2019/03/21

Practical to a Fault, Reprise

As a follow up to Monday's post on the arts, and in light of KameCon folding on Vic Mignogna, here's a guest post from the vaults by author Rawle Nyanzi about the Conservative tendency to dismiss art as somehow "not real".

Practicality

Rawle Nyanzi picks up from my previous post on the continued failures of conservatism with his theory on why conservatives have totally abdicated their former dominance in the arts.
Mainstream conservatives are too practical, and this is why they ignore the arts.
The US conservative ethos can be summed up as: Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Make money to support your family and improve your lifestyle. Handouts are shameful. In following this ethos, they select careers with a practical application that would get them earning right away. It’s not bad advice; you need money to live, and more money is better, for bills need to be paid. With this conventional mindset, conservatives relentlessly focus on “what works,” emphasizing careers like engineering, resource extraction, skilled trades, and other things of that nature. Since these are skills immediately useful to society, conservatives have a reputation of “getting it done.”
And it’s this exact temperament that makes them unsuited for the world of art — and by this, I mean all forms of artistic expression, not merely paintings or installations.
Art is not immediately useful; it neither grows your food nor supplies your energy. Except for a handful of megastars, art is low-paid. Most artists rely on either a job or on other people to support them in their endeavors; “don’t quit your day job” is a cliche for a reason, as is “starving artist.” It requires the mind to break with conventional modes of thinking and spend much time speculating on bizarre possibilities. Art requires one to focus on emotion.
This is as far from the conservative mindset as one can get.
As a result, conservatives do not view the arts as particularly important; to them, it feels like a useless indulgence. To the liberal (whether SJW or not), the arts pose no psychological obstacle since their self-concept does not derive from accumulating wealth, being the hardest worker, or having a conventional family life. They’re fine with being supported if that’s what it takes. They’re fine with making less money if that’s what it takes. They’re fine with not getting married or having children.
Thus liberals have the psychological advantage for art. Thus liberals put in the work to become successful at it. Thus liberals shape popular culture through it.
Though art appears useless, it is quite real — every bit as real as anything conservatives prefer to deal with. People love to engage with it to relax or to gain some emotional thrill, and such things are highly addictive. The small buildup of every little piece of art over time eventually shifts the culture. Though most entertainment is chosen, the mere availability of high-quality works can brighten someone’s day. People like being entertained.
And few conservatives provide this entertainment because they consider art to be beneath them.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? Conservatives avoid going into art, then they complain that all the art is liberal. If conservatives are to make any headway in the world of art, they have to let go of their doubts and do what they do best: get to work and get it done.
No one reads think tank papers for fun.
Rawle is on to something, here. To clarify, I think that contemporary conservatives' temperamental aversion to the arts isn't natural, but is a rather recent ideological development. After all, the days when most movie studios, and even major comic book companies, were controlled by what would now be considered arch-conservatives, are within the living memory of any American over 60.

But the question remains: how did conservatives let their cultural hegemony slip through their fingers? I'm convinced that certain axioms of their philosophy made this reversal of fortune inevitable.
Each of these positions is precisely backwards. Economics is downstream from culture. Speculative reason has primacy over practical reason, because practical reason can't explain which of the two is preferable. Leisure is the end purpose of work; not wasting time when you aren't working.

Modern conservatism has sidelined speculative reason and leisure, and without these there can be no culture.

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20 comments:

  1. Thank you; indeed, I had recently been thinking this over.

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  2. Its the truth, how much better off would we be entertainment wise if in our free time we tried cranking out a novel or two, tried our hand at poetry, took up drawing or messed around with a computer music program/learned an instrument? Might be basic at first but it'd be fun as a hobby and we would add something back to the culture.

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    1. Aristotle's solution to the ancient debate over who was the better citizen: the man of letters or the man of action, was to deny the false binary and assert that the ideal man balanced both.

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    2. I'll steal Last Redoubt's tagline:

      "Embrace the healing power of 'AND'."

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    3. Hear, hear! "Both/and" not "either/or".

      American Conservatism is a modified form of its British progenitor. Aristotle and, more recently, Salvini, may support the case for what's been called "Mediterranean sanity".

      Southern Europeans tend to cleave to common sense when Northern Europeans get caught up in abstractions.

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    4. Brian,

      I've noted this. I've always held this to one of the undercurrents of the Protestant reformation's iconoclasism.
      An antitode is to read Joseph Pfeifer's book Leisure:the basis of society
      once again: regress harder!

      xavier

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  3. The notion that only liberals bother with the arts may be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, in some ways. Being the only conservative in the cast during a production of The Foreigner during the 2016 election cycle was singularly frustrating. The baddies in that show are actual Klansmen. The "Trump voter" jokes got old very, very quickly. I know other folks from the same company who were apparently afraid that A Handmaid's Tale was about to come true literally after November 2016, and others who were "With Her." A climate like that is one in which conservatives may find it hard to enjoy themselves. The intolerance of the "tolerant" being what it is, they may be actively made unwelcome.
    Conservatives treat the arts like hobbies and may sometimes have trouble finding a place where they aren't considered the enemy, unless they band together for their artistic pursuits. After a long train of abuses, they may give up entirely, because a hobby that isn't fun isn't worth the time.

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    1. There's no doubt that your analysis is correct, and it highlights another weakness of Conservatives: their overriding preference for short term, individual convenience over culture-wide, long-term gains.

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  4. I would add - and this doesn't belong in your essay because it's a side point - that Libertarianism contributes to this defect in another way:

    Perhaps belief in spontaneous order makes people resistant to go out and create social change themselves, assuming someone else would be doing it already.

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    Replies
    1. Libertarianism is no less utopian than Communism.

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  5. I just started re-reading the Trivium (originally published in 1937) by Sister Miriam Joseph. Within the first 7 pages she lays out the clearest view you can get.

    She distinguished between the utilitarian arts (carpentry, banking, sales, law, medicine), and the fine arts (music, painting, literature, dance, etc), from the liberal arts(reading, writing, reckoning).

    She goes on, ‘The utilitarian artists produces utilities that serve the wants of humanity; the fine artist, if he is of the highest order, produces a work that is “a thing of beauty and a joy forever” and that has the power to elevate the human spirit.”


    AND

    “Each of the liberal arts is both a science and an art in the sense that in the province of each there is something to know (science) and something to do (art).”

    No wonder the death cult wants to erase history and destroy art.

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    1. "No wonder the death cult wants to erase history and destroy art."

      Not only that. Look at the number they've already done on science.

      The people who artificially reduced the meaning of "art" to "fine art" are the same ones who reduced the meaning of "science" to "physical science".

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    2. I finally got my Rebel Dead Revenge comic and it is an amazing work of art. Pro Christian and Pro masculine. Gary did an amazing job. And there is a sort irony due to the nature of evil. Highly recommended.

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  6. Much of this comes from those on both the left and the right misunderstanding what art actually is. But this is a misunderstanding that his been around a while. Some choice quote from Marshall McLuhan:

    "One thing that characterized the finer arts--poetry, painting, music--areas in which we're all familiar--for more than a century, but certainly for the past century, has been a continued insistence on their relevance to daily living. There has been quite an impressive chorus of urgent requests in all fields that we take seriously the arts as basic social factors of enlightenment and guidance and training.

    "This mounting urgency in the arts has a core that is, I think, related to the concept of relevance. The artist no longer suggests that art is something you can take or leave, that it's for some people and not other people: the artist insists on his absolute relevance. I'm sure this note was never heard in the Renaissance, or any time before now. The concept of relevance is a twentieth century concept."

    "Up until Gioto, says Gilson, painting had been a thing, not about something, not a report, not information--just a thing."

    "The artist's role is not to stress himself or his own point of view but to let things sing and talk, to release the forms within them."

    Being an artist is a job with a very specific task. No one alive now was here when the goal and aim of artists as warped to being the equivalent of pamphlet distributor and street preacher. It's going to take time to get rid of that warped mentality.

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    1. Once again, McLuhan nails it.

      What a sin that the Vatican failed to make use of his considerable powers!

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    2. Thanks for sharing this. I have the medium is the message and it will have to go higher up in the reading pile.

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  7. Fault of protestant work ethic and worldview imo. Prosaic to a fault, even in their religion which rarely has a shred of mysticism, not to mention their boring mechanical view of nature, a static thing to be dominated, as opposed to the medieval view (aka real Catholic) that sees nature charged with the Divine. All is poetry, including good prose!

    A fantastic book exploring this is "Doors in the Walls of the World" by Peter Kreeft, and if you don't know Kreeft, prepare to fall in love with God, His Church, and His Creation all over again!

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    1. Dunston,

      Ken Fowllet made this very point in his into to the Pillars of the earth.
      He's an atheist but he grew up with the Plymouth brethren. They're exceedingly dour iconsoclastics. So much do that
      A) Fowlett growing up could literally be oblivious to cathedrals b) became an atheist.
      I would become one too if I had grown up with a dour radical Protrstant sect.

      Again, iconoclasim is perhaps one of the most dangerous heresies.One that the Church has had to battle at least 4 times


      There'a book called how art saved the faith. It's how the Church mobilized art during the Protestant reformation and saved the faith Catholic answers interviewed the author.


      Ken Fowllet made this very point in his into to the Pillars of the earth.
      He's an atheist but he grew up with the Plymouth brethren. They're exceedingly dour iconsoclastics. So much do that
      A) Fowlett growing up could literally be oblivious to cathedrals b) became an atheist.
      I would become one too if I had grown up with a dour radical Protrstant sect.

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    2. Kreeft is the Socrates of our age.

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