Thursday, May 19, 2016

Modern Culture and It's Discontents


 Jean-Michel Basquiat - Self Portrait as a Heel, Part Two 1982

By Robert Beaudine

Most of my conservative friends are fighting political battles heroically, but they continue to ignore the cultural wars – which began over two hundred years ago, first over religion, then over education, then over the media, and much later over modern art.

Progressives knew if they won the cultural battles, they would eventually win the political front by default. During the 19th Century, conservatives were engaged in these cultural battles, but they kept losing ground. When they ultimately retreated from the battle over education, all was lost. Their progeny became less and less educated and lost interest in the cultural wars. 

Many decades later, during the 1950's and 1960's, a confused and apathetic generation of conservatives accepted our culture as a natural development and immersed themselves in the newest art forms including modern music, movies, and television – without a clue that these were progressive productions that influenced their thinking. Later, their progeny retreated from the political front and merely cast votes. 

Finally in 2008, a nation of slumbering conservatives awoke to the danger of our political situation and realized they better engage and fight back or else. But they lacked any understanding of history, which is vital to understand the modern day. Because of their government schooling, they didn't understand culture and never conceived that it was captured by progressives long ago. 

This is why political victories will not restore our Republic. We certainly need a paradigm shift in politics, but more importantly, we need a spiritual awakening. We must restore our cultural heritage based on Christianity – not today's watered down version, but its original Apostolic form.

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By Dominique Allmon

Mr. Baudine has touched here such a vast and complex subject. Without education and knowledge there is no understanding of history and the processes that govern a civil society, its literature and art. 

"Progress" seems to be a natural quality to humanity, or we would still dwell in caves if this was not so. New technology opens new, undreamed of, possibilities and always makes an impression on the human mind. It creates, directly or indirectly, the need for new ways of aesthetic expression. Conventions are broken and new styles appear to meet the persistent need for self-expression, self-knowledge and discovery.

With each generation, societies became more "permissive" and "daring." For an artist to break with the past became a way of life somewhere around 1870s when the old masters and their schools were finally relegated to the dark rooms of art history and made space for the new, daring, light-caring, scandalizing, "image-distorting" Impressionists. 

When Impressionism appeared on the cultural scene the society was also in a state of turmoil. And yet, for the most part, despite their divorce from the tyranny of artistic conventions of the past, Impressionists created masterpieces of such beauty that we cannot even imagine that some of the artists died in poverty. 

Things changed drastically, for the worse, in the beginning of the 20th century, especially after the incredibly bloody revolution in Russia. I remember a whole semester of the early 20th century European art and literature with the Soviets and the French leading the trends. Poets employed onomatopoeia to bring the sound of machinery; painters broke with the past completely and either deconstructed the human image or glorified the machine. Destroy the old, create the new! Movements such as Dadaism sprung in Europe like mushrooms after the rain. 

Soviet revolution not only uprooted wealthy tyrants, it destroyed their Christian values and their "decadent" love for beauty. A so called "Soviet Person" was created and this, of course, found reflection in artistic expression and literature. By force if necessary. Soviet censors made sure that art, literature, and film propagated their idea of the world. 

Elsewhere, intellectuals insisted that their was the desired way of life and broke off with ancient conventions. In 1950s France, for instance, the cool "cafe society" glorified the Soviet tyranny. Intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre were infatuated with Marxism and communism while at the same time countless people suffered unimaginable horrors in Russian gulags and Chinese re-education camps.

When we look back, the technology of the early 20th opened the doors to mass media. The whole process actually started much earlier, in France and Prussia even before the Industrial Revolution, but was perfected later to the point that the Y generation of today resembles spineless, ignorant zombies. 

We are at a turning point, but the future looks rather bleak. Art, music, cinema, and literature became incredibly permissive and allow for violence and ugliness of unheard proportions. If you do not understand or do not appreciate depravity you are not sophisticated enough. But is a butter stain on the wall or a crucifix immersed in the artist's urine really an art? It definitely is an artistic expression of the "rebellious" artist, but has little aesthetic value to a disturbed human soul constantly seeking solace in the urban jungle. Social alienation, depravity, mental illness, substance abuse and addiction are often the unexpected consequences of modern society. We are definitely free to do as we please, but often also completely alone in our struggle for sanity in the ever more complex world. Art, literature, and the media are not helping, unless we consider self-destruction to be the ultimate goal.  

So much more can be said and written on this subject, but I will end here and leave you, dear reader, to your own reflection. Change is inevitable, but how much of it we allow depends on our "capital" of knowledge. Unfortunately, when the educational system is distorted and schools are dominated by Fabian social engineers, our future is more than uncertain.

Dominique Allmon©2016