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Have late modern values and technology made great art impossible? (Part One)

By Mark Wegierski
web posted July 6, 2009

Massive advances in technology have by now given us such superb instruments as the wordprocessor, graphic arts programs, music composition tools, and Internet multimedia -- which could have, theoretically-speaking, increased the prevalence of great art today. However, the cumulative social, cultural, and spiritual effects of these technological advances have in fact, it could be argued, corrosively dissolved or smashed to bits the more traditional social, cultural, and spiritual contexts which could produce and nourish great art and great artists -- such as, archetypically, Renaissance England and William Shakespeare.

It seems that today, the vast mass of people are reduced to unreflective, history-less "vidiots" -- passive consumers of stupefying television programs, films, Internet images, videogames, sports events, and popular music, that is "racing to the bottom." The mass-education system, rather than offering a salutary "counter-ethic" to the mass-media, in most cases reinforces it.

As for the so-called high art, it could be argued that it indulges today in excessively frequent portrayals of evil, ugliness, and perversity; in nearly infinite variations and explorations of designated minority consciousness; in expressions of hatred or self-hatred of Western civilization; and in multifarious "emotional engineering" techniques for rendering virtually the whole Western and European past to appear as utterly hideous to decent human sensibilities.

At the same time, the near-infinite reproducibility of photographic and video images, as well as raising the disturbing question of what can possibly be seen as "authentic" today, has made mass pornography into a huge industry and social phenomenon. Today, mass pornography is part of the societal background field, probably for the first time in history. Certainly, the rendering of erotic pictorial images or sculptures in premodern societies (regardless of the uninhibited nature of some pagan cultures) required substantial amounts of time and artistic skill, thus inherently limiting them to a comparatively small audience.

What is particularly troubling about most forms of current-day pop-culture -- sports, films and television, popular music, and the fashion-industry (now especially renowned for its decadence) -- is the near-total exclusion of a more traditionalist vision from them. Ted Nugent is about the only rock-star who has openly declared himself to be a conservative. One supposes that Country and Western Music and NASCAR racing (both of them largely centered in the American South and South-West) are two pop-culture subgenres with a semi-traditionalist element. There is also a fairly large subgenre of Christian music and Christian fiction in the United States, but its profile outside of its segment-market is nugatory. Most music and publishing industry moguls treat it with disdain.

In Canada today, it could be argued that the love of hockey is one of the last unifying elements of the country.

Some less obvious foci in the social and cultural landscape of civil society with traditionalist implications might include the following: local historical and architectural preservation societies; historical and battlefield re-enactors (such as those focussing on the American Civil War, American Revolutionary War, or the Medieval/Renaissance eras); classical music, folk music, book, and Classics, Medieval, or Renaissance enthusiasts; some ecological and conservation organizations; and railroad and historical board wargames hobbyists.

To be continued. ESR

Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.

 

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