The Rise and Fall of Civilization, Part 2

The Resurgence of Art

The earlier article on the degradation of art may have seemed a bit grim. (read that first)

Perhaps so.

But life can be grim and rose colored glasses won’t change its essence.

Yet “The Degradation of the Arts”  wasn’t written as a gleeful, spectatorish, nothing-to-do-with-me commentary so typical of the mainstream media. It wasn’t written as a doomsday prediction or as an epitaph for this current civilization either.

It was written as an observation of something to confront.

The first step of being able to handle anything is the ability and willingness to confront what it is in the first place.  If a man with a gun and murder in his eyes bursts into your bedroom at 2am and you rationalize that he must be a policeman on his way home and just got confused about his address, you’re not likely going to handle that situation very well. It might also be the last situation you ever fail to confront.

So if societies are perverted in large part through a degradation of the arts, by turning the arts into vehicles for re-defining social mores and values–in other words by using the arts for propaganda to popularize and eventually “normalize” all aberrant behavior, then the antidote must be the sum of all actions that serve to popularize true art.

So let’s refer to these two different aspects as “true art” and “art-as-propaganda”.

Art is communication and communication is the inter-change of ideas.
Furthermore, true art elicits the contribution of the viewer. The viewer is invited to interpret the meaning of the art piece according to his own observation and frame of reference.

Innovation is the soul of art.

Ideology is the soul of “art-as-propaganda”.

With pure propaganda the communication is meant to be taken literally. Here the crafter of the piece is telling you what you should think. Before that are various shades of gray with at least the intent of getting the viewer to get a very particular message short of outright insisting on it. And, as with any propaganda, if you repeat a lie often enough people will eventually think it’s true.  I believe Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, said that.

When art moves into the realm of imparting ideological messages aimed as a society or culture, it surely starts moving into the realm of propaganda. When it moves further toward a shrill demand that you agree with those messages, it is pure propaganda. When things degenerate even further and eventually one is chastised or punished for not agreeing with those messages, freedom in that society is all but lost and a totalitarian state is just around the corner. When the totalitarian state arrives, disagreement is no longer simply chastised–it is met with punishment or imprisonment or both. But a less charitable dictator might deem summary execution a more fitting punishment. 10s of millions have died that way in just the past 60 years.

So again, here was the observation:

ANY GOLDEN AGE IS PRECEDED BY A RESURGENCE OF THE ARTS, JUST AS ANY DARK AGE IS PRECEDED BY A DEGRADATION OF THE ARTS.

The article “The Degradation of Art” described the problem and left you to draw your own conclusions as to whether indeed this insidious cycle has been on-going in our own contemporary civilization for the last several decades. Who and Why is not the concern. Conspiracy theories, whether true or urban legend, are also not the concern. They’re a game of chasing shadows in the dark, and if you’re very lucky and stumble upon some forbidden truth, you’d probably wind up dead anyway. If you think you’ve stumbled on a truth and write a book about it, it joins a hundred other books on the shelf on the same subject thus helping perpetuate the secrecy of the conspiracy which remains hidden amongst a myriad of theories that each tend to take on a life of their own.

But more to the point, attempting to go head-to-head with powerful forces who have a strangle-hold on all of society is not a very good strategy. Ask the citizens of any present or former totalitarian state.

No, any resurgence of freedom–peaceful or otherwise–has always been brought about by the people.

Even Perestroika or Glasnost in the former Soviet Union would not have happened if not for the will of the people. It wasn’t just Brezhnev and, later, Gorbachev acting magnanimously to free the people. If ANYONE were to be given credit, it would be the Beatles because THAT was the artistic movement that pierced through that wall and boiled unstoppably in the hearts of the Russian youth. That and American blue jeans. So here again, it was a resurgence of art–if only a single innovative rock band and possibly a fashion trend, that eventually brought about greater freedom in a totalitarian state. Is it really that simple? Well, as we know, Russia also had some other problems –like Reagan and being broke– so its choices were made simple: War, another Revolution from a hungry and restless population–or “Tear down that wall”…

To reverse the cycle in the middle of an escalated decline is probably something that’s never been tried before.

I have an idea, but that’s summarized in about 200 pages of notes.

Maybe I’ll take that up later.

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