Thursday, 27 August 2015

Beethoven in Iran

In Tehran, Beethoven IX was performed with the mullahs in the front row, blissfully ignorant of the message of this piece, which was sung in German (thereby probably safeguarding it from being banned).

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/06/tehrans-reborn-symphony-orchestra-an-ovation-before-playing-a-note

Shocking to read that the piece was played under the portrait of Khomeini.

Meanwhile, the influence of Beethoven's music as such is amazing - even in a country like Iran. And it extends even to hair (that's why the ladies protect their hairdo's from Beethoven's blaze):

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cracks and flows

The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, famous for his intense interpretations and notorious for his willful distortions of the score. was not interested in Stravinsky's music. But Stravinsky was very impressed by Gould's playing. In the sixties Stravinsky had heard Gould performing the last three Beethoven sonatas, opus 109, 110 and 111, on a concert in the USA, after which he had sent Gould a letter, saying that he had never come to grips with these pieces, but that Gould's performance had been a revelation.

Now, that is very interesting. Namely, I have a recording of these pieces, as played by Gould, and they demonstrate Gould's capacity to infuse a great expressive intensity into his rendering, but also they are erratic, a bit casual and improvisatory, as if invented at the spot. The logical narrative under the surface hardly gets time to naturally unfold, and the monumentality which is also part of the music, does not get much chance to be experienced. Gould plays the music as bits placed one after the other, where the immediate expressive effect is all.

No wonder that Stravinsky suddenly felt that the music made sense, because his own music had developed over the years into precise this sort of montage-structures: short bits of music which derive their effect from their immediate impact, like a kaleidoscope of small bits forming a whole together, but not organically interrelated within the flow of time.

 This is Gould tackling opus 109:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=emmioyqL7Jk

I think Richard Goode's interpretation is much better, giving room to both the music's improvisatory, immediate expression and natural flow, and its underlying monumentality:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=np55_k54Ae0

So, it seems that Stravinsky's understanding was also somewhat a misunderstanding. He recognized a bit of Stravinsky in Beethoven.

And yet, no other pianist equals Gould's expressive intensity in these pieces, however cavalier his vision of them. That's  why I occasionally return to Gould's recording, in spite of the irritating flaws, while acknowledging that the Goode version is so much closer to the music, as can be seen from the score. Goode is simply much more convincing.... and I play his version more often.

The great pianist Arthur Schnabel once said: 'Great music is music that is better that it can be played', meaning that every performance brings-out certain aspects of the music on the expense of other aspects, and all of them cannot be performed in the same time, but they are all there embodied in the score. In his (very short!) booklet 'Aspects of Wagner', Bryan Magee compares recordings of Brahms' symphonies as performed by Toscanini and Walter. 'Under Toscanini they are played with an almost demonic ferocity and drive, and are deeply disturbing. Under Walter they have a glowing, autumnal relaxation and warmth, and are deeply consoling. Neither conductor transgresses the letter of the scores, nor their spirit. Yet the sum of what they bring out in their performances could not possibly be combined in a single performance.' Of course, the personality of the performer is part of the rendering, the performer brings the score to life, fills it with his/her own life experience. But this could only happen if the performer does recognize his/her own life experiences in the score. So, there is indeed something of Stravinsky's montage technique in these very personal works, but I think it only forms a minor element.

The Beethoven idiom in his late period is a synthesis of very different material, centrifugal forces battling with centripetal ones, forcibly bent into a harmonious whole, where the seams and cracks are occasionally audible, but form part of the musical vision. These types of cracks became more drastic in the music of the last century, under the pressures of the world's realities, and Stravinsky has not escaped them, but worked on his mosaics as best as he could. And some of them are works that equal Beethoven's.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Modernism and musicality

I have always been struck by the obvious lack of musical capacities of both composers and performers of atonal, modernist music. If we describe 'musicality' as the capacity of both intellectually and emotionally understanding of what is going-on in a piece of music, which can be experienced in performance, we have to also describe what we mean by 'piece of music' and by 'capacities'. Also we should clearly define the notion of 'tonality' and of 'atonality'. I could now enter the labyrinth of philosophical deliberations about presentation, representation, meaning, value and so forth, but would rather refer to Roger Scruton's 'Aesthetics of Music' where, in the first half, these abstract musings have received a form which I would call definite. Let me just refer to some odd personal experiences and recollections....

During my study at the conservatory, one of the students of the composition group would accept without the slightest objection or question all the information about the then new explorations which set musical life on fire with protests, debates, and provocative concerts, also including news about explorations which were obviously nonsensical, like performances where the pianist sat still in front of the piano (Cage) or pieces made-up of white noise, or organ recitals where the clusters not only made the instrument roar like a lion being skinned alive, but caused a short-circuit and a fire as well. This student was somewhat older than me and also studying the piano. I attended his final examination concert where he played Beethoven's sonata opus 109, which was at the time still terra incognito to me - although I knew Beethoven and where he stood for, which did not have much of my interest. I still remember the strange experience of hearing someone playing notes on the piano that made not the slightest sense, they were played slow and fast, loud and soft, and all was fairly consonant, using normal triads and scales, but it sounded completely nonsensical. The next day I examined the score, because I thought that the old giant had written something really odd. But struggling through the pages revealed a beautiful, fluent piece of musical logic and expression - I recognized the notes but now I could see that they did make sense. Later-on this student became one of Holland's important and well-known modernist composers, receiving a plethora of commissions and stipends, and almost every piece he wrote was performed and received with great respect - by the incrowd, the critics (wanting to appear up-to-date) and - admittedly - rather small audiences. He sat on the selection committees of the national composers' fund, assessing applications for the fees for commissions - a centralized system whereby composers and theoretic experts exercise quality control over production of new music, like in the former Soviet Union - as well as on the board of this government institution. He easily won prizes dedicated to the 'best' progressive music, among which the Vermeulen Prize twice for works which show an aestheticized atonal modernism, somewhat like Viennese expressionism but comatized into a self-congratulating slumber, and even as sonic art, lethally slow and boring. Apparently without any understanding of what the genre could possibly mean, he wrote an opera based upon Virginia Woolf's musings which I tried to see out on TV - it was considered an event of national cultural importance - but the thing was so static that after two hours I found-out that in reality only 15 minutes had passed. The Théatre de la Monnaie, where the performance took place, began to empty from circa 20 minutes in the performance onwards and by the end, the hall was practically empty, so that the critics could praise the work as 'groundbreaking' and 'courageous' (a work of genius should be disliked at the première) and the composer received the second of his Vermeulen Prizes for this cultural deed of great consequence. But what I heard was a mere play with empty sounds, unrelated, and utterly uncommunicative. It had nothing to say because the musical language was incapable of 'saying'; surely 'saying' was never intended. In an interview in one of the national newspapers, this man said, in connection with this 'opera': "As a composer, you operate within a small world. It is a bit improper that you need an opera to exercise your prestige". So, all those efforts and all that subsidy money did not go into this work and into the performance to share some artistically-inspired vision, but to offer the composer the opportunity to exercise his prestige within a small world. A student of this man, who had during his study already obtained a reputation of supporting the cause of new music, on one day saw his stipend diminished with 5000 guilders. Complaining about this to his teacher, whom he knew was on the board and in the committees of the aforementioned foundation distributing the stipends, he received as a reaction that to the teacher's surprise his own stipend had been increased with the same amount. The reason of the cut appeared to be, later-on, due to some slight deviations of the student's music from the party line, an instinctive drive which he pursued more later-on and for which he eventually had to pay with the disappearance of his stipend altogether. (He became one of the more musical composers of the younger generation.)

Once I spoke with a member of a famous wind ensemble, with a huge bulk of contemporary music in their repertoire, of which much atonal modernist stuff. He insisted that the work of Richard Strauss and Stockhausen were exactly of the same nature, the one only using more dissonances than the other, but both were 'working with sound'. On the objection that there is something more to Strauss' work, and that Strauss always wanted to get something like 'expression' across, he vehemently denied the suggestion and explained the notion of 'expression' as a mere projection, resulting from cultural conditioning. For such people, notes that connect and notes that don't, are all the same. Another ensemble, I don't want to mention the name for discretion's sake but it was named after the Viennese Grandfather of Modernism, specialized in pure sound pieces, of which the Grandfather's Pierrot Lunaire formed a centre piece of their repertoire. Because it's one of my favorites, I know that piece quite well, and I have heard various recordings, and studied the score intensily. I attended a performance by this ensemble, led by an ex-composer who had, in the sixties, wildly campaigned for the cause of modernism and against any resistance to it which was, without exception, always condemned as 'conservative' and 'bourgeois'. I would have thought that this performance would offer at least an accurate rendering of the music, given the ensemble's mission of presenting - apart from the newest explorations - also the 'classics of modernism', but no: the notes were duefully played - with quite some mistakes, which may be forgiven, it's not an easy score - but with the entire dimension of expression and atmosphere deleted. It was a clean rendering of the notes, with the result that this utterly expressive and tragic music sounded as a dry exercise in modernist academia. The wooden conducting of the ex-composer did not help here. Also Webern was considered, in the scene where this ensemble was operating, as the non plus ultra of 'objective music', i.e. music without the decadent appendage of such outdated notions like 'expression', totally oblivious of the fact that Webern - a fanatic nazi supporter - intended his music to be the pinnacle of tragic expression, exercized on the millimeters of his imagination. You could understand that for people, ignorant of the expressive and spiritual dimensions of music, wholeheartedly embraced modern music, because finally there was something that was both new and understandable - music that reflected their own materialism and emotional emptiness and which created a field with lots of career options. Musicality is rarer than sheer dexterity and intellect.

One of the 4 concert masters of the Berlin Philharmonic, who cultivated a solo career next to his work at the orchestra,  told me once that when he performed the Schönberg Concerto, he had to totally reset his musical mind to be able to play the piece at all, and when he afterwards had to prepare for a traditional concerto - say, the Mendelssohn or the Beethoven or Brahms - he had to reset his musical thinking again. It was a crossing of some context boundary which he admitted to not understand, but experienced again and again: from 'here' to 'there' and back again, but loving and respecting both types of music. He agreed that the traditional works he regularly performed, had comparable fundamentals, it was tonal and used comparable types of dynamics, but he also insisted that apart from the obvious tonalities of the traditional field, the Schönberg piece had all the other normal features of classical music as well. It was clear that this man was an utterly musically-gifted musician, with an open mind, and therefore dedicated to support the Schönberg concerto which, in his opinion, was unjustly neglected. But he felt time and again the crossing from the territory where notes made a meaningful connection, into the field where they did not made such connection and were not meant to make the type of connection which makes the formation of an inner space possible - the aurally perceptive space of tonality. Even many performances did not make the slightest difference in this noble musician's problem, that he could not understand.

A modernist composer, whom I also will not mention because he is still alive, and who became the torch bearer of modernism in his country which was - in the sixties - still very traditional in musical outlook, had a father who was a conductor and friend of Schönberg's. As a child, he would see modernist granddaddy visiting the home and discuss musical matters with his father. Upon his expressing the wish to become a composer himself, the father objected, on the grounds that he did not see any gift into that direction and thought his son completely lacking the musical talents to pursue such career. Let it be noted that Schönberg himself was still grounded in traditional music, of which his monumental and - for composition students utterly useless - 'Harmonielehre' is a convincing proof. Performers who played Schönberg's music during his life time were equally rooted in a musical culture where the dimension of expression was accepted as a normal part of the art form, and also Schönberg himself always hoped to keep that dimension intact in all his music, including his later dodecaphonic works. If our youngster had any musical gifts that justified an attempt at composition, the father would surely have noticed it. Because modernist aesthetics often enthusiastically encourage cultural patricide, the mentioned youngster did become a composer, against the strongest opposition of his father who had exclaimed: 'If he becomes a composer, that will be something terrible!', and even made a brilliant career out of his barricade posture, attracting other youngsters of similar inclinations and flaws, founding a 'school'- in imitation of the 'Second Viennese School', another form of posturing - and finding his way into the channels of the developing modernist scene. He landed on prestigious teaching posts, where his incapacity to hear any difference between the various inversions of a chord did not hinder him to develop a reputation of a brilliant teacher of a certain kind, and where he could feed younger aspirant composers, who did not mind such incapacities, with the ethos of Schönbergian idealism. I always found this a tragic example of how the lack of musical talent made people perfectly suited to support the cause of new music.

A couple of years ago, a young, intelectually brilliant pianist and musicologist, finished-off his musicological studies with a thesis on Boulez' piano music, 'demonstrating' that PB had, in fact, pursued comparable musical and expressive ideals as composers like Chopin. Since the university which administered the degree was drenched in marxist, deconstructionist philosophies, they wholeheartedly applauded such unusual, bourgeoisie-undermining outcome, which has in itself the impressive originality we find in products based upon complete misunderstanding and ignorance. Inevitably, the young man made a career in the established 'new music' scene, where such misunderstandings form the basis of the profession.

Then there is the race of young, leftish women, keen on showing that femininity with all the associations of feeble emotionalism and bourgeois posturizing has no place in the Brave New World where new music finds its happy home. They perform in black T-shirts and black trousers, have their hair cut short, use no make-up and cultivate a playing style deleted of all references to expression, focussing on correctness, rhythmic precision and an anal reticence of a kind that would Pierre Boulez make to seem a feathered dancer at the Folies Bergère. They want to beat the modernist males at their own game, fighting in the forefront of the women's lib army, conquering terrain formerly occupied by patriarchal, authoritarian males who fought their own revolution against their dead white superiors. One asks oneself what could possibly have gone wrong in their youth that they forfeited the occasional tenderness of a violin tone, the caresses of a pianissimo on a velvet Steinway, and the sweep of a dramatic narrative which can have its harsh dissonances and tragic conflicts as well. These people have talents, but they cannot be considered musical talents. It is something different.... The breed not only fuels some corners of the performing space but also the necessary advocates on the organizational side. Once I made the humiliating mistake to have a meeting with the director of a German new music festival, which promoted pluralism, adventure, explorative and groundbreaking new music, thinking that my own work would be another kind of all these things if one understood its philosophy. She came down from her office floor into the hall of the building to greet me, a middle-aged woman answering all the described uniform requirements of modernist female hip. As there is something like love on first sight, there is also hate on first sight, and since I had made the catastrophic misjudgement of appearing in tie and jacket, my appearance sparked all the modernist bitterness in her bare soul. The conversation was, of course, stiff, distant and short, and I was informed that my work did not fit the format of the festival which celebrated - for once - the music that hardly was allowed to be heard elsewhere in music life because of its adventurous nature. In other words: she expected my work to be easily accepted elsewhere and therefore not deserving the accolade of cultural relevance that accompanied the real, progressive and groundbreaking music, the pioneering aesthetic which has been progressing, groundbreaking and pioneering since the war, and without end in sight. I was 'the enemy', that was clear, and I left the building under a cloud.

How did musical modernism mobilize all this anti-musical craziness? A recollection from my student days hints at some sort of explanation. The piano students, of which I was one at the time, were all greatly involved in mastering the Chopin études and the sonata repertoire, as wel as many other pieces of the traditional music treasures. The 'modern music course' which was obligatory for all students and which was meant to inform them of the newest developments in their chosen art form, exposed them to untill then unheard sounds, causing a general contempt tinted with hilarity. But there was one piano student, a young woman with wide-open eyes, who got very enthusiastic and explored 'new piano music' with an abandon, surpassing the Chopin-obsession of her peers. She made a very tense and neurotic impression, walking with her arms held stiff along her tiny body, the hands clasped into fists, and emanating the impression as if she were a bomb which could get-off any moment in a dissonant explosion. On one afternoon, when we students were lingering in the comfortable chairs in the hall of the conservatory, giving our blunted finger tops some rest and chat with each other, we asked her about her interest, something which filled us with a mixture of perplexity and concern. I will never forget her answer: 'This music tells me something about myself, for the first time ever I felt reassured and confirmed. That's why I love it, and why I want to study and play it.'

In the 'progressive' types of new music since WW II, it appears that musicality was replaced by all sorts of neurosis, destroying the capacities which have fuelled and inspired so much repertoire from the past. I believe that musicality as such cannot but stand in opposition to the modern world, in sofar as this world represents an environment where the achievements of humanist culture and spirituality have become rarities and are no longer felt as a normal part of civilization. What a relief it is to see that there are still great musicians around, who have the courage to blindly navigate upon their musical instincts and turn them into instruments of musical experience for thousands of others, equally hungry to feel reassured and confirmed in their identity, but hoping to overcome both personal and collective neurosis.


Barenboim's authority questioned

On the informative website 'Slipped Disc', where much interesting information can be found on a daily basis, thanks to the tireless efforts of music journalist and author Norman Lebrecht, a discussion exploded about the influence of french composer Pierre Boulez, one of the arch fathers of postwar modernism, who together with his collegues created an entirely new art form based upon pure sound. Famous conductor Daniel Barenboim exposed his misunderstanding of what a musical tradition in reality is, with his assertion that Boulez had changed the musical world, obviously intended to mean that PB had positively contributed to music life as a composer and conductor. Of course, such assertion invites for serious critique, the more so because Barenboim is a great conductor and will be seen by many people as a fountain of wisdom, which is - as we know - not necessarily related to musical prowess.

http://slippedisc.com/2015/08/barenboim-pierre-boulez-truly-changed-the-musical-world/

Some time before, another PB controversy stimulated debate:

http://slippedisc.com/2015/06/french-rage-michel-legrand-accuses-pierre-boulez-of-acting-like-a-fascist/



Subhumans on the rise

The worrying news coming each day from the Middle-East, where a tide of bestiality pushes waves of desperate fugitives on Europe's shores, is becoming a threat not only to the immediate surrounding areas but to the West as a whole. It is not only the number of local young men who have forfeited their humanity in the service of bloodlust, but the increasing flow of psychopaths from the West who replenish the many death blows dealt by the world's military powers. The lust at destruction and killing, including defenseless women and children, cannot be explained by 'historical myths' or desperate circumstances in those long-suffering countries, or by underdeveloped religious orthodoxies; there is ony one explanation left, the most abject and shameful one: these perpetrators have given-up the status of humanity, and even that of animals (who kill to feed themselves, as programmed by primitive nature).

No doubt for these subhumans the kick of experiencing power over other people's life makes it all worthwhile, which merely adds another proof of their insanity: there is nothing to be won by their actions. But I cannot help to sense that the modern world, accessible via the media in every corner of the planet, including the most primitive ones, may have helped to make such bottomless pit of evil possible: a world view in which technology, materialism, greed, physical power is exalted, and in which the fruits of humanism (in both religious and secular forms) which have been developed over the ages in often difficult circumstances, are eroding and often scorned in public space, will close-off possible trajectories to civilization.

The arts often reflect the ideas and myths reigning during the times. Postwar 'new music' and 'concept art', as celebrated in public space (and in Europe, forming state-funded establishments), reflect such a dehumanized world view. No doubt such view helped to create a mental climate in which the subhuman finds his 'ideals'.

Show a hooligan a dehumanized world, and he will feel confirmed in his basest instincts, and will loose no time to develop them.

It is to be hoped that these threats will wake-up and mobilize the forces that have created the West and given it its prominence, and that it will lead to a more active and constructive attempt to preserve the best of civilization and to defend it against the destruction which knocks on the door.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Aesthetics and misery

After seeing one of those impressive BBC adaptations of literature, in this case Jane Austen's famous "Pride and Prejudice", a couple of things struck me as uncommon. Or maybe, they should not have struck me as uncommon, since they seem to belong to the context.


The story developes in the period of the British 'Regency', early 19th century, when culture as practiced by the upper classes and the landed gentry took a very refined and sophisticated turn, a kind of 'silver age' for the arts and fashion. The film was set in a marvellous country estate, with a classical building where everything down to the smalles details exuded beauty, restraint, harmony, delicacy, richly decorated with discreet sculpture of silent forefathers (one guesses), and with large windows looking-out on an enchanted rolling landscape drenched in a golden green. Interestingly, decorations - all carefully chosen from the period - were not 'over the top' or distracting, but everything breathed a curious synthesis of grandeur and intimacy, of demonstrative wealth and a certain casualness, which made it a perfect surrounding for the brilliant actors who all behaved - staff including - as if they were born that way and in that very country palace. There was a conspicuous absence of vulgarity or cheapness: every aspect of life had nobility and beauty, the simple kitchen ware, the chandeliers, the horses and carriages, the boots, the cutlery. A minitature world as a harmonious community where everybody had its circumscribed position but where all members felt responsible for each other and for the place. The people populating the building were all dressed in the typical elegance of the period: the ladies with elegant and supple, rather loose dresses (which had left the stiff 18C fashions behind), dresses which both gave room to spontaneous movement as well as gracious reclining to expose the refined hairdo's to maximum effect; the gentlemen in impressive vests and coats, with multi-layered collars in different shades of green, brown and yellow spread generously over chest and shoulders, with explosions of white, loosely knotted ties and bows under the chin, forcing the noble head in proud resistance to gravity, with rather loose haircuts as if arranged by the breeze during a horse ride. The artificiality of the wigged 18th century has been left behind, but the rather dull functionality of a later age was not as yet in sight. In short: a classicist paradise: if humanity would develop mentally, aesthetically, morally and culturally to its full potential, it would create something like this world, where all of the best comes together, where the spirit and the flesh, mind and matter, dance around each other in harmony and respect.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Pride and Prejudice

But lo and behold: everybody in the setting is miserable, suffering from all sorts of agonies. The protagonists wander around, confronting each other in beautiful phrases expressing the most painful content, and they all seem to be entirely oblivious of the fantastic beauty and harmony within which they play-out their misery. They are, in fact, isolated from their surroundings, and merely seem to accept them as a normal, natural 'given', fitting to their social position. The story is a sordid demonstration of imprisonment, for which there have been constructed different but equally painful incarcerations. Maybe only the staff members find some contentment, although they suffer by proxy, seeing their superiors going through elegant hells - and thus, probably, fearing for their livelihood.

Gerelateerde afbeelding




Gerelateerde afbeelding

Much has developed in better ways of lately... we live - at least here in W-Europe - in more just and easy times, and technology has created a relief on the material level of living, unimaginable in the early 19th century, where the sordid jobs of daly life were in the hands of staff who had to do without the vacuum cleaner, the dish washer and the micro wave.... (only the elite lived without those material burdens since they paid their staff to take them on). But one thing has almost completely disappeard from the world: this sense of beauty which has created such monuments, such images of a possible, potential humane paradise, of 'home' where man can feel really capable of exercising his / her capacities to the full. And therefore, the beauty of Austen's novels, their elaborate but ultra-sophisticated language and social manners, and the BBC's incomparable recreation of a symbolic reality that once was, has created a profound nostalgia in contemporary readers and viewers, which has catapulted Austin's novels to star popularity. Maybe the misery of the protagonists functions as a reassuring balm on the envious contemporary hearts: fortunately, they do suffer as we do, in spite of their paradise. But certainly the visual recreation of that world gives us a glimpse of what would be possible if we let our inborn sense of beauty and harmony have its way.


Afbeeldingsresultaat voor Pride and Prejudice


Sunday, 16 August 2015

Scheisse!

On the Ruhrtriennale 2015, the Dutch concept artist Joep van Lieshout has created an 'art village' around the theme: the digesting processes of the human body. The bar of the exhibition is located in a gigantic replica of a human rectum, where visitors can reflect upon their own inner workings with a comforting drink. Asked about the meaning of this object, the artist explained enthusiastically: 'Some people understand what it means, while other people don't understand it, and then there are people who understand something entirely different. That's so exciting about art, that everybody can have his own interpretation'.

http://www.art-magazin.de/kuns/8457/ruhrtriennale_ruhrgebiet

Scatological interest, which adults mostly associate with very young children, is not restricted to the visual 'artistic community'. In Haarlem, a small hall for chamber music has been built, in the form of a big anus:

http://reconnect.cc/2014/04/15/persbericht-pasen-2014/

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Modernist youth trauma

While, most probably, Karl-Heinz Stockhausen arrived at his sonic aesthetics as a result of his traumatic war experiences as a teenager - allied bombing of Cologne, his job as a nurse in a field hospital, general exposure to apocalyptic catastrophe - the other arch father of modernism, Pierre Boulez, had other traumas to overcome.

From an interview with the conductor Diego Masson, friend of PB, in the Haretz magazine, we learn the following:

"Pierre Boulez, for example - do you know how he earned a living in his youth? He played at the Folies Bergere club and, together with his giant white piano, he would break through the stage straight into the crowd of nude women prancing around him, playing the 'Warsaw Concerto,' engulfed in kitsch and lit by a pinkish light - and that was while he was writing his second sonata."

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Dumbing-down in the West

Interesting article about the decline of education in the USA:



www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201407/anti-intellectualism-and-the-dumbing-down-america


Nations with a strongly democratic history, like the USA and the Netherlands, are especially vulnerable to the misunderstanding of the democratic principle, which is nowadays increasingly misused to defend undefensible positions, with devastating results on the levels of politics and culture.

Quote from the article:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

One of the more thoughtful comments:

Let's not forget one of the major strains of anti-scientism and anti-rationalism in American life - namely, left-wing post-modernist 'thought'. After all, fundamentalist Christians do not deny that there are truths that we can know. The 'there is no truth', 'everything is subjectivity' brigade has done unimaginable harm to intellectual life in the West, as was their intent. People like Freud and the members of the Frankfurt School admitted to trying to undermine Western culture. They have been so successful that cultural marxism infests our universities, in which social science has been reduced to 'lived experience' narratives of post-colonialist post-marxist experience.

This comment also applies to Europe and especially, the Netherlands, where any marxist suspicion is used to battle hierarchic notions like knowledge and culture, and where reality is not the result of observation, analysis and argument, but of general consensus including the lowest determiner.

The only means to battle this decline is the reviving of the vestiges of knowledge and principles of culture and intelligence as slowly and laboriously developed over the ages. In the context of erosion, a traditionalist position is not 'conservative', as leftwing degenerates would have it, but common sense. There are things worth of preserving and further developing, especially with an eye on the threats the West has to deal with on all levels.