Multiculturalism has many friends and a few passionate critics. In this post, I’m not going to criticize the conspiratorial Frankfurt School or similar high-level machinations intended to undermine European culture.
The main practice that I’m going to critique is that of attempting to gain exposure to many minor or superfluous works in many different foreign cultures as a substitute for learning deeply about one’s own culture.
It may be bad art, but at least it’s politically correct
The most absurd example of this is the genre of “world music,” which was especially popular during the 1990s as a way to show yourself as a tolerant, upwardly mobile person. You can still see this sort of approach to culture in the home decoration choices of upper middle class people in more liberal American suburbs and cities. You’ll see modern paintings and African fetishes. If they’re down class, you might see some half-ass impressionist landscapes and Hummel figurines. If you go down further, it’s sports teams posters.
It’s also seen in the art purchasing habits of the ultra-rich: to be fashionable, a rich white person will usually go with one of two choices — modern or foreign, which is really part of the same continuum.
When people take this to this pattern of cultural accumulation, what happens is that their cultural exposure becomes broad but simultaneously shallow and haphazard. This is only exacerbated by the à la carte approach to university education taken since the 1960s revolution, in which different graduates of the same liberal arts program may have no shared base of knowledge.
An undergraduate might be an expert in French homosexual novels, anal themes in Jamaican visual art, and about BDSM themes in contemporary Islamic film, but be ignorant of Dante. That’s actually the more likely outcome, because the Muslim bondage professor gives out easier grades.
The practical consequence of this is that it makes it so that conversations between people about culture must go to the shallowest available common denominator.
America’s ‘future leadership’ is at Buzzfeed’s reading level
Because even the educated elite has become atomized from one another in a way that they can’t quite bridge, even Ivy League students read Buzzfeed. They read Buzzfeed because Buzzfeed addresses the shallow acculturation that they are likely to find among the other people in their lives.
If the farthest that most people went was to read the Sparknotes for Hamlet to cheat on the exams in high school, it’s no wonder that the only thing that people can talk about is television.
These TV shows similarly can’t allude to anything that requires deeper study than their audiences are likely to have conducted. The audience may be ‘literate’ in blockbuster movies and other TV shows, but even the most educated types are likely to be cut off from the well of literary and artistic references that make up what was the Western canon. Although classic works are more accessible in terms of being able to retrieve the books as ever before, in terms of the culture, you just can’t expect anyone to be familiar with them in any kind of predictable way as was once possible.
Even demographically, the predictions that were once possible based on education level are no longer valid for people educated after the 1980s. So, whereas, a baby boomer may have been educated before the Revolution, anyone afterwards will have a very different mentality and acculturation.
Even when people do have a ‘liberal arts education,’ their tiny specialties in topics like transgender Chicano poetry between 1973-78 make it so that, if they leave the academy, they must focus on pop culture, because otherwise no one has any idea what they’re talking about. The jobless academic culture-worker of yesterday is the impoverished Tumblr activist of today.
Rather than upbraid the little people for their deficiencies, we must instead redirect our criticism to their superiors who have abandoned their duty to safeguard and feed the culture. Most of these have dedicated themselves explicitly towards the destruction of Western culture as a distinct entity. They attach adjectives like ‘problematic’ to the significant works and dismiss great artists of the past for being ‘white and male.’ The few remaining apologists for Europe tend to only do so with bowed heads and a thousand thousand caveats and apologies.
Culture sets the framework for thought
Culture is what frames our conversations with each other. Conversations have become coarser and conflict-ridden in part because we have lost the common cultural framework that used to frame our relationships with one another and to the greater whole.
In the past, a reference to the life of a particular saint might mean something. A contemporary work could truly resonate with the past with allusion. Today, fantasy and science fiction are more popular because the references (apart from someone like Tolkien) are intelligible even to the culturally ignorant.
One of the reasons why the organized left at the government, corporate, and activist levels expends so many billions of dollars each year on cultural manipulation is that it makes the exercise of power mostly superfluous, unnecessary. When everyone has the same sort of shallow, discombobulated acculturation, they’ll grab onto the cultural products with high production values that also speak to their state of mind — a broken framework created by the chaotic, stultified education system.
At its most bare level, stripping culture down like a modernist would, culture is what people talk about. It’s what frames their thoughts about themselves, the people around them, and morality. How their thoughts are structured and what they think about can be determined by the cultural institutions that they worship. It’s also the only meaningful link available that ordinary people have to history, without having to go through rigorous formal scholarship.
The restoration won’t happen until it becomes shameful to be ignorant of Western culture once again. Making it a matter of class distinction will be difficult, but the Lena Dunhams of the world have to be shuffled out of their high positions from which they set a hazardous example for the less privileged.
It’s a waste of time to pursue this through the formal university system, because that system is a network of Marxist strongholds totally hostile to European culture, and racially biased against whites in an open manner, especially at the more prestigious schools. This open racial bias leaks out after the students graduate and find work in the media, where do their damndest to weave themes from bell hooks and Cornell West into listicles.
The universities have turned themselves into an inverted parody of what they think Western culture used to be, which could not be farther from the truth. What impresses foreigners to this day about Europeans is the reach for universal, transcendent values.
You can’t lead from on your knees
What impresses no one is the ethno-masochism and the broader cultural theme of self-loathing. It’s certainly unimpressive to rising powers in Asia. It’s pathetic. They laugh about it. They joke about it. Their kids to go to American universities and know that our country is riven by subversives who serve only to harm the broader culture. The irony is that what’s obvious to foreigners in Russia and China is mostly opaque to Americans, who mechanically approve of mass education as the foremost common value.
The chief practical argument for multiculturalism is that we’re in a ‘global economy’ and that ‘America has global responsibilities’ and that American students have a responsibility for ‘global stewardship.’ The last 10 years should be sufficient evidence to show that this strategy has failed on every possible level. One does not form a useful competitive position in a global economy by expressly promoting an inherently mediocre culture that has no competitive advantage.
The good news is that there’ll be no more American globe to steward pretty soon. The bad news is that correcting the situation will be unpleasant, costly, and conflict-ridden.
Frog Do says
This is a half-formed thought (quarter, really) about how pop art manages to avoid this dynamic to some extent because it has avoided capture by the academy (until recently).
It makes sense why these lower art forms (video games, young adult fiction, anime, comics to an extent) are more popular then, they haven’t been actively weaponized, and this ties into Gamergate, etc.
Of course, this could be wishful thinking of the nerds.
It’s generally the case. It took much longer for commercial art and advertising to be as corrupt as the higher forms of culture. The problem with a lot of modern art is that it just doesn’t sell to normal people in enough volume.
Toddy Cat says
Watching old TV shows from the 50’s and 60’s, it’s remarkable how much more knowledge of high Western culture was simply assumed in the audience of the time, as compared to today. People may laugh at shows like “Gilligan’s Island” and “I Dream of Jeannie” today, but even at this (admittedly low) level, I can remember an episode of Gilligan’s Island where virtually all the jokes revolved around an acquaintance with “Hamlet” and “Carmen”, and an I Dream of Jeannie episode where getting most of the jokes involved an at least superficial understanding of the course of the Napoleonic Wars. And these were shows aimed at the common denominator, not even at the Middlebrow. Heck, even “Looney Toons” featured lots of Classical music.
The average aspiring University-educated SWPL of today has less of an understanding and appreciation of his own culture than a “Gilligan’s Island” viewer did in 1965. That tells us something, and not something good…
You especially see this in the ‘junk’ pulp novels and short story magazines of the early 20th century. They were considered bad influences at the time, but they’re written at a higher level than most of what the New Yorker publishes today.
They make allusions that an MFA of today would not understand, and they were targeted to the bottom rungs of society. Quiz Harvard grads today about Milton and only a fraction will probably even know who he is.
Reblogged this on Philosophies of a Disenchanted Scholar and commented:
Isn’t losing objective standards unscientific?
Any email I can reach you to?
I’ve quoted this quote before, but it seems again apropos…
—John Alexander Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy, Oxford U., to the entering class 1914, as quoted by Richard Mitchell, Underground Grammarian, vol 9., no. 1, Jan. 1985.