. A good part of its expressive power arises from its remarkable compactness; there doesn’t appear to be a single wasted shot or line of dialogue in the film’s seventy-five-minute running time.

Lots of wasted shots in actual war, as we know. War’s a waste, of course. And so, WAR must be wasted… to use the vernacular. [Pause.] Today’s self-righteous wars — it must repeated ad infinitum, it seems — find us creating deadly, ongoing horror for ourselves. We are sabotaging ourselves.

Hitchcock’s cinematic masterpiece has formed the narrative of Conrad’s novel into a striking depiction of the ease with which chaos and destruction can be unleashed upon the world through the most unlikely human agency of a quiet, seemingly inoffensive family man. A family man much like the good folks who were blown away day after day at funerals, weddings and prayer time in the lands which have hosted our offensives… over many years abroad… you know where. Where innocent children too up the wazoo have been blinded and ripped from their innocent mothers and fathers. [Pause.] I’ll refrain from providing links to images that would make anyone recoil in horror, and ask you to imagine what you might do if this sort of thing were done to you.

Many articles have addressed this disgusting problem already, and it’s only worth the heartbeats to repeat the message if the reader will attempt to do something new… with others… to stop the slaughter… once the reading of this piece is over.

The enduring relevance of Hitchcock’s vision received unexpected confirmation in an occurrence sixty-five years after the film’s release, when film critic Michael Stragow reviewed the movie in his syndicated  column. Writing just three weeks after the terrorist attacks of 09/11/2001, Stragow recommended the movie as “a timely look at a terrorist,” a revealing view of how a terrorist act can be spawned. Yet the terrorist in Hitchcock’s work is not a political or religious fanatic, like those who — according to the official line — brought down the Twin Towers and wreaked other havoc seventeen years ago, but a quiet… home-loving family man (as his wife explicitly describes him).

The film exhibits in sequential detail how appallingly easy it can be for even such a man to become involved in terrorism and to rationalize his involvement to the point where he becomes an agent for mass murder. In four key scenes, Hitchcock both prefigures the eruption of chaos and links it thematically to the cinematic audience, forcefully reminding us that everyone has the capability to become an agent for such unwelcome abominations.

If one takes the definition of sabotage which Hitchcock’s film provides prior to the opening credit sequence — “Willful destruction of buildings or machinery with the object of alarming a group of persons or inspiring public uneasiness.” — it’s easy to see the similarity with today’s view of terrorism.

People can commit terrorism because of politics, religion, the demands of membership in a given organization (which would include state terrorism), and for personal profit. But there’s at least one other reason why someone might commit such an atrocity. At least one other.

In the next to last paragraph of Michael Welton’s most recent article, he touches upon a type of youngster who can become easily bored, who has no rudder, who might seek attention, who is prone to embrace… anything… at a given moment. Without even a trace of remorse, perhaps.

A new kind of monster, a product of an educational system which has become an incubator of “little monsters, aridly trained for a job, with no general ideas, no general culture, no intellectual stimulation….”

Some of our children who can’t appreciate Hitchcock.

Valleria Ruselli is a member of the Oxman Collective. She can be reached at [email protected]. The author is not the biggest Hitchcock fan in the world, but she does feel that much of his work has deep cultural value.



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