Deep, and yet deeper down, below the marsh slime and the swamp rot, even underneath poppy roots and the granite rows, Old England’s Foundations lie. While thinned and turned soils are cold and damp, the fiery Mantle warms and pulses, twisting round and circling on itself; the Core sees into itself and ponders on its shadows; to reach out into the cold and dark, hope perchance to find new wheels to turn, or perhaps not. Content, in the underworld, dreaming of the pictures of its marble face, Old England’s Foundations are buried the deepest, overwritten by thin and beaten sheets of plaster and tissue paper.
Yet, this is a fantasy: circumstantial myths of Old England, and its Foundations. Those marshes were sealed, and the swamps became roads, and the shapes and the names of the trees do not matter anymore. Accumulated plays turned in on themselves and became a meaningless fresco; the hand-me-down uniform, hoarded in poverty, with no weavers to craft anew. That Core is no form but a feeling, fleeting and shallow, giving only the image of warmth. Gawp at the statues and the towers and the gold on the wall. They were never yours.
Intermission, The Alchemists’ Folly:
Higher, and yet higher so, far reaching beyond the sea and above the clouds, up and up Nature’s Ladder, climbs a Champion. For all its power and glory. He soon received the ravenous attention of The Crow, the most cunning of all the birds. It said: “I have seen many climb, and their plans dissolved away, but wear my feather, and sing my song, and Nature’s sure to play”. The Crow put a feather on The Champion’s shoulder, and The Champion cawed until he had near reached the clouds. He looked down to measure his climb, and one cheek was slashed by The Crow’s feather; he saw many other smaller birds with more beautiful sounds and colours than The Crow, hiding fearfully away in their nests.
Higher and higher, between the feathers and the stars, up The Ladder, climbed The Champion. The clouds from below were sunlit pillars in the sky yet seemed smoke and fog inside. At once, the guiding stars were blotted out, and The Champion was frozen in the dark. He begged it clear, and The Cloud said: “Truly, Nature loves to hide, and seems at first a chaos sight, but learn its ways, obey and pay, by water’s path will light”. The Champion’s waterskin was plucked by a gale, and The Cloud gave in credit due a magic hailstone, and it magnified the light of the stars. His fingers were cold and heavy, his water was lost, and the constellations seemed more twisted than ever before; but, with the dim path seen by magic divined, The Champion waged on.
An earthquake struck, and The Ladder path fell; weathered wood, by many footsteps heeled, shattered with the turning of a generation. His bearing steers all amiss under the dizzying constellations, for the old way is no more; and The Champion loses their footing, curses the folly, and plummets into brine under the bottommost rungs; championing, no more. The Fool who works with wood and nail, at the bottom of The Ladder, did not build houses that day, for another ladder was built by him; and The Fool then propped it, already to seize the opportunity, to climb the path again. But The Cloud and The Crow remain in their Nature, as they wait between the salt and the stars.
Hailing practice and ritual, making nothing new, and the new, ugly; what comes from a fool’s history? Yesterday’s legislation becomes today’s tradition, and old and common habits are preserved by kitsch committee. To justify what happened, because it happened, accounting to stacked sediments of past scoresheets? If that is good, then good is evil; bored eyes make nothing beautiful around our empty hands, so we make eternities of nothing, and are compassed about by our enduring appetites. With Nature as your sentimental measure, you pay tribute to accidental shadows on the wall. Where is The True, The Good, The Beautiful? God have mercy on your windswept souls.
You Might also like
By Dustin Lovell — 9 months ago
Whenever I scroll through the news on Twitter or listen to talk radio, I like to play a game called “Dostoevsky called it.” As one can guess, it consists of identifying events or trends that correspond with those in Feodor Dostoevsky’s novels and letters. Because Dostoevsky devoted so much ink to warning about the motives and effects of atheist-utilitarian socialism from the radical left, the game often points to his most direct attack on those ideas: The Devils.
Published between 1871 and 1872 and written in response to the Nechaev affair, where an underground group of socialist-atheist radicals, planning to ultimately overthrow the Tsarist government through propaganda, terrorism, and assassination, murdered a former comrade who had left their secret society, The Devils (Бесы; also translated as Demons or The Possessed) is Feodor Dostoevsky’s most explicit expose of and polemic against the revolutionary nihilism growing in late nineteenth-century Russia. Although, due to his own participation in a socialist plot aimed at educating and ultimately liberating the serfs, he often gave the benefit of the doubt to the moral idealism of the younger generation of radicals—assuming their hearts, if not their methods, were in the right place—in The Devils he nonetheless skewers the radical ideology and his generation and the next’s culpability for it.
While his main focus is on the characters’ psychologies and their symbolic significance, Dostoevsky nonetheless lays out many of the ideas populating late-nineteenth-century Russia, displaying a thorough understanding of them, their holders’ true motives (which, like those of that other ideological murderer Raskalnikov, are rarely the same as those consciously stated by their loudest advocates), and what would be the results if they were not checked. In several places, Dostoevsky unfortunately calls it right, and The Devils at times reads as a preview of the following fifty years in Russia, as well as of the modes and methods of radicalism in later places and times.
It would be too great a task to cite, here, all the places and times where Dostoevsky’s visions were confirmed; at best, after laying out a few of the many truths in The Devils, I can only note basic parallels with later events and trends in Russia and elsewhere—and let my readers draw their own additional parallels. Nonetheless, here are five truths from Dostoevsky’s The Devils:
1: The superfluity of the preceding liberal generation to progressive radicals.
The Devils is structured around the relationship between the older and younger generations of the mid-1800s. The book opens with an introduction of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky, father to the later introduced radical Peter Stepanovich. A Westernized liberal from the 1840s generation, Stepan Trofimovich represents the upper-class intelligentsia that first sought to enlighten the supposedly backwards Russia through atheistic socialism (a redundancy in Dostoevsky).
However, despite his previously elevated status as a liberal and lecturer, by the time of The Devils Stepan Trofimovich—and, with him, the 1840s liberals who expected to be honored for opening the door to progress—has become superfluous. This is highlighted when his son returns to the province and does not honor his father with figurative laurels (when such a symbol is later employed literally it is in satirical mock).
Though never the direct butt of Dostoevsky’s satire, Stepan Trofimovich cannot (or refuses) to understand that his son’s nihilism is not a distortion of his own generation’s hopes but is the logical, inevitable product of them. The older man’s refusal to admit his ideological progeny in his literal progeny’s beliefs, of course, enables Peter Stepanovich to mock him further, even while he continues to avail himself of the benefits of his father’s erstwhile status in society. This “liberal naivete enabling radical nihilism” schema can also be seen in the governor’s wife, Yulia Mikhailovna von Lembke, who believes that she can heroically redirect the passions of the youth to more socially beneficial, less radical, pursuits but only ends up enabling them to take over her literary fete to ridicule traditional society and distract the local worthies while agents set parts of the local town ablaze. Stepan Trofimovich, Yulia Mikhailovna, and others show that, despite the liberal generation’s supposed love for Russia, they were unable to brake the pendulum they sent swinging towards leftism.
The same pattern of liberals being ignored or discarded by the progressives they birthed can be seen in later years in Russia and other nations. While it would historically be two generations between Belinsky and Lenin (who was born within months of Dostoevsky’s starting to write The Devils), after the 1917 Revolution, Soviet Russia went through several cycles of executing or imprisoning previous generations who, despite supporting the Revolution, were unfortunately too close to the previous era to be trusted by new, socialistically purer generations.
In a more recent UK, Dostoevsky’s schema can also be seen in the Boomer-led Labour of the ‘90s and ‘00s UK paving the way for the radical, arguably anti-British progressivism of the 2010s and ‘20s (which, granted, sports its share of hip Boomers). In America, it can be seen in the soft divide in congressional Democrats between 20th-century liberals like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and “the squad” comprised of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and others who have actively tried (and arguably succeeded) in pushing the nation’s discourse in a left progressive direction.
2: Ideologies as active, distorting forces rather than merely passive beliefs.
“I’ve never understood anything about your theory…” Peter Stepanovich tells the serene Aleksei Nilych Kirillov later in the book, “I also know you haven’t swallowed the idea—the idea’s swallowed you…” The idea he is referring to is Kirillov’s belief that by committing suicide not from despair or passion but by rational, egotistic intention, he can rid mankind of the fear of death (personified in the figure of God) and become the Christ of the new utilitarian atheism (really, Dostoevsky intends us to understand, not without pity for Kirillov, an antichrist thereof). The topic of suicide—rising in Russia at the time of the book’s writing and a result, Dostoevsky believed, of the weakening of social institutions and national morality by the subversive nihilism then spreading—is a motif through the book. Countering Chernyshevsky’s romanticized revolutionary Rakhmetov from What is to Be Done?, Kirillov is Dostoevsky’s depiction of the atheist rational egotism of the time taken to its fullest psychological extent. Like others he had and would later write (Raskalnikov, Ivan Karamazov), Kirillov is driven mad by an idea that “swallows” him in monomania and which he has admitted to being obsessed with—the idea of a world without God.
Though Dostoevsky considered it the central issue of his day (which still torments Western culture), my focus here is not on Kirillov’s idea, itself, but on his relation to it. Countering the Western Enlightenment conceit that ideas are mere tools to be rationally picked up and put down at will, Dostoevsky shows through Kirillov that ideas and ideology (ideas put in the place of religion) are active things that can overwhelm both conscious and unconscious mind. Indeed, the novel’s title and Epigraph—the story of Legion and the swine from Luke 8—already suggests this; for Dostoevsky, there is little difference between the demons that possessed the pigs and the ideas that drive characters like Kirillov to madness.
Of course, a realist-materialist reading of Kirillov’s end (I won’t spoil it, though it arguably undercuts his serenity throughout the book) and the later Ivan Karamazov’s encounter with a personified devil would contend that there was nothing literally demonic to the manifestations, but for Dostoevsky that matters little; for him, whose focus is always on how the individual lives and experiences life, being possessed by an ideology one cannot let go of and being in the grasp of literal demons is nearly synonymous—indeed, the former may be the modern manifestation of the latter, with the same results. In his work, such things almost always accompany a lowering of one’s humanity into the beastial.
The problem with ideology, Dostoevsky had discovered in Siberia, was in their limited conception of man. By cutting off all upper transcendent values as either religious superstition or upper class decadence, the new utilitarian atheism had removed an essential part of what it meant to be human. At best, humans were animals and could hope for no more than thus, and all higher aspirations were to be lowered to achieving present social goals of food, housing, and sex—which Dostoevsky saw, themselves, as impossible to effectively achieve without the Orthodox Church’s prescriptions for how to deal with suffering and a belief in afterlife. Of the lack of higher impressions that give life meaning, Dostoevsky saw two possible results: ever-increasingly perverse acts of the flesh, and ever-increasingly solipsistic devotion to a cause—both being grounded in and expressions not of liberation or selflessness, but of the deepest egotism (which was a frankly stated element of the times’ ideologies).
From this view, Dostoevsky would have seen today’s growing efforts to legitimate into the mainstream things like polyamory, abortion, and public displays of sexuality and increasingly aggressive advocacy by groups like Extinction Rebellion or NOW (he predicted both movements in his other writing) as both being attempts to supply the same religious impulse—which, due to their being cut off by their premises from the transcendent metaphysic required by the human creature and supplied by Christianity, &c, is a doomed attempt.
3: Seemingly virtuous revolution motivated by and covering for private vices.
By the time he wrote The Devils Dostoevsky had seen both inside and outside of the radical movement; he had also depicted in Notes from Underground and Crime and Punishment characters who discover, to their angst and horror, that their actions were not motivated by humanitarianism, but by envy, cravenness, and the subsequent desire for self-aggrandizement. The Devils features the same depth of psychology beneath the main characters’ stated ideas and goals, and the book often shows how said ideas cannot work when applied to real people and real life.
As the chronicle unfolds, characters often speak of the petty vices that undermine the purity of the revolutionaries’ stated virtues and goals. “Why is it,” the narrator recounts Stepan Trofimovich once asking him, “all these desperate socialists and communists are also so incredibly miserly, acquisitive, and proprietorial? In fact, the more socialist someone is…the stronger his proprietorial instinct.” So much for those who seek to abolish property; one can guess to whom they wish to redistribute it! The revolutionary-turned-conservative Ivan Shatov later continues the motif, digging deeper into the radicals’ motives: “They’d be the first to be terribly unhappy if somehow Russia were suddenly transformed, even according to their own ideas, and if it were suddenly to become immeasurably rich and happy. Then they’d have no one to hate, no one to despise, no one to mock! It’s all an enormous, animal hatred for Russia that’s eaten into their system.”
Leftists might accuse Dostoevsky of merely wishing to make the radicals look bad with such an evaluation; however, as addressed by Joseph Frank in his chapter on the topic in Dostoevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865-1871, the “bad for thee, fine for me” mentality of The Devils’s radicals (if their ideology doesn’t completely blind them to such inconsistency in the first place) was straight from the playbook of men like Nechaev: the Catechism of a Revolutionary. Far from trying to evade contradictory behavior, such a work, and other later analogues (Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance”; Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals) advocate being inconsistent and slippery with one’s principles for the sake of the revolution. Indeed, contradicting the rules one was trying to impose on others was and is seen not as an inconsistency but as a special privilege—of which several examples can be found, from upper party opulence in the USSR to modern champagne socialists who attend a $35,000-per-seat Met Gala while advocating taxing the rich.
4: Social chaos and purges as necessary and inevitable in achieving and maintaining utopia.
Perhaps the single most prophetic scene in The Devils occurs in the already mentioned chapter “‘Our Group’ Meets,” which depicts the various local radicals meeting under cover of a birthday party. A cacophony of competing voices and priorities, the scene’s humorous mix of inept, self-serving idealists is made grotesque by the visions they advocate. Most elaborate of the speakers is Shigalyov, whose utopian scheme for the revolution was insightful enough that Boris Pasternak and Alexander Solzhenitsyn both referred to the Russian government’s post-October Revolution policies and methods as “Shigalevism.”
While Shigalyov’s whole speech (and Peter Stepanovich’s commentary) is worth reading as a prophecy of what would happen less than fifty years after the book, here are some notable excerpts:
“Beginning with the idea of unlimited freedom, I end with unlimited despotism…One-tenth will receive personal freedom and unlimited power over the other nine-tenths. The latter must forfeit their individuality and become as it were a herd [through re-education of entire generations]; through boundless obedience, they will attain, by a series of rebirths, a state of primeval innocence, although they’ll still have to work…What I’m proposing is not disgusting; it’s paradise, paradise on earth—there can be none other on earth.”
A direct goal of the purges in Soviet Russia, and of the alienation of children from their parents, was to create a new, purely socialist generation unburdened by the prejudices of previous or outside systems.
“[We’ve] been urged to close ranks and even form groups for the sole purposed of bringing about total destruction, on the pretext that however much you try to cure the world, you won’t be able to do so entirely, but if you take radical steps and cut off one hundred million heads, thus easing the burden, it’ll be much easier to leap over the ditch. It’s a splendid idea…”
While hundred million murders may seem like hyperbole in the scene’s darkly comic context, in the end it was an accurate prediction of what communism would accomplish if put into systemic practice; however, we should also not miss the stated method of destabilizing society via conspiratorial groups aimed not at aid but at acceleration—a method used in early 20th-century Russia and employed by modern radical groups like Antifa.
“It would take at least fifty years, well, thirty, to complete such a slaughter—inasmuch as people aren’t sheep, you know, and they won’t submit willingly.”
Besides the time element, the identifying of the individual human’s desire for life and autonomy as a lamentable but surmountable impediment to revolution—rather than a damning judgment of the radicals’ inability to make any humanitarian claims—is chilling.
“[Shigalyov] has a system for spying. Every member of the society spies on every other one and is obliged to inform. Everyone belongs to all the others and the others belong to each one. They’re all slaves and equal in their slavery.”
A corrollary to the section above on freedom-through-slavery, this part accurately identifies the system of paranoid watchfulness in the first half of the USSR, as well as the system currently in place in the DPRK, among other places.
“The one thing the world needs is obedience. The desire for education is an aristocratic idea. As soon as a man experiences love or has a family, he wants private property. We’ll destroy that want: we’ll unleash drunkenness, slander, denunciantion; we’ll unleash unheard-of corruption… [Crime] is no longer insanity, but some kind of common sense, almost an obligation, at least a noble protest.”
Anti-traditional-family advocacy and the flipping of the criminal-innocent dichotomy as a means of destabilizing the status quo all took place in the early years of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, they are all too familiar today in the West, whether we’re talking about the current argument in the US that children’s education belongs to the community (i.e. teachers, public unions, and the government) to the exclusion of parents, or the argument heard at several points in the 2020 that crimes and rioting committed during protests were an excusable, even “noble,” form of making one’s voice heard (while nicking a TV in the process!).
More recently and ongoing here in California (often uncannily parallel to the UK in certain policy impulses), our current District Attorney George Gascon, in an attempt to redefine the criminal-victim mentality in the state, has implemented policies that benefit criminals over victims by relaxing the definitions and sentences of certain crimes and refusing to try teenagers who commit felonies as adults (among other things); as many expected would happen, crime has risen in the state, with the Los Angeles PD recently advising residents to avoid wearing jewelry in public—which, to this resident, sounds oddly close to blaming the victim for wearing a short skirt by another name, and is certainly a symptom and example of anarcho-tyranny.
To nineteenth-century readers not as versed as Dostoevsky in the literature and ideas behind the Nechaev affair (which was publicly seen as merely a murder among friends, without the ideological significance Dostoevsky gave it), this section of The Devils would have seemed a comic exaggeration. However, to post-20th-century readers it stands, like a clarion pointing forward to the events later confirmed by Solzhenitsyn, as a dire warning not to forget the truth in the satire and not to dismiss the foolishly hyperbolic as impotent. Even in isolated forms, the ideas promoted by Shigalyev are real, and when applied they have been, as Dostoevsky predicted, disastrous.
5: Socialism not as humanitarian reason, but as religious poetry; revolution as primarily aesthetic, not economic.
An amalgam of, among other members of the 1840s generation, the father of Russian socialism Alexander Herzen, Stepan Trofimovich is, by the time of the 1860s setting of The Devils, an inveterate poet. This reflects Dostoevsky’s evaluation of his old theorist friend, whom he nonetheless cites as the enabler of men like the nihilist terrorist Nechaev, despite Herzen’s claims that the terrorist had bastardized his ideas (see truth number 1, above).
The brilliantly mixed critique of and homage to Dostoevsky’s own generation that is Stepan Trofimovich presents one of the book’s main motifs about the nihilist generation: that they are not pursuing a philosophically rational system of humanitarian goals, but a romantically poetic pseudo-religion. “They’re all bewitched,” cries Stepan Trofimovich about his son, “not by realism, but by the emotional and idealistic aspects of socialism, so to speak, by its religious overtones, its poetry.” Later, at the aforementioned pivotal meeting scene, Peter Stepanovich shows he is completely conscious of this fact—and willing to use it to his advantage. “What’s happening here is the replacement of the old religion by a new one; that’s why so many soldiers are needed—it’s a large undertaking.” In the next scene, Peter Stepanovich reveals to Stavrogin his desire to use the enchanting nobleman as a figurehead for revolution among the peasantry, intending to call him Ivan the Tsarevich to play off of the Russian folk legend of a messianic Tsar in hiding who will rise to take the throne from the “false” reigning Tsar and right all the world’s wrongs with his combined religious and political power.
Peter Stepanovich, himself, is too frank a nihilist to believe in such narratives; focused as he is on first destroying everything rather than wasting time pontificating about what to do afterwards, he even treats Shigalyov’s utopian visions with contempt. However, the rest of the radicals in the book are not so clear-sighted about the nature of their beliefs. Multiple times in the book, susceptibility to radical socialism is said to inhere not in reason but in sentimentality; showing Dostoevsky’s moderation even on a topic of which he was so passionately against, this critique often focuses on younger men and women’s genuine desire to good—which ironically makes them, like the naive and forthright Ensign Erkel, susceptible to committing the worst crimes with a straight, morally self-confident face.
It is this susceptibility to the art of revolution that causes Peter Stepanovich to be so sanguine about others’ romanticism, despite its falling short of his own nihilism. His intention to use others’ art for his own advantage can be seen most clearly in his hijacking of Yulia Mikhailovna’s literary fete to use it, through his cronies, as a screed against the social order and to mock artistic tradition. His doing so is just a follow-through of an earlier statement to Stavrogin that “Those with higher abilities…have always done more harm than good; they’ll either be banished or executed. Cicero’s tongue will be cut out, Copernicus’s eyes will be gouged out, Shakespeare will be stoned…it’s a fine idea to level mountains—there’s nothing ridiculous in that…we’ll suffocate every genius in its infancy.”
Against his son’s leveling of mountains, Stepan Trofimovich, to his infinite credit and speaking with his author’s mouth, declares, with the lone voice of tradition amidst the climactic fete, that “Shakespeare and Raphael are more important than the emancipation of the serfs…than nationalism…than socialism…than the younger generation…than chemistry, almost more important than humanity, because they are the fruit, the genuine fruit of humanity, and perhaps the most important fruit there is!” In this contrast between the Verkhovenskys, it is not different views on economics but on art—on Shakespeare, among others—that that lie at the heart of revolution, with the revolutionaries opposing the English Poet more viscerally than any other figure. This reflects Dostoevsky’s understanding that the monumental cultural shift of the 1800s was not primarily scientific but aesthetic (a topic too large to address here). Suffice it to say, the central conflict of The Devils is not between capitalists and socialists (the book rarely touches on economic issues, apart from their being used as propaganda—that is, aesthetically), nor between Orthodox and atheists (though Dostoevsky certainly saw that as the fundamental alternative at play), but between the 1840s late Romantics and the new Naturalist-Realists.
The prophetic nature of this aesthetic aspect of The Devils has many later confirmations, such as the 20th century’s growth of state propaganda, especially in socialistic states like Nazi Germany or the USSR, though also in the West (Western postmodernism would eventually make all art as interpretable as propaganda). Furthermore, the Stalinist cult of personality seems a direct carry over of Peter Stepanovich’s intended desire to form just such a pseudo-religious cult out of Nikolai Vsevolodovich.
Having written a novel on the threat posed to Shakespeare by the newest generation of the radical left (before reading of Verkhovensky’s desire to stone Shakespeare—imagine my surprise to find that Dostoevsky had called even the events in my own novel!), I hold this particular topic close to my heart. Indeed, I believe we are still in the Romantic-Realist crossroads, and in dire need of backtracking to take the other path that would prefer, to paraphrase Stepan Trofimovich, the beautiful and ennobling Shakespeare and Raphael over the socially useful pair of boots and petroleum. Like Stepan Trofimovich, I believe comforts and technical advancements like the latter could not have come about were it not for the culture of the former—and that they would lose their value were their relative importance confused to the detriment of that which is higher.
There are, of course, many other truths in The Devils that have borne out (the infighting of radical advocacy groups competing for prominence, radicalism as a result of upper-class boredom and idleness, revolution’s being affected not by a majority but a loud minority willing to transgress, self-important administrators and bureaucrats as enablers and legitimators of radicals…). While the increasingly chaotic narrative (meant to mimic the setting’s growing unrest) is not Dostoevsky’s most approachable work, The Devils is certainly one of his best, and it fulfills his intended purpose of showing, like Tolstoy had done a few years before in War and Peace, a full picture of Russian society.However, while Tolstoy’s work looked backward to a Russia that, from Dostoevsky’s view, had been played out, The Devils was written to look forward, and, more often for ill than good, it has been right in its predictions. Not for nothing did Albert Camus, who would later adapt The Devils for the stage, say on hearing about the Stalinist purges in Soviet Russia that “The real 19th-century prophet was Dostoevsky, not Karl Marx.”
Post Views: 521
By Daniel Evans — 9 months ago
You’re probably already baulking at the idea that there could be anything to learn from modern art. You’re not wrong that art and architecture today are often hideous, lazy, cheap, unconsidered, and, well, artless. It won’t help that I myself am still not completely concluded on what there is to learn. Alinskyite tactics of making the enemy live up to their own rules? Did Duchamp just encourage the wrong kind of person and end up making things worse? More on this later.
But there is something in modern art worth considering, it’s not a total waste, you must take wisdom wherever you can find it. There is so little wisdom going. You can’t afford to waste any. Your opponents in the progressives are powerful, rich, and vicious, in all senses of that word. Many, many, many are also group-thinking chasers of convention, out of touch, fearful, vain, and insecure. They don’t believe in the truth, something eternal, irrespective of them, they believe in their truth, as if it emanates from themselves. A pretentious way of saying they want to express their feelings? Perhaps. But truth for them is decided by consensus and fitting in. Yup, that’s
the art sceneprogressives for you.
That’s good, that’s a massive weakness. How do you exploit it? How do you handle these people? It’s risky, but people who stand out, do not follow the crowd, have the self-confidence to go their own way, and the actual knowledge and mastery to do it competently, are cool. A big part of what
the art sceneprogressives want to do is fit in and be cool. The risk is that what’s cool, or even just true, for them is decided by consensus, not reality.
Art, religion, politics, Rob Henderson’s luxury beliefs. What’s the overlap and what can you learn from one to the other? Dismiss all of modern art, if you like, but at least keep one artist. So much which comes after him is basically derivative and misses the point. Let’s follow a master, see what he did and why, and draw out the lessons. You too will make progressives clutch their pearls and faint, or pop their monocles, and exclaim “harumph, why, that is most unorthodox!”
Marcel Duchamp. He is exactly the right kind of figure to look at. Where to start exactly?
Marcel Duchamp is a tricky sort. You could say he was a total troll and he would often go out of his way to obfuscate history by making things up when asked about his work. He was a bit of a prankster, and he liked tinkering with all the new mediums of his day. He was unpredictable.
And modern art. Where to start exactly with that? Not all contemporary art is synonymous with modern art. If that’s not quite difficult enough, it’s not fair to describe all modern art as crap. At least you might concede it’s not all crap in precisely the same way. It’s a low standard, but a place for you to start.
It’s kind of like memes. They’re often highly context dependent, assume some level of preceding knowledge, are trying to say something to the person who sees them, and some memes are better than others.
Similarly, Duchamp is a man of his time. He was clearly interested in technology, and why wouldn’t he be? He’s around at the time of the wireless, new elements and other discoveries coming out of Marie Curie’s laboratory, the invention of cinema, and x-rays. New materials, new mediums, new ways of getting a different insight into the world around you. New ways of thinking. In physics and mathematics Einstein displaces Newton, non-Euclidean geometry bursts forward, the first thoughts about different dimensions. And it’s all happening around WWI, the ends of empires, the international rise of America, and the replacement of Europe’s monarchies.
What is analogous to any of this today? The internet, AI, social media, NFTs, space? New possibilities, new technology, new materials, new politics, it forces people to question things.
Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2
Duchamp’s first important piece: Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, an example of cubism, with caveats, because it upset some people.
Some context. Let’s quickly look at the Italian futurists in the 1910s, which started with Marinetti.
The futurists were pretty hard core right wingers (Marinetti co-wrote Il manifesto dei fasci italiani di combattimento), who were obsessed with technology and machinery. They wanted to scrap museums, libraries, forget the past, in favour of a world dedicated to speed, and strength, and the future. Is this what made the trains run on time? Anyway, artistically, they were interested in capturing energy and motion in two dimensions. And it was looking to have something to say. What a lot of people don’t fully appreciate about modern art (you were warned this would get pretentious), is that it involves audience participation. If you’re saying “WTF am I looking at here?”, you are saying a response to the piece.
Before modern art, you have realistic art. Actually, realism, which is what it sounds like. Technology by the 1910s keeps getting more and more advanced, and you have more cameras, and photos, and films, at the time artists were beginning to question the point of a realistic painting. Modern artists were rising to that challenge.
Whether it’s futurists, or dadaists, or surrealists, which all emerge around this time, they’re trying to deal with the paradigm shifts of their day. What are the artists of today up to? How many of them are energised and engaged with the paradigm shifts of our day?
The point is, a lot of art, especially modern art, is contextual, just like a lot of culture, whether it’s stories or music, movies, etc. to fully appreciate its impact you really have to be there and part of it. This goes beyond art, well into politics. How do you explain the world pre and post 9/11 to those who weren’t there? The New Atheism movement made more sense in the face of religious extremism, whether that was muslims like bin Laden or evangelicals like Bush.
Modern art emerges amid two world wars, and the blossoming of progressive democracy and its three fruits; communism, facism, and liberalism.
The futurists believed that war is the world’s only moral hygiene, a chance to start anew, that art gets shifted into the new world it brings forth. And then rather a lot of them died in WWI and that was more or less that.
Now, here comes a particularly important thing. A bunch of these art movements would come with manifestos. That is, instructions for how art is and isn’t supposed to be. Rules for what you could and couldn’t express and in what way. The simultaneous scrapping of the past, obsession with what’s new, a certain reverence for violence and domination, and replacement with a new hierarchy. No rules, and also rules, and lots of angry people. Does that sound familiar to you at all, duckies? Have progressives been the same for a hundred years, maybe more?
Well, when art comes with rules, and particularly about what it is supposed to say to people, that is almost certainly propaganda. Oscar Wilde might have had something to say against this (The Picture of Dorian Gray), or Kim Il Sung in favour, as Juche art is supposed to carry a moral, political element to it.
Can we forgive the futurists? They were working before the full, crushing horror of the progressive 20th Century.
Anyway, Duchamp’s Nude changes the art movement of his time, challenges it, mocks it. The full saga of the Nude takes place over a couple of years. He presents it at the pretentiously named (the progressives are all very self-congratulatory aren’t they?) Salon des Indépendants where the cubists reject it. Remember that art is supposed to be full of rules? Cubism is supposed to be about multiple dimensions portrayed simultaneously. Futurism is supposed to be about motion. The Nude is both. Oh no, what a disaster! Most unorthodox!
So, in 1912 some exhibits were supposed to happen at the Salon des Indépendants. The futurists came first, that was all lovely, and the cubists were supposed to come after. Some of the smaller cubists came together to do their own thing and have an “art movement”. Duchamp was having none of it.
The first thing the cubists had a problem with was the title, but Duchamp puts the title right in the painting, so it can’t be hidden, removed, changed, disguised. Total troll. He’s also trying to play with language. It was originally titled “Nu descendant l’escalier” in the literature, and “Nu” is ambiguously male. Worse still, nudes are supposed to be painted lying down, like one of your French girls. Nudes aren’t supposed to be descending stairs. What’s more, the only place naked women were likely to be descending stairs in Paris was at brothels or Mallard Chairman Jake Scott’s mum’s house.
All round, the hanging committee (not as ominous as it sounds) for the exhibit were totally scandalised. Have a look at the painting again. Yup. Duchamp was told to change it, the title was wrong, the painting was too futurist, too Italian, just no good, so he left and removed himself from the show. Something similar then gets repeated in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York.
So much for artists being open-minded or intellectual. Then again, are you surprised that there’s a lot of snobby arseholes in the art world who get bitchy?
Still, Duchamp had the last laugh. Who else out of the cubists exhibited at the Salon is remembered as well today? In Duchamp’s own time, at the Armory, the next year, he was peer level with Picasso as a cubist, and other artists such as Matisse, Delauney, Kandinsky, Rodin, Renoir, and others.
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even
Alright, so where can Duchamp go from here? His next piece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, is an even further descent into top notch trolling.
Duchamp really wanted to get into the idea of the fourth dimension with Bride, in the geometric, not temporal sense.
In three dimensions, you can imagine a point within a three dimensional cube and create a coordinate for it along width, height, and depth. A fourth dimensional point would sit in relation to all three of those – it might be like if you could see all sides of the cube and its inside at the same time. And if this four dimensional shape could cast a shadow, it would be a three dimensional shadow, just like a three dimensional object casts a two dimensional shadow on a wall, for example.
The idea was that if you could put three dimensional reality into two dimensions in a painting, what is a three dimensional piece a step down from? You can’t seem to make it real, exactly, so you have to sort of imagine it instead. Can you imagine a tesseract, the fourth dimensional equivalent of a cube? Here’s a representation of the concept.
For a two dimensional painting, it should come very naturally to you to understand what three dimensional object or scene it represents. For any of you duckies who have spent time thinking about non-Euclidean geometry, perhaps Bride might come a bit easier to you.
Or not. But it’s a commendable attempt at trying something new from Duchamp.
So, yes, you will definitely look at it and think WTF is this, but this is very much by design. Though he started the piece in 1915, and it would go on exhibit 12 years later in 1927, he would later publish notes in 1934 as an accompaniment. He did not want a purely visual response.
How did this take him so long to complete, you ask? His patrons said they’d pay his rent until he finished.
Now, at this point you’re probably asking a very justified question. How much is Duchamp really just a bullshit artist? Well, that’s a kind of art too. He’s at least a little funny, a little clever, and a little daring. Can the same be said for progressives?
Duchamp at this point is experimenting. He’s playing with chance. Art is usually done very deliberately, but is it possible to create something through other methods? Are you limited in your materials? Is it possible to use abstract concepts themselves to make something? Is it sometimes more interesting to achieve something that you didn’t exactly set out to do?
There are a few replicas of Bride. The original in Philadelphia is broken, it broke on its way to the original exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The ones in Sweden and Tokyo are not broken, and are a different experience. They’re also all getting a bit worse for wear. Duchamp didn’t necessarily make things to last. That wasn’t important. His personality itself is perhaps more the figure, more the legacy, than any of his works.
Disposability and personality? He would have been perfect in today’s world of memes, social media, and reality TV. Self-belief, showmanship, fake it til you make it, bullshit artistry. Politicians are memed into success these days. This kind of chaos, flexibility, fun, unpredictability, is not open to the progressives. They have a hegemony to conserve. You have a hegemony to subvert.
You could do worse than to learn from Duchamp.
Oh boy. Duckies, if I haven’t lost you already, this one might do it.
Duchamp is in America at this point. America, unlike Europe, has no real history at this time. Plus ça change. (French. You were warned this would get pretentious). Are there lessons to learn here about the internet and the internet generations? Not sure, perhaps you can think about that one.
Anyway, a lot of artists go to America because of the war and Duchamp is asked to run a show. The New York art scene wants to replicate the show Duchamp’s Nude was kicked out of. The Americans want to have a go at their own Independence. How derivative. So, two of the conditions for the show was that there was to be no jury and no prize. It’s like the Oscars. There are no winners. “And the award goes to…”. You can’t have winners. That would imply some people are better than others. No, jury, no prize, nothing is better than anyone else, but it’s still a selective hoighty toighty art show. All the artists who kicked Duchamp out of the 1912 exhibit will be there. Duchamp detects an opportunity.
He takes a urinal, signs it R Mutt and, sure enough, it is kicked out of the show. But it gets photographed.
Duchamp is making another mockery, running another test here. Why can’t a nude descend a staircase? Who made these rules? Who makes art rules? A lot of the audience had never even seen a urinal before, which makes it even funnier.
Duchamp is working with context. Everyone sees a toilet every day. Even prissy art snobs. You can’t look at one in an art exhibit? Why exactly? It’s extreme, sure, and you wouldn’t be impressed with it, duckies, but you’re not pretending to be progressive and egalitarian and open and free or whatever. Duchamp puts a toilet right in the middle of a fancy shmancy art show for all the people who are up themselves for reasons they don’t understand and they lose their minds.
And to this day, people are still debating whether it’s art. In today’s digital economy, when so much is abstracted – social interaction, work from home, shopping, entertainment, etc, – this debate is as relevant as ever.
Really this is about the governing classes, who today are the progressives. If you don’t understand three things by now, you really ought to. First, the ruling class don’t care about the rules in the same way many of the governed do, because they make them, know why they’re there, and what they’re trying to do with them, for power. Second, a lot of the governed really don’t know why their rules are there, but follow them anyway, for many reasons, and only care about the rules at the surface level. Third, a big chunk of the middle class gets up itself precisely because they’re not in the ruling class, are close enough to sniff it, can see it, want it, but aren’t truly in it, and don’t fully understand it.
The most important thing about Fountain is that Duchamp has a sense of humour. It’s even funnier that there was only one photo at the time, the Fountain now is just a replica, and nobody has even seen the original for 50 years. We don’t actually know if Duchamp was making everything up.
Duchamp used to make stuff up in TV interviews. Performance artist? Certainly an early iteration of it. It’s not just enough to subvert the progressives in your work.
You must live it.
Well, one in particular. L.H.O.O.Q., which is basically a meme.
The readymades were more or less mass manufactured products which Duchamp sort of took, made a few alterations to, and declared pieces. Yup, that’s a meme. Fair use!
L.H.O.O.Q. is a picture of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee drawn on. Factory produced graffiti? This is 40 years before Warhol, and how long before Banksy? L.H.O.O.Q. was only possible because of advances in technology.
The readymades are a tension between art and not art (pretentiousness continued) – you can go to a museum, look at an exhibit with a urinal set with a sign saying “do not touch” then go into the bathroom and do rather a lot more than touch. The question for you is why is one thing there and not the other? The Mona Lisa (the real one) is there because it obviously should be there?
The answer is “yes”, btw.
Duchamp here is mocking style, taste, and aesthetics, he’s asking questions about reverence, perhaps even worship, but Duckies, don’t rankle. Duchamp is forcing the protection of what’s valuable, of what’s genuinely accomplished and beautiful. There is something to defend in the rules set around beauty conventions. Just not the progressive ones where the rule is that there are no rules, but there are rules, and they’re the ones who control them. If there’s one thing you should recognise about progressives it’s that they don’t exactly care what they’re telling you to do as much as they care that they are the ones telling you to do it.
Duckies, don’t rankle at Duchamp attacking hierarchies in art. This is good when the hierarchy is intolerably corrupt. Duckies, you are against the status quo.
Duchamp basically agrees with the audience that trash is not really art.
If the 20th Century was about the great democratisation of technology, and all the chaos and opportunity that it brought (Twitter?), perhaps the 21st Century can be about the great ordering of technology with stable command. (Twitter + Elon?).
The last piece Duchamp does is Étant donnés. It’s a great big installation piece now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You could be forgiven for missing the most important part. It’s only visible through two peepholes in a door. And what you see looks like this. A nude, reclined against a landscape backdrop, what you might call a “real painting”, a real life piece, not readymade crap.
Duchamp kept this a secret between two girlfriends and his wife, only revealing the work after his death, and 25 years after he had apparently retired from art to play competitive chess.
Is this what Duchamp believed about art all along?
Duckies, relax, keep yourself in check, and stay cool. Let people enjoy themselves. There’s no real need to get snobby about other people’s tastes.
But also know your own. Do your thing. Let the progressives get on with theirs. They have all sorts of rules and ideas and it’s all built on sand. #Walkway? Disengage, do your own thing. They can do their thing. You’re going to do something cool that doesn’t care about their rules. In turn, your thing will show up theirs, passively. Show, don’t tell. Let them be ridiculous by comparison. Let it come naturally and not because you’ve driven them there.
Or maybe it’s all a load of rubbish? Duchamp used elements of luck as his materials in creating Bride. Jackson Pollock still came along as if he was doing something new with his drip period 20 years after. Andy Warhol still came along 40 years later with his prints as if the readymades hadn’t basically done the same thing before. And contemporary art keeps going.
Duchamp didn’t make anyone realise how ridiculous they were.
Did you just read this entire piece for nothing?
Post Views: 426
By Robert Masterson — 9 months ago
Virtually everyone at some point has complained about how their supposedly state-of-the-art phone, tablet, laptop, or computer doesn’t seem quite so cutting-edge when it either refuses to work properly or ceases to function entirely after a disappointingly brief period of time. This is not merely the grumblings of aggravated customers, but a consequence of “planned obsolescence.” The term dates back to the Great Depression, coined by Bernard London in his 1932 paper Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence, but a practically concise definition comes courtesy of Jeremy Bulow as “the production of goods with uneconomically short useful lives so that customers will have to make repeat purchases.” Despite being an acknowledged (and in some cases encouraged) practice, it is still condemned; both Apple and Samsung have faced legal action on multiple occasions for introducing software updates which actively hinder the performance of older devices. In the face of all this, planned obsolescence isn’t going anywhere so long as there is technology, nor does anyone expect it to. It is, as death and taxes are, one of the few certainties of life.
As the title of this essay suggests, I do not intend to delve any further into the technological or economic ethics of planned obsolescence. Interesting as they may be, I want to focus on how the concept appears in a political context; more specifically, in liberalism.
One of the core tenets of liberalism is a belief in the “Whig interpretation of history.” In his critique of the approach, aptly titled The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield outlined the Whig disposition as being liable to “praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” To boil it down, it is the belief that history is a continuous march of progress, with each successive step freer and more enlightened than the last. A Whiggish liberal is dangerously optimistic in their opinion that history has led to the present being the greatest social, economic, and political circumstances one could hitherto be born into. More dangerous still is their restlessness, for as good as the present may be, it cannot rest on its laurels and must make haste in progressing even further such that the future will be even better. The pinnacle of human development lasts as long as a microwave cooking a spoon, receiving for its valiant effort little other than sparks, fire, and irreparable damage resulting in its subsequent replacement.
The unrepentant Whiggery of the modern world has prompted scholars of the Traditionalist School of philosophy to label it an aberration amongst all other societies, as the first which does not assign any inherent value to, or more accurately, openly detests, perennial wisdom (timeless knowledge passed down through generations) and abstract metaphysical truths. In the words of René Guénon, “the most conspicuous feature of the modern period [is its] need for ceaseless agitation, for unending change, and for ever-increasing speed.” Quite literally, nothing is sacred. One of the primary causes of this is that modernity, defined by its liberalism, is materialist, and believes that anything and everything can and should be explained rationally and scientifically within the physical world. The immaterial and the spiritual are disregarded as irrational, outmoded and unjustifiable; it is, as Max Weber says, “disenchanted.”
To understand this further, we must consider Plato’s conceptions of the two distinct natures of the spiritual and the material/physical world, “being” and “becoming” respectively. Being is constant and axiomatic, characterised by abstract ideas, timeless truths and stability. Becoming on the other hand, as the nature of the physical world, reflects the malleability of its inhabitants and exists in an endless state of flux. Consider your first car, it will alter with time, the bodywork might rust and you may need new parts for it, and indeed it may eventually be handed on to a new owner or even scrapped entirely. Regardless of what changes physically, its first car status can never be separated from it, not even when you no longer own it or it’s recycled into a fridge, for it will always hold a metaphysical character on a plane beyond the material.
Julius Evola, another Traditionalist scholar, succinctly defined a Traditional society as one where the “inferior realm” of becoming is subservient to the “superior realm” of being, such that the inherent instability of the former is tempered by orientation to a higher spiritual purpose through deference to the latter. A society of liberalism is unsurprisingly not Traditional, lacking any interest in the principles of being, and is instead an unconstrained force of pure becoming. Perhaps rather than disinterest, we can more accurately characterise the liberal disposition towards being as hostile. After all, it constitutes the “customs” which one of classical liberalism’s greatest philosophers, John Stuart Mill, regarded as “despotic” and a “hindrance to human development.” Anything which is perennial, traditional, or spiritual is deleterious to the march of progress unless it can either justify its existence within the narrow rubric of liberal rationalism, or abandon its traditional reference points and serve new masters. With this mindset, your first car doesn’t represent anything to do with the sense of both liberation and responsibility that comes with being able to transport yourself, it is simply a lump of metal to tide you over until you can get a more expensive lump of metal.
Of course, I do not advocate keeping a car until it falls to pieces, it is simply a metaphor for considering the abstract significance of things which may be obscured by their physical characteristics. In the real world, the stakes are much higher, where we aren’t just talking about old cars but long-standing cultural structures, community values and particularisms, and other such social authorities that fall victim to the ravenous hunger of liberal progressivism.
The consequence of this, as with all things telluric, material, or designed by human effort, is impermanence. Without reference to and deliberate denigration of being, ideas, concepts and structures formed within the liberal system have no permanent meaning; they are as fickle as the humans who constructed them. Roger Scruton eloquently surmised this conundrum when lambasting what he called the “religion of Rights”, whereby human rights, or indeed any concepts of becoming (without spiritual reference, or to being) are defined by subjective “moral opinions” and “legal precepts.” Indeed “if you ask what rights are human or fundamental you get a different answer depending whom you ask.” I would further add the proviso of when you ask, as a liberal of any given period appears to their successors as at best outdated or at worst reactionary. Plucking a liberal from 1961, 1981, 2001, and 2021, and sitting them around a table to discuss their beliefs would result in very little agreement. They may concur on non-descript notions of “freedom” and “equality”, but they would struggle to find congregate over a common understanding of them.
To surmise, any idea, concept or structure that exists within or is a product of liberalism is innately short-lived, as the ceaseless agitation of becoming necessitates its destruction in order to maintain the pace of the march of progress. But Actual people, regardless of how progressive or rational they claim to be, rarely keep up with this speed. They tend to follow Robert Conquest’s first law of politics: “everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” People are naturally defensive of the familiar; just as an aging iPhone slows down with time or when there’s a new update it can’t quite cope with, so too will liberals who fail to adapt to changing circumstances. Sadly for them, the progressive thirst of liberalism requires constant refreshment of eager foot-soldiers if its current flock cannot keep up, unafraid to put down any fallen comrades if they prove a liability, no matter how loyal or consequential they may have once been. Less, as Isaac Newton famously wrote, “standing on the shoulders of giants”, more “relentlessly slaying giants and standing on a pile of their fallen corpses”, which as far as I’m aware no one would ever outright admit to.
You don’t have to look particularly far to find recent examples of this. In the 1960s and 70s, John Cleese pioneered antinomian satire such as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, specifically mocking religious and British sensibilities. Now, in response to his assertion that cultural and ethnic changes have rendered London “no longer English”, he is derided for being stuffy and racist. Indeed, Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, and Sadiq Khan, the three progressive men (in their own unique ways) who have served as Mayor of London since its establishment in 2000, lined up on separate occasions to attack Cleese, with Khan suggesting that the comments made him “sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty.” There is certainly a poetic irony in becoming the very thing you once satirised, or perhaps elegiac for the liberals who dug their own graves by tearing down the system, only to become the system and therefore a target of that same abuse at the hands of others.
Another example is George Galloway, a staunch socialist, pro-Palestinian, and unbending opponent of capitalism, war, and Tony Blair. Since 2016 however, he has come under fire from fellow leftists for supporting Brexit (notably, something that was their domain in the halcyon days of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, and Peter Shore) and for attacking woke liberal politics. Other fallen progressives include J. K. Rowling and Germaine Greer, feminists who went “full Karen” by virtue of being TERFs, and Richard Dawkins, one of New Atheism’s four horsemen, who was stripped of his Humanist of the Year award for similar anti-Trans sentiments. All of these people are progressives, either of the liberal or socialist variety, the difference matters little, but their fall from grace in the eyes of their fellow progressives demonstrates the inevitable obsolescence innate to their belief system. How long will it be until the fully updated progressives of 2021 are replaced by a newer model?
On a broader scale, we can think of it in terms of generational divides regarding social attitudes, where the boomers and Generation X are often characterised as the conservatives pitted against the liberal millennials and Generation Z. Yet during the childhood of the boomers, the United Nations was established and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and when they hit adolescence and early adulthood the sexual revolution had begun, with birth control widespread and both homosexuality and abortion legalised. Generation X culture emerged when all this was fully formed, and rebelled against utopian boomer ideals and values in the shape of punk rock, the New Romantics, and mass consumerism. If the boomers were, and still are, ceaselessly optimistic, Generation X on the other hand are tiringly cynical. This trend predictably continued, millennials rebelled against Generation X and Generation Z rebelled against millennials. All of them had their progressive shibboleths, and all of them were made obsolete by their successors. To a liberal Gen Zer in 2021, it seems unthinkable that will one day be the crusty boomer, but Generation Alpha will no doubt disagree.
Since 2010, Apple’s revolutionary iPad has had 21 models, but the current could only look on in awe at the sheer number of different versions of progressive which have been churned out since the age of Enlightenment. As an object, the iPad has no choice in the matter. Tech moves fast, and its creators build it with the full knowledge it will be supplanted as the zenith of Apple’s capabilities within two years or less. The progressives on the other hand are inadvertently supportive of their inevitable obsolescence. Just as they were eager not to let the supremacy of their ancestors’ ideas linger for too long, lest the insatiable agitation of Whiggery be halted for a moment, their successors hold an identical opinion of them. Their imperfect human sluggishness will leave them consigned to the dustbin of history, piled in with both the traditionalism they so detested as well as the triumphs of liberalism that didn’t quite get with the times once they were accepted as given. Like Ozymandias, who stood tall over the domain of his glory, they too are consigned to a slow burial courtesy of the sands of time.
As much as planned obsolescence is a regrettable part of modern technology, so too is it an inescapable component of liberalism. Any idea, concept, or structure can only last for a given time period before it is torn down or has its nature drastically altered beyond recognition to stop it forming into a new despotic custom. Without reference to being, the world and its products are left purely in the hands of mankind. Defined by caprice, “freedom”, “equality”, or “democracy” can be given just as quickly as they can be taken, with little justification required other than the existing definition requiring amendment. Who decides the new meaning? And what happens to those who defend the existing one? Irrelevant, for one day both will be relics, and so too shall the ones that follow it. What happens when there is no more progress to be made? Impossible to say for certain, but if we are to take example from nature, a tornado once dissipated leaves behind only eerie silence and a trail of destruction, from which the only answer is to rebuild.
Post Views: 454