I’ve written several posts over the years noting that modern art — at least the “shocking the bourgeois” brand of modern art — is a genre permanently trapped in the 1920s. Modern architecture often seems similarly trapped in the same decade, endlessly recycling the forms and styles created by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Sarah Hoyt has an interesting post this weekend that describes much of today’s bourgeois intellectual life as permanently trapped in that decade as well, as a byproduct of WWI and its aftermath:
Like a child shocked by WWI and having both externalized the blame – Listen to a six year old, sometime “I didn’t break the vase. It was the cat.” Same thing “I didn’t cause death and carnage. It was capitalism and old white men.” – and misattributed it – states looking for resources and expanding their power through bureaucratic means was more important than competition for raw materials, whatever you heard in school – the idiot child that is Western civ continues rampaging through her room, tearing everything that made it comfortable and useful and a good place, and throwing it out the window.
No, of course I’m not saying everything about the early twentieth century was perfect. Yes, of course greater participation of women in both politics and work, a break down of social barriers and greater racial integration are a good thing. They’re also unique in the world today. Other than Western civilization and countries influenced by it, the evils of racism, sexism and rigid class (and tribe) structure are, if anything even more hardened than they were before.
That I’m saying is that Western civilization AND capitalism (particularly the greater affluence created by it) are what brought about the erosion of those ancient evils to which ALL OF HUMANITY is prey.
Blaming Capitalism or affluence or industrialization for those evils is like blaming the cat for removing the scones from the oven and eating them – with jam and cream, mind you. (Yes, younger kid did that. He seemed absolutely convinced it was true, too. He was four.)
And invoking to resist these evils the untamed primitive (No? “Smash capitalism” and well… OWS in general) which IS the found of these evils is not only insane, it is counterproductive.
It is also where our culture has been for the last twenty years, caught in a recursive loop where everything – such as the collectivist massacres and poverty around the world – that doesn’t fit the narrative is swept under the rug, and “shocking” things that shock no one are continuously hurled Tourette’s-like at the one civilization that COULD have been shocked by WWI or seen anything wrong with death on that scale. (Hint, other cultures BRAG of how many they kill/how many of them are killed in war.)
Which is why people like Christie and Heinlein are reviled. Because if you read them you might get the idea that well… there were people wanting to smash capitalism back in the twenties, and that they were poseurs and a little ridiculous. Or that women CAN be competent, brilliant and still wish to create a new generation of humans.
And then, where would we be?
Read the original article that inspired this Driscoll piece:
And don’t miss this piece in the same vein: