Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

It really boils down to a bit of magical thinking.

I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars in something that is at once exultation and agony. I feel, in fact, as if I were actually sitting at the bottom of the sea among mere anchors and ropes, while over my head and over the green twilight of water sounded the everlasting rush of waves and the toil and crash and shipwreck of tremendous ships. The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try another despearate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy, the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.

As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind. I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees. He did not like the wind at all; it blew in his face too much; it made him shut his eyes; and it blew off his hat, of which he was very proud. He was, as far as I remember, about four. After complaining repeatedly of the atmospheric unrest he said at last to his mother, “Well, why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.”

Nothing could be more intelligent or natural than this mistake. Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say, could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, the belief is so human and excusable that is is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers, sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live. My small friend was, in fact, very like the principle modern thinkers; only much nicer. …

The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts – including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.

For example, most of us, I suppose, have seen in print and heard in debating clubs an endless discussion that goes on between Socialists and total abstainers. The latter say that drink leads to poverty; the former say that poverty leads to drink. I can only wonder at their either of them being content with such simple physical explanations. Surely it is obvious that the thing which among the English proletariat leads to poverty is the same as the thing which leads to drink; the absence of strong civic dignity, the absence of an instinct that resists degradation.

— G.K. Chesterton, “The Wind and the Tree,” Tremendous Trifles, 1909

The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts – including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.

For example, most of us, I suppose, have seen in print and heard  in debating clubs an endless discussion that goes on between Socialists and total abstainers. The latter say that drink leads to poverty; the former say that poverty leads to drink. I can only wonder at their either of them being content with such simple physical explanations. Surely it is obvious that the thing which among the English proletariat leads to poverty is the same as the thing which leads to drink; the absence of strong civic dignity, the absence of an instinct that resists degradation.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

The conservatives generally did not attack the conceptions of art that modern artists and the culture industry maintained, but couched their anger in terms of what, to the artists and industry, appeared extrinsic matters—e.g., they protested against certain features of content from nudity and vulgarity to blasphemy, without accounting for why, first, so much of this offensive material enjoyed commercial success or, second, how that content related, or failed to relate, to a thoroughgoing vision of the nature of the fine arts. At their best, conservatives opposed Andres Serrano’s and Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography with Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind and William Bennett’s The Book of Virtues. But they seldom read the books they championed and it seems not to have occurred to them they might just take better pictures on their own. Instead, conservatives let the walls hang bear—or covered them with banal abstract oil painting, the radical art of a past age that never so much shocked as bored.

Needless to say, not all critics of contemporary art and mass culture were so visceral and limited in their jeremiads. A small but insightful handful of thinkers have orbited about the conservative discontent with contemporary artistic practices and standards in variously tight and wide circles. In the past couple of years, Patrick Deneen and Jeremy Beer have observed that the supposed conservative revolution of the past thirty years foundered largely because it focused almost exclusively on party politics and institutional power. Whatever Reagan Republicans were doing in Washington, they largely left the culture industry to form and reform American consciousness. So absolute was this aporia between institutional success and cultural neglect that most of the children raised in the age of Republican ascendancy have arrived at adulthood with, perhaps, their explicit political principles informed by a vague belief in free markets and low taxes, but with their imaginations and sensibilities entirely formed on the mass cultural excretions of music, film, and television—and their cultural politics in turn molded by that sensibility. To offer just one consequence of this, most persons in their early twenties cannot conceive of why one would oppose the legal codification of homosexual unions, because in their moral imaginations a free and expressive sexuality is a continuous presence taken for granted.

— James Matthew Wilson, “The Treasonous Clerk: Art and Beauty against the Politicized Aesthetic, Part I

Read Full Post »

It has taken forty years of wandering in a cultural desert for conservatives to realize that their leadership, economic and military victories will not supply what is sorely missing from American society. Things continue to get worse. Cultural values and standards continue to decline. Public architecture, monuments and memorials are a national joke. Education has become a matter of class warfare, with children of the poor and middle class shunted into prison-like warehouses. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who controls the White House, the Congress, state and local governments, or even the Supreme Court. The lens through which most Americans view the world has been ground by the liberals. We see the world as defined by a cultural elite increasingly out of touch with reality. By “lens” I mean the culture: the arts, media, education, history, architecture, literature, music, popular culture, television, movies, fashion and, most importantly, the epistemology of language. Many conservatives revere Ronald Reagan. They should study his Farewell Address to the Nation, in which he warned that “the diminution of cultural values, the loss of civic ritual, will result, ultimately, in an erosion of the American spirit.”

— James F. Cooper, In Defense of Beauty: Conservatives and the Arts

Read Full Post »

Glenn Beck recently attacked some public art that has graced New York’s Rockefeller Center since the 1930s. Beck targets what he describes as “progressive, communist and fascist” propaganda. His comments have created a great deal of heat, and very little light, since they aired.

Los Angeles Times art critic, Christopher Knight wrote Beck donned his “tin-foil conspiracy hat,” and that he is “[a]s nutty as usual.” Tyler Green, at Modern Art Notes, asserted Beck was “appealing to the black helicopter crowd.” Tyler might actually have a point on that one. Beck contributes little to art history and much to Right-wing conspiracy theorists, as he urges his viewers to be “awake” so as to “see the things that are hidden in plain sight.”

The Huffington Post’s Nicholas Graham writes, “Trying to discern Beck’s ultimate point from this is difficult,” but not impossible as Graham then goes on a tear about Beck linking Rockefeller, progressives, communists, and fascists, that cannot help but make one chuckle.

Who are behind these communist and fascist works “hidden in plain sight?”

Read Full Post »

While the American polis does not (yet) face the same totalitarian controls on speech that Solzhenitsyn suffered under in Russia (known in his time as the Soviet Union), one cannot help but find some commonality in what he wrote for Under the Rubble and today’s journalistic and educational institutions. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a prophet for his time. We would be wise to ponder his words in light of what we face today in the form of politically correctness and speech codes .

The transition from free speech to enforced silence it no doubt painful. What torment for a living society, used to thinking for itself, to lose from some decreed date the right to express itself in print and in public, to bite back its words year in and year out, in friendly conversation and even under the family roof.

But the way back, which our country will soon face – the return of breathing and consciousness, the transition from silence to free speech – will also prove difficult and slow, and just as painful, because of the gulf of utter incomprehension which will suddenly yawn between fellow-countryman, even those of the same generation and same place of origin, even members of the same close circle.

For decades, while we were silent, our thoughts straggled in all possible and impossible directions, lost touch with each other, never learned to know each other, ceased to check and correct each other. While the stereotypes of required thought, or rather of dictated opinion, dinned into us daily from the electrified gullets of radio, endlessly reproduced in thousands of newspapers as like as peas, condensed into weekly surveys for political study groups, have made mental cripples of us and left very few minds undamaged.

— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “As Breathing and Consciousness Return,” From Under the Rubble

Read Full Post »

Continuing an earlier column addressing President Obama’s speech to students, I thought some readers might want to know what is in the now “de-politicized” lesson plans developed by the the President’s Department of Education.

As noted earlier, the speech itself is not necessarily new. The depth of organization and media saturation behind it is unique, though some might argue that CNN, PBS, et al broadcasting a Bush ’41 speech during the schoolday had the potential to reach as many students. Everyone should be concerned with DOE’s involvement.

Here are a few interesting suggestions for questions to ponder before, during and after the President’s speech from the DOE’s Pre-K through 6 GradeMenu of Classroom Activities

The article continues at Examiner.com

Read Full Post »

On Tuesday, September 8, President Barack H. Obama will conduct a live teleconference on the importance of education to as many schools as choose to accept the signal. These schools will either take time set aside for lunch, recess or classroom instruction so their students can listen to the President. Is Mr. Obama taking a moment to indoctrinate developing minds in his big government agenda? Or is he simply using his “bully pulpit” in order to extol education’s importance?

One thing is certain; the President addressing schoolchildren is not new. Using the Department of Education in order to encourage students to, as Politico reported, “Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president” and delivering those letters to their teachers is unique. …

The article continues at Examiner.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »