Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using
his intelligence; he is just using his memory.
Leonardo da Vinci
As an artist, both creative and re-creative, and with experience in
business, academia and religion, I have watched those around me tie
themselves into emotional and intellectual knots over seemingly modern
issues of politics, whatever it means to be "modern" in art, and the
arguments seemingly grounded in "science" which argue for ever greater
social control in the name of said "science." I place quotes around the
word, science, for so much of hard science is itself skeptical of raw
political power, by affirming that ever more and newly understood
natural laws cannot be manipulated but rather must be observed and
obeyed. (The scientific method has nothing to do with exercising power
and control over others, but rather quite the opposite.)
It is of course to be admitted that mankind has always acted in groups,
as well as individually. For this reason, we apply adjectives to
ourselves and others, defining our nationality, our religion or lack
thereof, our ethnic or national background as distinct from an actual
nationality, our gender and even our sexual preferences now, so brazenly
announced in the public square.
But what has proved so interesting to me is the utter inconsistency of
many of the arguments which people make. Given that rationality is
supposed to make for sense and commonsense, I thought perhaps to be
rational in re-examining our places in society, and about the governance
of that society.
Herein I do not argue for anarchy any more than for slavery, but rather
I argue that there seems a sliding scale between the two in governance
as in art and life in general which can be grasped simply. Where one
places one's self on the picture below bespeaks one's politics, but
where one places others tells of one's hidden premises behind such
politics. Conversely it also speaks of one's dedication to the pursuit
of art, which I contend stands in opposition to greater political
Let it be noted that those who intend to lead are usually reticent
thereafter to following. Even so, artists can appreciate one another's
work and dialogue over differing perspectives for this involves no
application of raw power, one over another.
Exposition of a Theme
...when a man is buying a basket of strawberries it can profit him to
know that the bottom half of it is rotten.
Mark Twain, Notebook, 1908
1.1 What is Society
Modern adherents of such seemingly new notions as an "Open Society" and
notions like "the common good" bandy about such words, with hopes that
clarity will not be found. Or so it seems to me. Paulo Freire
[ 1 ] suggests:
Education either functions as an instrument which is used to
facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of
the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the
practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal
critically and creatively with reality and discover how to
participate in the transformation of their world.
Society seems well described as a "system" of men and women living and
working together, not necessarily with anything more than the minimum
for rudimentary common causes, such as to meet basic needs of life.
Society is not in its nature monolithic, consistent, nor predictable.
Some oppose one thing, and some oppose another, and all seem to oppose
someone else, somehow, somewhere at some time. Therefore the word is
rather large and stupid, as well, for its captures much and little at
the same time.
Society like its subset, education, can become, as Freire suggests,
something which integrates its members to "bring about conformity" or it
can allow for the "practice of freedom." Freire makes clear that
conformity is not his recommended choice; the best choice is the
"practice of freedom." All societal governance is not alike when
examined through this simple lens. What then is government?
1.2 What is Government
Government is the exercise of collective authority over some issue,
behavior or practice. The word itself stems from Middle English and Old
French from the activity of piloting a ship, as well as the earlier
Greek, which also referred to steering in the same way. Directors of
companies and social institutions, as with directors of film or theater,
are governors, at their societal level, just as at the highest levels of
government, national and international political leaders propose to
"pilot" and "steer" a populace towards some goal. There is nothing
particularly value-laden in this, for some instances of governance has
proven themselves often tyrannical and destructive at all levels, and
other instances of governance have proven themselves profitable to a
society in some ways. How does one differentiate between them, and how
does this relate to art?
One governs one's own emotions at times at an individual level, as a
group governs itself with expressions of core definitions and principles
which might be different than another group's core definitions and
principles, and whole nations govern themselves -- or are sometimes
governed by dictate and mandate -- and negotiate those principles which
are to define said governance.
As with the modern notions of political correctness, which is a kind of
enforced governance, the arts have had their fair share of enforced
correctness at times. One only need identify the governors and observe
their actions to deduce their core definitions, principles and beliefs.
1.3 Some thoughts on Freedom and Liberty
Given the massive writings by political theorists over centuries, some
of which I have found instructive and some ludicrous, one can become
quickly awash in words and more words. I prefer to think in other terms,
and so choose to illustrate my notions with numbers and pictures.
To that end and as a method of cutting through verbiage to some
underlying ideas, I propose nothing new. Rather I prefer to look at what
seems to me to be an obvious range of human practice as regards
governance. And so, I think in the picture which follows in figure 1:
As there is a limit to thought, one can imagine a range from zero to one
hundred percent of any thing. There is, in this picture, no 150 percent
of something so elusive as "freedom" or "control."
When an artist makes a decision at the rudimentary level of choosing
which note follows which, or which color stands beside another, there is
a combination of freedom and control. Utter freedom is anarchy, and few
would argue that utter freedom would generate a consistent body of art
works. Utter control, in like fashion, can stifle that "freedom of
expression" which each artist seeks in order to be different from
Just so with political governance, wherein total control is slavery of
the many who are controlled for the service of the few who control. It
is the absence of freedom. But the complete absence of control is
anarchy, with which no constructive societal work can be accomplished.
Of course, I argue against both anarchy and slavery in art as in
It became fashionable in the art theory and art criticism world to bandy
about words like freedom of expression and control with little clarity,
as some of my reading in these areas proved all too easily. This is what
the simple blank map looks like, when one imagines the opposition
between overwhelming control and utter freedom, though I shall use the
words "slavery" and "anarchy" in their place:
As with art goes society. Governing is an act which stands between these
polar opposites. The artist, convinced by a school and by "rules" for
art, can become second class and uninteresting, while the artist who is
known as a breaker of rules is thought to be "imaginative" and creative.
Looking at various forms of fine art, we see this over centuries,
wherein the socially approved art of a time was less fit, in the
Darwinian sense, across centuries. The lives of many fine composers,
painters, poets, sculptors and dramatists prove this out, wherein those
who would "govern" them -- meaning impose rules upon them -- were so
often proven wrongheaded and counterproductive.
But the individual artist likewise confronts the area between utter
control -- slavery to rules -- and utter freedom -- in which no
expression over or control of a medium has merit or meaning. Just as
Nietzsche, in arguing that God "is" dead also argued that without that
God there could be no binding and objective moral order, one might well
argue that one cannot have artistic freedom without artistic control,
and one cannot effectively employ artistic control without employing for
the purpose of freedom of expression. Even so, both remain within the
province of the individuality of the artist, and not under the authority
of any government.
[ 2 ]
Therefore between slavery and anarchy, there is an "operating range" of
effectiveness. Step outside these difficult to understand boundaries, an
art becomes an impossible pursuit. Individually, artists have acted in
ways in which they have rejected the authority of political governance,
while government has often asserted and attempted such control over
artists. One need think no farther back in history to the era of Soviet
Socialist Realism, wherein certain forms of art were state-sponsored, or
to the exodus from Europe which the Nazi era created, in which artists
of all kinds fled such strong arm political control over art, declaring
some art and artists "degenerate."
Where then do such political governance appear in the picture I hope to
further flesh out? First, I prefer to look towards historical
Development and Fugue
The secret to happiness is freedom, and the secret to freedom is
2.1 Societies - Monarchies
Art developed within societies, though artists whose works we value
today are valued more today than in their day. One might think of Mozart
being dumped into a pauper's unmarked grave, or the art establishment of
Paris (a governing body) attempting to suppress the fine works of
Toulouse-Lautrec as being "counter" to the prevailing artistic
"controls" of that place and time. Societies have often attempted to
govern art, largely by providing sustenance and subsidies to it.
The earlier forms of governance, prior to the last several
centuries, were monarchic in one form or another, and some of these
monarchies went so far as to declare themselves deities. Histories a
plenty would flesh out this topic, so I leave the details to others.
Yet, monarchy was also a matter of providing for the arts of any
given time as well. This was through the allocation of societal
resources -- usually raised by coercion -- to fund art towards the
glory of the patrons themselves, such as one might see in oil
paintings of the crucifixion in which the art patrons face and form
finds a place. In such times, the monarch wielded the means of
subsistence and purchased art thereby.
Monarchy stood against societal anarchy, sometimes in seemingly
benevolent ways and sometimes by the most repressive of
methods. For this, I place in my picture of governance, especially
as it relates to art, monarchy at the top of the range, as in figure
3. Certainly monarchies ruled over less than free societies, and
some enlightened monarchies assisted the transition to parliamentary
forms of governance, thereby preserving themselves beyond the urges
for revolutionary action against them, as one saw in the
Marxist-Leninist overthrow of the short-lived democracy which
followed the fall of the Romanov house in Russia.
Monarchies were entwined with religions. This is not a Western
behavior, for Muslim and Eastern regimes also were "shared"
governance, in which the state and religion were together ruled by
monarchies, and then oligarchies. Such regimes had their royalty and
minor royals beneath them with a cadre of those still further down
in the governing ranks to see the social control enforced. Therefore
I add this cast of characters to the pictorial argument, as below in
Thus minor princes of the church, nobles and even political
supporters had a had in the historical "command and control" over
the arts, providing sustenance and approval at times, and exercising
editorial control at other times as deemed necessary. Many of the
Western canon's classical giants, such as Bach, Haydn and Mozart,
were in service to these governors without which, it may be argued,
their talents and works might not have been nurtured nor preserved.
Even so, there are many historical instances in which artists have
come into confrontation with their governors over artistic decisions
I argue this is because artists in general were working themselves
away from the higher plateaus of this picture I am honing, and
moving towards greater artistic freedom. Moving from position to
position on the chart creates contention between those who would
have freedom from control and those who would control. I further
argue that, through to the Western era in which art became
officially designated as "degenerate" under such as the Nazis,
artists were seeking and finding new ways of expressing their
individuality in both the form and content of art, and in part
causing such conflicts with their political "betters." Governors
have a requirement of those they govern: to be governed.
Therefore, my picture of governance must be modernized through the
political struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth century.
2.1 Societies - from Monarchs to False Monarchs
Richard Wagner's political supporter, in his times of true crisis,
was a monarch, Ludwig II of Bayern. One might argue that without
Ludwig, Wagner's history would have been quite different, though
many of his works were written by this time. Nevertheless, it was
monarchic support which built the Festspielhaus and paid off
Wagner's debts from other German city states, and more. However, the
time of the monarchs was drawing to a close in many nations, and
Germany and Austria were among them.
With the loss of the Kaiser's ill-fated adventures which blossomed
into World War I, the advent of other forms of political governance
were displacing monarchs. Even Napoleon's self-investiture as a new
Emperor was short-lived. There arose the notion of Marxist socialism
in many European and Asian nations, thereby supplanting the monarchs
by violent overthrow and their new-found "control" over the arts, as
they took the same position as early was occupied by monarchs. For
this, I color the picture with others names, though the position
atop the scale from anarchy to slavery is correct, for the new
faux-monarchs were the Marxists, and they too exercised their own
political control over the arts.
The National Socialist movement in Europe began in Austria
with Walter Riehl, Rudolf Jung and Hans Knirsch, who founded the
National Socialist Party in Austria, and hence indirectly in
Germany. In November, 1910, these men launched what they called the
Deutschsoziale Arbeiterpartei, and established its program at
Inglau in 1914. This party eventually adopted the name Deutsche
Nationalsozialistche Arbeiter Partei, which, except for the
order of the words, is the same name as "Nazi." In May 1918, the
German National Socialist Workers Party selected the Hakenkruez,
or swastika, as its symbol. Both Hitler and Anton Drexler, the
nominal founder of the Nazi Party, corresponded with this earlier,
anti-capitalistic and anti-church party.
Moreover Hitler said May 1st, 1927, "We are socialists. We are
enemies of today's capitalistic system for the exploitation of the
economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly
evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead
of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy
this system under all conditions."
Fritz Thyssen, one of the industrialists who helped bring the Nazis
to power, said in 1940: "Soon Germany will not be any different from
Bolshevik Russia; the heads of enterprises who do not fulfill the
conditions which the ‘Plan' prescribes will be accused of treason
against the German people, and shot." Any wonder that so many
artists fled from these new masters?
Europe was a hotbed of this kind of thinking about governance. One
notes that "fascism" was specifically a term that was originally
used by the Italian dictator Mussolini to describe his adaptation of
Marxism to the conditions of Italy after World War I.
In the early twentieth century of the Leninist-Stalinist Soviet
Union and its forms of socialism, which they called Bolshevist
communism to differentiate themselves from the Nazis' socialist
practices, the same play was enacted, in which new masters arose to
patronize and control the arts. I do not herein ignore the massive
murderous history of these various twentieth-century socialists, for
that can never be ignored. But there is documentation for this, and
my purpose herein is to show that the passage from one form of
enslaving a people passed from one kind of leadership to another,
far worse form.
But "maximum" it was, as Vladimir Lenin openly stated, "Dictatorship
is rule based directly on force and unrestricted by any laws. The
revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and
maintained through the use of violence by the proletariat against
the bourgeoisie, rule that is unrestricted by any laws." [Stephan
Courtois, "Conclusion," in The Black Book of Communism,
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999.]
(Conversations using today's chatter about right- and left-politics
serve no purpose for this discussion, for the obfuscate where
clarity is demanded. If National Socialism is supposedly "right
wing" and Soviet Socialism is supposedly "left wing," then the image
fails completely, does it not?)
With such details as the above to ponder, figure 5 replaces the
monarchs with what I prefer to call "maximum leadership," supported
by a leadership cadre, and its underlying bureaucracy. These new
faux-monarchs also administered and enforced their views on the arts
and artists, as did those before them. Art funding was linked to
that which deemed "proper" or approved arts, while the power of the
state was brought to bear against those artists who might use their
art in such a "free" manner as to threaten the state's authority.
Ironically, German and Austrian Nazis, the Italian Fascists and
Soviet Communists, and even the Vichy French quarreled, for the
picture of governance I paint with these players on its stage saw
each of themselves as the "maximum," thereby proving the other
inferior. Or as Christopher Morley observed, "There is no squabbling
so violent as that between people who accepted an idea yesterday and
those who will accept the same idea tomorrow."
The response of artists to such "maximum leadership" was
predictable. Many free-thinking artists opposed, fled and worked
against such regimes, while those usually lesser artists stayed,
obeyed and were celebrated for a time which quickly passed. The case
of Richard Strauss and Carl Orff demand closer scrutiny, but that
has been done for those who wish to learn more of them.
Largely however, artists fled such "maximum leadership" alongside
many who were not artists. Given that patronage offered artists
sustenance and perhaps even political influence, why did so many
flee? The answer is inherent in art itself. If art involves free
expression, then arts are by definition revolutionary in ways in
which political revolutions can never be. More often than not,
political revolutions cease to "revolve," and establish a new class
and form of command and control whose main aim seems to be to
survive in that privileged position for as long as possible. And
open artistic expression of freedom -- and art is generally an
expression of individuality, first and foremost -- becomes a
challenge to such authority.
In terms of figure 5, one only need imagine where the artist seeking
some new expression or individuality would find himself placed, as
much by the "maximum leadership" as by that artist's own evidence
and work. The answer is clear. Art opposes such leadership.
One finds this even among those who once may have espoused Marxist
doctrines as a possible antidote to other Marxist doctrines. One
fine example comes from the pen of Berthold Brecht in a 20s song
composed by Hanns Eisler, titled, "Die Einheitsfront:"
Und weil der Mensch ein Mensch ist,
drum hat er Stiefel im
Gesicht nicht gern!
Er will unter sich keinen Sklaven
und über sich keinen Herrn.
[And because a man is a man,
we won't tolerate a boot in his face!
He will not come to be seen as a slave
Nor have a master over him.]
A most clear sentiment, and in the historical distance from that
time -- Germany in the 20s -- this sentiment would have fared poorly
not only among the Nazis which came to power a decade later, but
among all the powerful governments which this world has known. The
sentiment is political, but the lyric and song which sings it well
up from the individual sources of art. Moreover, this was a sincere
and open artistic act of political dissent. Political dissent is
less and less allowed as one moves up the scale from anarchy to
slavery, and when enslaved no man may dissent against his political
For this one finds a distinctly American voice speaking the same
political warning from the vantage point of an artistic stance. Walt
Whitman wrote these words, which may be found in "Inscriptions" in
his Leaves of Grass:
To the States, or any one of them,
or any city of the States,
resist much, obey little!
Resist much! Resist!
once fully enslaved,
state, city of this earth,
ever afterward resumes its
This, I also argue, is a message of art. The independence of
expression from political control requires one resist that control.
And yet it was Marx, whom so many misunderstood, who clearly
subsumed art into politics. "Religion, family, state, law, morality,
science, art, etc., are only particular modes of production, and
fall under its general law." [Karl Marx, Private Property and
Communism, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844.]
An ardent Marxist like Brecht might have choked on the political
realization of this "modes of production" thesis of Marx, which
ardent political Marxists observed quite well, enslaving art to the
service of the state. For this reason, one need examine not
ideological affiliations of artists, per se, but what their work
actually demonstrates. For Brecht's lyric above standing alongside
the challenge of Whitman, the answer comes to "resist." Resist
what? Political power. To paraphrase Brecht, "no boot" in the face
of the artist.
2.2 Soft Maximum Leadership
In this time of state subsidies and grants to artists, artists
themselves are being seduced into conformity as the reward of either
1) conformity, or 2) service to the maximum leadership.
I suggest something which might offend many modern artists whose
mother's milk has been academic and political sustenance for
politically correct works. Given that conformity is the aim of
powerful leadership -- though the rhetoric is often warped to
pretend otherwise -- and individuality upsets that applecart, it
becomes the aim of the modern governors to see their wishes
furthered through less obvious means than the "barrel of the gun"
which was recommended by Hitler and Lenin. Marxist behavior dictates
that conformity however be enforced, while free expression opposes
I am keen about the notion of freedom of expression for a number of
reasons, but high on the list of images which reinforce my notion
about art as freedom of expression is a campaign banner which I saw
in a museum in Braunschweig, Germany. That campaign banner plead for
"community, not individuality" and came from the era wherein the
Nazis campaigned for the only election in Germany in which they
succeeded in coming to power. (After that, of course they held no
more "free elections," and the effects on artistic freedom of
expression are all too well known.)
As in the time of the cultured monarchs who valued artists and their
work-for-itself, means of support and sustenance became the leverage
to see their aims realized, whether these were to be as monuments to
themselves, or simply to enjoy the company of stimulating creative
minds. Nevertheless, subsidies and grants were their softer form of
convincing, not quite the overt coercion as Marxist-Leninist
applications of governing power demanded.
I find the notion of state subsidies and grants quite like unto the
time of the kings and princes of centuries past. Individuality is
seduced, anthropomorphic is my image, from its place nearest to the
free end of the scale towards a place higher up, a place nearer to
conformity with the governing power of the time. While the aims of
the governance might differ, the architecture of the argument is the
same. Conform and be rewarded; disagree and be shunned.
It is a matter of degree, of course. How far towards conformity does
"free expression" travel before it is no longer free? The artist was
and is lured towards social control over some form of artistic
expression by those who govern. I remind that my view of governance
is not confined to national or international political leadership
alone, for there are governors in universities, grants
organizations, and gate keepers at the hallways to symphonies, opera
companies, and galleries. That which is approved by governors is
admitted, and that which does not conform is barred.
This is as it should be, in terms of the simple application of power
and the perspective as seen from the powerful. It is however the
inverse of the actual making of art, wherein individuality is
How does the poet write and composer compose? In the solitude of the
mind, and with the motivations of the individual self acting in far
greater measure than the exterior application of power for the
purpose of control. And yet many grants organizations or those in
academia are blinded by being placed in a position of governance,
such that the Ding-an-sich of a work of art has less cachet
than the political purpose to which a work of art or artist might be
placed. Whatever that purpose might be, it comes to this. Conformity
with the controlling normative powers and their wishes come first.
This is why an artist should be encouraged to avoid such "soft
There are bountiful examples of how artists have done this. Some
were simply not able to be controlled. Some were forcefully
recalcitrant and unapologetic. Some "marched to the beat of a
different drummer." Some were undiscovered until late in their
careers. Some worked in isolation. Some simply did not care for the
adulation and rewards being held forth by the powerful, and some
recognized that the power of governance would extract its toll in
2.3 Funding Soft Maximum Leadership
In those relatively free nations, aside from the simple mechanisms
of the marketplace which cannot evaluate and judge art until long
after that art has been made, the Marxist-Leninist "barrel of a gun"
is not an approved mechanism for accumulating societal resources for
the purpose of funding art. Taxation is.
Taxation, for a free society, is a must. No society can function on
anarchistic lines, for there are things used in common which we lump
together under the term infrastructure. Some form of providing for
the commonweal is necessary, and always has been. For this the
Israelites were adjudged their tithe, now more often thought of as
the percentage a religious institution should be able to extract
from its congregants, it was a tax.
But there has always been taxation for social purposes. Too great a
tax has spawned real revolutions for freedom, as the history of the
United States tells. As a nation, it is not alone in this story, of
course. Just as the original picture spoke of zero percent
application of power and control over a person as easily
defining anarchy and one hundred percent defining slavery, taxation
is a matter of percentages.
Confiscation is synonymous with enslaving, and enslaving is
synonymous with the many socialist-motivated governments which
recent history has shown us this truth about them in horrid detail.
I add to this obvious statement of fact the perspective of the
artist, for alongside the greatest application of political power
and greatest confiscation of individual assets towards that end
comes the very real urge towards conformity with the prevailing
power's value system. In opposition to this is the process of art,
for when art is only "approved" art, it ceases to be individual and
must instead conform.
The pleasant version of high taxes to subsidize the arts does
nothing of the kind. Rather it subsidizes certain approved forms and
formats of art, providing sustenance to those it deems worthy, and
specifically not providing sustenance to those deemed unworthy. The
architecture of this argument stands on the lengthy history of
societies, wherein approval supposedly identifies the best among
artists, yet so often fails to do so.
The history of art is replete with stories of artists at or near
starvation, artists condemned by their own societies for reasons
founded in an era's mores and standards and especially based on who
held political power and governed over them. But to imagine that a
benign and exceedingly powerful governance can define what art is or
should be is simply absurd.
Which artist would suggest that he would be willing to let those who
govern adjudge his work, in exchange for sustenance? Only those who
are willing to trade their individuality for a crumb of bread or a
fine auto, I suggest. They are there to be found, but I suspect that
in time their approval will not be the currency of a future time, as
art history so often teaches us.
Marx, Darwin and Freud are the three most crashing bores of the Western
World. Simplistic popularization of their ideas has thrust our world
into a mental straitjacket from which we can only escape by the most
3.1 Golding Wrote Novels
Golding wrote novels, among the The Lord of the Flies. Since I
read him, I find his writing quite convincing. As an artist, I do not
feel the constraints of the wordy folks of the art community, academia
nor government. Therefore I will add, Marx, Darwin and Freud also wrote
novels. Oh, not in the limited definition of the word, but in a broader
Darwin's several books come to a statement about "the Creator," and
about an awe in nature and its natural forces and laws which we are only
beginning to understand. As such, his is a theory, a novella with an
imagined end to the story.
In spite of the modern Darwinians and their
silly atheistic, socialistic pronouncements, anyone who cares to read
Darwin's Origin of the Species will find his respectful reference
to "the Creator."
[ 3 ] I therefore leave off for the moment about Darwin.
Marx and Freud, I think merit other comment, for they too wrote fiction
-- novels. As time passes, they seem all the more ludicrous to the
critical mind, with thought tools which a century and more has developed
since these "stories" were so persuasively told.
Freud's fiction is about his inner imaginings of what happens in the
mind, and he populates it with fictional characters, the id, ego and
superego, without any real scientific basis for them whatsoever. They
are fictional, and therefore his work is fictional, however persuasive
it has seemed. Looking to recent advancements in brain science and
research into cognition, and one finds his "seminal" characters utterly
absent in the modern literature. Why? Because they are fictional, and
the story has evolved beyond the need for these passé characters.
Freud pressed the post-Nietzschean notion of man’s compelling
psychological need to create a God in his own image as a pathway to
resolve various feelings of guilt flowing from childhood trauma. One
might rummage through Moses and Monotheism, Totem and Taboo,
and The Future of an Illusion but I recommend doing this with the
thought that one is reading fictional accounts of what is supposed to
be, for most Freudian theory has been supplanted with the passage of
time. Re-reading it as fiction underscores certain themes clearly as
literature and definitely not science.
The notion, for example, of "polymorphous perversity" was Freud's
attempt to find rationale for childhood behaviors which would come
before the "taboos" or supposed repression of adulthood, as if this time
in early youth were more free. This is empirically ridiculous, for the
judgments of this youthful moment of "polymorphous perversity" would
yield no great art, no application to science and work, nor to adult
happiness and satisfaction in accomplishment. To attempt a return to
this stage and somehow throw off taboos and repression is not the
business of art, wherein accomplishment and the acquisition of artistic
skills far outweighs childish supposedly taboo-free and unrepressed
play. From such storytelling comes no artistic opus, no achievement and
no freedom of expression in the sense of having worthy of being
[ 4 ] was a fiction writer as well, and a rather
mean-spirited one at that by contemporary sensibilities. For example, in
1862 Marx wrote to Engels: "It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the
shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicate, he is descended
from the negroes who joined in the flight of Moses from Egypt (unless
his mother or grandmother on the father's side was crossed with a
nigger). Now this union of Jewishness to Germanness on a negro basis was
bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid. The importunity of the fellow
is also nigger-like." [Marx to Engels, 30 July 1862, in Marx-Engels
Gesamtausgabe , Part iii. Vol. 3] Such words tell more of the man
than do generations of ardent followers who never read much of what he
Marxist fiction is filled with its own invented characters, and at best
Marx was a fine handler of the stories about strife, social chaos and
upheaval, but he was a misogynist, a bigot and racist, and an economic
lightweight whose theories about centralized command and control of an
economy have bankrupted whole nations. Those who argue this is not so
fail to realize that many experiments based on Marxist fiction have all
resulted in abject economic failure, something hard for any true
believer to accept. But basically Marx wrote novels, fiction, and, in
Golding's estimation as above, was a "crashing bore" in all except
lessons on how to radicalize one group against another as a function of
That Marx was convincing may be found in such remarks as Tony Blair's
statement from 1983, that "Socialism corresponds most closely to an
existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for co-operation,
not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear." This was the founding
principle of the SPD in Germany as well, which espoused the belief that
socialism could be arrived at through successive democratic measures and
maneuvers. This of course is difficult to reconcile with the previous
attempts at socialism, such as Germany's earlier National Socialist
regime. Moreover such a remark as Prime Minister Blair's came before the
economic implosion of the Soviet Union, and does not explain how a
career in public service managed to make Mr. Blair wealthy, that is to
say, someone who acquired more than average amount of capital while
espousing socialism. (This amusing dichotomy, alongside many other
exceedingly wealthy public socialists and their very tangible capitalist
behaviors could be a subject unto itself. Suffice it to say that when
socialists are all capital-equal, i.e., fully middle class as measured
by their wealth or, better said, lack thereof, we may see whether or not
they would remain socialists.)
Herein, therefore, I would place side by side the first illustration and
several which followed:
Golding observes above that "simplistic popularization of their ideas
has thrust our world into a mental straitjacket from which we can only
escape by the most anarchic violence." I find this the work of a fiction
writer as well, for one of our great themes throughout history and
literature is that of strife, striving against the oppressor, battling
Yet, the history of the arts is one of battling titans across centuries,
and in the case of many great artists, we no longer remember some of the
titans. Which pope argued with Michelangelo? Which mayor of Leipzig
could not get the "best" and settled for the "second-best," Bach? Which
in the French Academy led the attempt to suppress Toulouse-Lautrec?
Some of the titans we can never forget; nor should we. Could we imagine
what would have happened to Weil and Brecht under the Nazis? A lengthy
list of artists threatened by various regimes, most spectacularly and
horribly by the National Socialists, is too long to reprint.
Lest we think this wholly European, it was the supposedly progressive
President Woodrow Wilson who said, "Conformity will be the only virtue
and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty."
[ 5 ] Governance proposes conformity, plain and simple.
Art encourages individuality and freedom from conformity.
As to Marx' influence which lingers on the political realm, he reminds
us in his own word that "capitalist production is hostile to certain
branches of spiritual production, for example, art and poetry."
["Theories of Productive and Unproductive Labour"] And yet history has
shown that socialism in its many forms has been consistently "hostile to
certain branches of spiritual production" when it served the needs of
political domination to do so. Marx was not so much wrong about some
parts of the capitalist system, but he failed miserably to see that his
alternative would be even more "hostile," for that has been proven now
to have been the case over the last century.
3.2 There is Fiction and There Is Fact
There is fiction and there is fact. Usually the fiction has a more
powerful hold on the public, but as Polti
[ 6 ] reminds us, there are only thirty-six dramatic
situations. We must repeat them because there are no others. Therefore
the art of the novel, of drama and the fiction writers is limited by the
inviolate rules of storytelling. Marx wrote fiction, not fact and he
repeated themes long known across literary history. Applied as fact, his
socialism -- stories about people and how they attain power -- has
alternatively failed many times, or, according to the true believers,
never been attempted. Freud remains a fiction writer, employing and
retelling the old myths of the golden age of Greece which was the soil
for his fiction.
Darwin is another matter, for his storytelling is more closely akin to
science, and these stories wait patiently to be validated in some way.
In fact, in my estimation, Darwin has been ill served by the modern crop
of so-called Darwinians who are anything but Darwin-based in their
extrapolations and inventions well beyond the scope of the writings
But among Darwin's arguments is the notion of the survival of that which
is fit, applied to life forms. I apply it now to art forms and works.
Among the Western canon of art there are art works and the artists who
created them which claim a greater appreciation than other works and
artists. Placing it in the realm of Darwin's notions, some art is fit
which the powerful in any era had deemed unfit. The mechanism by which
this "error" in judgment was made may be seen in the graphic depictions
When the powerful who govern attempt to enslave the individual artist
and his imagination, the methods are political. When the individual
artist strives to express something individual, it often came into
conflict with the ruling powers of an age. That art works survive and
ruling powers expire could be seen a statement of Darwin's notion of
survival. Fine art survives long after finely honed political power is
long dead. This is a testament to individuality in the face of social
control, and a certain measure of anarchy opposed to enslavement, and
this makes the pursuit of art quite the polar opposite of totalitarian
3.3 Individualism - Nothing New
In his 1920 book, The Return to Laissez Faire, the English
classical liberal Sir Ernest Benn argues that "a citizenship which is
actuated by Individualism will wash its hands of that 'citizenship by
proxy' which is variously called social reform, Socialism and Communism.
All these shibboleths mean paying somebody else with other people's
money to do your own duty — a very different thing."
Hitler campaigned against individuality, among all the shibboleths and
straw men he set up solely in order to acquire power. In doing so he
targeted artists among those whom he would "correct." Many said nothing,
and others were fooled into following this dictator, just as Italians
were fooled into following Mussolini, Russians deluded into following
the Bolsheviks, Chinese tricked into following Mao (we need remember the
"cultural revolution" was a war against art in large part), and the
history continues with those who seek to exercise "maximum leadership"
opposed to individuality.
Art, I argue, is first and foremost an individual's expression through
certain media. As such, artists have been and will continue to be
targets for those who say they are artists' governors, even unto the
political correctness of this day. Those who pay homage to governance do
so at the risk of their free expression, and in doing so they become
part of the greater political force to "enforce" an approved art.
The battle continues, wherein politicized members of the arts community
make a Faustian bargain with "authority" and the prevailing winds and
find themselves a small part of the governance of said enforcement more
than individuals expressing themselves in artistic outlets and allowing
others to do the same. Spending time as a portion of the prevailing
governance robs time from the inner life of creativity, which can only
be individual and solitary.
3.4 Art As Individual Intention
One is tempted by new research into cognition and new strands of thought
in philosophy to explain art in connectionist terms, perhaps through a
Marxist line of academic thought. It is foolhardy to do so.
Among the tools of the composer are some few behaviors which stem from
other sources. To that end I would quote, as I also have below, a small
excerpt from Darwin's exposition of "laws."
These laws, taken in the largest sense, being
Growth with Reproduction;
inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction;
Variability from the indirect and direct action of the
external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of
Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a
consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character
and the Extinction of less-improved forms.
Growth with reproduction, variability, ratio of increase as a "struggle
for life," and divergence of character and extinction of "less-improved
Musicians might recognize similarities as they consider themes with
variations, elongation, diminution, inversions and retrograde (a far
less "competitive" element in composition due to issues of human
perception over time), stylistic similarities and differences,
experimentation with new forms and elements, and divergence between
aesthetic stances. Lastly, one might ponder "extinction" from the
perspective of styles which no longer speak to an audience.
However, ignoring the social arguments and abjectly twisted storytelling
of those who would "govern" art and artists, specifically music in terms
of this web site, Darwin's observations do not belong in the weak minded
company of Freud and especially Marx. Rather, his argument is that we
are still discovering and still have much to learn about the laws of
nature. I find this no threat to humanity, except as filtered through
the dark visions of those who seek political control over art.
Growth with reproduction makes eminent sense to the artist. Here is a
vision, a theme, an idea, which is then worked out in a compositional
process until a sibling work to that artist's opus is birthed.
Variability keeps an art or artist fresh, and creates, as Stravinsky
spoke of in terms of "mistakes" new ideas. Discoveries. New
perspectives. In other terms, an evolution from age to age, style to
style and aesthetic stance to aesthetic stance.
Note that nowhere in these passages from Darwin is there excuse for
those who would govern to govern, especially to rule over the free
expression of artists. Community is not the arbiter, dictator nor
governor of art, for art comes from free expression. Therefore,
recalling the graph, where the creative artist most assuredly should
spend his energies is found in the lower ranks of these "percentages."
This is the opposite of those who would govern, of course.
I would counsel other artists to ponder this image, as simple as it
seems. The question becomes ultimately individual. Shall the artist be
ruled, as he rules over the elements of his medium, or shall he be free
from political governance? The question is and remains crucial, for it
explains the conflict between artists and their political "betters" over
centuries. It explains the survival of art under dictatorial regimes.
And it explains the truly subversive nature of this side of human
behavior, in which the process and practice of art is an individual act
in a world which has all too often expected the individual to be
subservient to the "greater good."
That "greater good" or "common good" has been a practiced part of
the vocabulary of those who would rule, confiscate, control and cause
others to conform. It is a warning to any artist that the artistic
stance itself presents a challenge to those in authority. The greater
the authority -- as imagined in the sliding scale above -- the less
freedom an artist might evidence, until, as with European artists in the
twentieth century, the only act of survival is flight. Flee political
authority, if you cannot fight against that authority by means of one's
This is why the millennia-old quote standing at the beginning of Chapter
Two is so important to consider: "The secret to happiness is freedom,
and the secret to freedom is courage." Thus, for the artist in his life
as in his work, individuality must triumph over and subvert collective
governance, on whatever scale and level that governance is found to be
3.5 Political Correctness
Another of the modern governors of art is political correctness. Nobel
Prize-winning author Doris Lessing speaks quite directly to this issue.
The phrase “political correctness” was born as Communism was
collapsing. I do not think this was chance. I am not suggesting that
the torch of Communism has been handed on to the political
correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed,
often without knowing it.
There is obviously something very
attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in
this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I
see it as nursery behavior. Art — the arts generally — are always
unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best,
uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the
House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but, at
worst, persecution. It troubles me that political correctness does
not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it
troubles me more that it may know and does not care.
Let me stress what an artist reveals herein. Art is unpredictable,
maverick and uncomfortable, and it often has been the excuse for, in
Lessing's words, persecution. Modern political correctness opines about
what is fine art and what is lesser art, but only as it serves those who
apply such political lens to view art.
This comes from "habits of mind." Those who govern define by fiat what
is acceptable. Political power seek to define art. Large advertising
budgets seek to define art. The influence of "titans" as mentioned above
certainly practice such forms of persuasion.
I set some delightful poems of a black American author, James Edwin
Campbell, in which he clearly writes "nigger." Not in the same way as we
have seen a racially bigoted Karl Marx use the term. Moreover, these
texts were collected into an anthology published in 1992 by the eminent
black author, James Johnson. Who shall say that these texts are somehow
to be banned in modern performances? And yet I am sure such political
correctness might be applied to a performer who might sing these songs,
as we have seen political "funerals" for the word, and seen staged
outrage and umbrage expressed for those who might dare to use the word
without the permission from the politically powerful. My thought, when
coming upon these wonderful poems and deciding to set them as art songs
was freedom. Freedom from political correctness. Freedom for the poet
who wrote these words, and freedom for the anthologist who collected and
published these words. In setting these texts, my preference was to
freely express these texts, Campbell's art, with my art, melody and song
settings. Those who would take offence or practice political correctness
over such would persecute not only a composer but an author.
In similar fashion and with Goethe's admonition in mind, I chose to set
a poem of American poet, E. E. Cummings puts these vulgarities into
Olaf's mouth: "I will not kiss your fucking flag" and "there is some
shit I will not eat." There is artistic point to this, though some will
find setting this text as song "unpredictable" and "maverick" and even
"uncomfortable." That is Lessing's point.
Further, my choice of assembling some of the inanities of Margaret
Sanger, direct quotes from her published works, will irritate some for
whom their form of political correctness is so overwhelming as to blind
them to the discomfort of art. I chose a small humorous text by Goethe in
which vulgarities also may be found, setting them for artistic reasons
and employing my freedom to do so. Some will take offence, and others
will attempt to act on such offence. That is the application of social
or political authority --governance -- over the individuality of
artists, plural, when it happens.
In discussing governance as opposed to the free expression of artists,
it may seem as if I have been overly hard on Marxism and its offshoots.
Perhaps I have not been hard enough. But there is another governance as
well which should be suspect to the individuality of the artist, and
that is majority rule -- democracy.
That government can be formed through force of one kind does not mean
that it cannot acquire force through another avenue. Majority opinions
in modern parlance do not necessarily guarantee freedom for artistic
enterprise. When political liberty is subverted by majority rule into
some form of coercive force, as one sees with political correctness or
with notions of therapeutic policing as regards physical, mental and
emotional health issues, it is simply the gathering of power to the
forces of government which becomes temptation to apply in all areas of
life, and art is a pursuit of the individual within society.
When art of one form or another is to be approved or disapproved by
other than individual choice, then that coercion should become suspect
by the artist. This is as true of what passes today for right-wing
politics as for left-wing politics, for it is only the question of which
art is officially approved or disproved which characterizes the
gathering force of governance over art.
There is soft approval in the form of grants, awards, prizes and
commissions, and there is the hard approval of enforcing public mores
for or against certain artifacts of art. This is specifically why I
sidestep political jargon, except to identify the gathering of political
force by certain leaderships -- from monarchs to Marxists -- to make my
Taste might arbitrate between art forms and artists' work, but taste
colored with the coercive effects of political power moves one on the
scale from individuality towards the totalitarian. Consider again the
diagram, this being figure 7 as found above.
A majority might enforce conformity, as well as an elite. The essential
act of creating art is one of individuality acting within societal
values perhaps, but nevertheless individual.
A case in point could be the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit which I saw in
Cincinnati. There was criticism from some groups, and counter criticism
from others, with accusations of censorship thrown into the political
and philosophical mix. Having heard both political sides in this
discussion, I chose to go to the art exhibit. Good art? Bad art? That is
for each of us to decide. Personally I found his photography adequate
but not rising to the level of high art in any way; it was more of the
level and insight of any competent graphic artist or photographer
working in advertising today.
But, over in a section parsed away from the main exhibit were
Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photographs, stark black and white pictures of
subjects which must have interested him and "caught his eye." I was
unimpressed with the subjects of his enthusiasm as I was with the whole
notion that this was either artistically offensive or titillating. That
is a matter for the individual, but not for society. The curator made
all the proper clucking noises about art and censorship, but this
exhibition was more political than artistic. So it seems to me in
Yet Mapplethorpe's images stemmed from his particular individuality.
Censoring them by political means seemed as inappropriate to me as
praising them through opposing political argument as fine art. My
conclusion? The market for his work, that which is overtly erotic or
that which is not, will decide. Is it original art in any sense which I
understand art to be original? No, and that is the problem for
photography in general, when compared to filling the blank page with
notes or the blank canvas with images. Capturing an image by
photographic means is a step away from creative art, and a step towards
mere technology. This was a tempest in a teapot, in the long run, in
which political forces for and against the "art" were of primary
importance, while the discussion over the art itself was almost wholly
absent. The cause célèbre was one of one kind of conformity facing off
squarely against another kind of conformity.
For such reasons I distrust majoritarian political force as much as
elite political power. It is for an artist to be skeptical of that which
is exterior to his thought process and work. There is social control
exerted by those who would identify themselves as of the political left
and social control exerted by those who would self-identify as from the
political right. It is in the attempted enforcement of governance over
art that I balk.
3.7 Political Approval and Censorship
For much of modern art, the time is not yet passed to evaluate its
lasting value. Certainly we have examples enough to have learned that
political approval alone does not constitute adequate understanding of
art and its enduring value. It is for this reason that I might defend
the artist whose work does not please me, because I have too many
lessons to have come to any other conclusion.
Art and artists have been prodded by political force -- governance --
throughout history to conform, to deliver what is expected, to agree
with social norms and to work in service to political ends. This is why
much propaganda is conducted in artistic imagery, in which artists are
directed as to what message is to be conveyed. Yet the agreement to
create such propaganda is a form of "selling out" individuality to the
social collective of the moment and place.
E. E. Cummings [in "Foreword to an Exhibit: I" (1944)] suggests:
Art is a mystery.
A mystery is something immeasurable.
In so far as every child and woman and man may be immeasurable, art
is the mystery of every man and woman and child. In so far as a
human being is an artist, skies and mountains and oceans and
thunderbolts and butterflies are immeasurable; and art is every
mystery of nature. Nothing measurable can be alive; nothing which is
not alive can be art; nothing which cannot be art is true: and
everything untrue doesn’t matter a very good God damn...
There is nothing mysterious about political control over the artist, but
everything mysterious about the well spring from which creativity comes.
Political approval measures and puts itself forth as the antidote or
solution to "mysteries." Science, philosophy and religion do as well.
The politics of today's left and the politics of today's right espouse
moral authority, answers to the problems of men and society, and assert
control. The greater that control, the less the freedom of artistic
expression, in which one artist's work is approved and another's
despised for the sake of governance.
3.8 True and Fair Censorship
What then of art with which one's disagrees or does not like? The answer
is for the consumer of that art. Walk away. Ignore it. The passage of
time will prove the better arbiter of art than the coercive political
force of any age. In the greater marketplace of ideas, all past ages'
works of art compete. There are those today who have never heard a work
of Bach or seen a Rembrandt. Should they come into contact with such a
representative work, some will be seduced by the work, and others might
walk away. Such is the artist's realization, for few foretold the great
power of van Gogh over the world of the visual arts. The majority were
blind to him in his day. Some are today.
What does this say of the art of van Gogh? Nothing. It speaks quite
adequately for itself, to those who attend to it. And it cares not a jot
for those who do not.
Cummings instructs further in "A Poet’s Advice to Students":
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a
single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because
whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other
people; but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself -- in a world which is doing its
best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the
hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop
As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working
just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly
imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using
words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly
all the time – and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
The artist should strive to be nobody-but-yourself. Cummings rightly
notes that the world around the artist "is doing its best" to make the
artist "everybody else." Oddly, with so many competing political forces
in the free world of the West and Asia today, there seems no longer one
version of "everybody else." This is to the artist's advantage, for
under government of various forms, art has been subject to varying
degrees of subjugation .
Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors
to live at the expense of everybody else.
4.1 Governance versus Art
The quote above by the French economist speaks volumes. The supposed
discoveries of Marx and Freud, alongside much which preceded them, were
[ 7 ]
The were created out of whole cloth of imagination, and
populated with storytelling of mythic proportions which was so
persuasive as to create classes of rulers for whom art was one among the
many avenues of human endeavor which was to be governed, ruled and
dictated to in our modern era. Free expression was the polar opposite of
governance, which the less strident rulers admitted, as can be seen from
the tolerance for artistic "challenges" by some of Europe's royalty.
Talent and art were facets of human life about which to be amused. The
later faux-monarchs were not so amused, and acted far more harshly when
challenged by "decadence" and "perversion," code words for art which was
not approved by governance. Yet artists persevered.
Art As Perseverance
Are artists happy? One reads of the alcohol-induced stupors and death of
poet, Dylan Thomas. One thinks on Rembrant van Rijn being unpopular for
not having well served his patrons. One conjures images of the unhappy
Vincent van Gogh self-mutilation, or Ivor Gurney's descent into
insanity. The stories are legion.
While in Amsterdam, I took in -- a silly phrase, for there was too much
to take in -- the Rijksmuseum wherein hang many works of van Gogh.
Looking at several, I stood quietly as a docent passed by telling her
charges of the artist's unhappy life. After they had gone, I looked more
intently at the canvasses and come to one conclusion, all my own. When
he was daubing paint of that canvas or the one next to it, he was very
probably happy, even if for only hours in an otherwise unhappy day.
Similarly, while in Laugharne, Wales, I stood outside the shack where
Dylan Thomas did some of his work. Sparse, small, undecorated except for
a table, chair and shelf for the occasional book, dictionary and
thesaurus, I imagined he spent some fine moments, lost in the act of
writing, wherein the seduction of the words themselves made for a kind
of happiness in that moment that poets know.
Artists are human beings, not mythic creatures. As great as many of our
composers, poets, painters, dramatists and more, they are subject to all
that everyone is, including the small and great ills which living simply
presents as a matter of course. But in the act of creating, which is an
act of persevering to the end of a work's birth whether it takes a
moment or years, I am fully convinced that the artist is happy, and I
add courageous, per the terms of Thucydides' wonderful observation.
When the poet is drudgingly working with words or the composer with
tones, there is moment in life which is transcendent, in which the self
is lost for a time to the pursuit itself. In that moment the artist is
happy, no matter what may occur in another part of his day.
Are artists free? Only when they hold fast to the courage to be free and
act freely of which Thucydides reminds from thousands of years before
the characters which populate most of this essay. We are speaking about
the same things as did whole human civilizations before us.
So, are artists free? In that, there is no governance save the
individual artist's inner vision, craft, perseverance and courage. The
exterior realm of governance stands in opposition to this, and the
greater the power of government, the greater the challenge from artists
and the individuality to subvert such power.
Future artists need be aware of this, for the challenge coming from
those who would govern comes for the artist especially when individual,
incorrect and independent of authority. Art is perseverance in part
against those societal forces which call for conformity.
C. S. Lewis reminds, "Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for
the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to
live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The
robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some
point me satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will
torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own
Spare us from the governors and dictators who would exert power over
art, especially when they propose to take such control to themselves for
the good of society. Artists need not and should not appeal to, as
President George Washington once said, "the indulgence of one class of
Therefore I return the beginning figure, which proposes to look simply
at the difference between slavery and anarchy. In this essay I ask other
artists to answer for themselves where they place their art, craft,
skills and urge to freely create.
As Mark Twain suggested in the quote above, it "profits one" to know
that the bottom half of the strawberry basket is rotten. Artists should
therefore be ever skeptical of governance and the urge to enforce
conformity -- the rotten part of that political basket.
That is the antithesis of art, for art has been and should remain closer
to anarchy than to slavery. Art must be closer to freedom than
conformity, and closer to individuality than collectivism. In Whitman's
words an artist should "resist" and in Brecht's words an artist to
strive against the "boot in the face."
Art should be a basket of strawberries in which there is no rot, or at
least a basket where the rotten strawberries might be spotted
immediately. How unlike authority is art, the continuing force for
resisting such authority. That is the challenge of art. Shall art appeal
to authority? If so, for what? To what purpose?
For myself, while no anarchist, I prefer to be and remain free from
enforced conformity and social control of any orthodoxy which by the
nature of being an orthodoxy tends to enslave. That places me in the
bottom rungs of the graph.
And so I pose the question to others, as I have posed it to myself: as
an artist, where do you place yourself in the image-and-sliding-scale
[ 1 ] Paulo Freire's more famous work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, argues
clearly that "education is to be the path to permanent liberation
and admits of two stages. The first stage is that by which people
become aware (conscientized) of their oppression and through praxis
transform that state. The second stage builds upon the first and is
a permanent process of liberating cultural action."
That permanent process seems impermanent to me, as governance always
proposes greater controls, while art often proposes to corrupt and
break those bonds. From what source comes oppression? Certainly from
the greatest amalgamation of political and social power in the hands
of those who govern. While Freire's work, like Brecht's, was rooted
early in Marxist thought, he like so many others ended his life
espousing quite the opposite, or as he suggested, a people "less
ugly, less mean, less authoritarian, more democratic, more human."
Among his fine challenges to educators and by extension to the arts
is this: "I’d like to say to us as educators: poor are those among
us who lose their capacity to dream, to create their courage to
denounce and announce..."
Let me stress this: "courage to denounce and announce." This alone
should encourage artists to not attend to nor seek approval of
government and governance.
[ 2 ] And yet the statists
seek ever new rationalization for their acquisition and application
of power. Darwin's theory has become the unwitting foundation for
arguments for government, the antithesis of individuality. For
example one finds a supposedly fine intellect like Julian Huxley
appropriating Darwin' theory into continued justification for
"possibilities" to increase man's governance over man. "Man is the
product of nearly three billion years of evolution, in whose person
the evolutionary process has at last become conscious of itself and
its possibilities." Huxley, Julian (1964) "The New Divinity" in
Essays of a Humanist, Chatto & Windus, London., p. 218.
And yet such a pseudo-Darwinian manages to eke out this: "Science
itself may be obsolete for this great revolution; the 'scientific
idea-system' may very well soon be succeeded by a humanist system."
Julian Huxley (1942) Evolution: The Modern Synthesis, 1964
edition, John Wiley & Sons, New York. For a supposedly humanist
philosopher to expunge from Darwin some of Darwin's own words to the
point of imaging science -- which some have called the "skeptical
art" -- as "obsolete for this great revolution" demonstrates that
such a revolution is not rooted in Darwin's theory, but is rooted in
something more ancient, dressed up in modern rhetoric, social
engineering as the rationale for achieving and maintaining power
over others. This is the polar opposite of the artist's work.
[ 3 ]
"Authors of the highest
eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species
has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with
what we know of the laws impressed
on matter by the Creator, that the production and
extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should
have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth
and death of the individual. When I view all beings not as special
creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which
lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was
deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the
past, we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit
its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the species now
living very few will transmit progeny of any kind to a far distant
futurity; for the manner in which all organic beings are grouped,
shows that the greater number of species of each genus, and all the
species of many genera, have left no descendants, but have become
utterly extinct. We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity
as to foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species,
belonging to the larger and dominant groups, which will ultimately
prevail and procreate new and dominant species. As all the living
forms of life are the lineal descendants of those which lived long
before the Silurian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary
succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no
cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may look with some
confidence to a secure future of equally inappreciable length. And
as natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being,
all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with
many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes,
with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling
through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately
constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent
on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by
laws acting around us. These
laws, taken in the largest sense, being
Growth with Reproduction;
inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction;
Variability from the indirect and direct action of the
external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of
Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a
consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of
Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from
the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted
object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the
production of the higher animals, directly follows.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers,
having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one;
and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to
the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless
forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are
being, evolved." [The Origin of Species, by Charles
Darwin, Chapter 14: Recapitulation and Conclusion.]
[ 4 ] Among the many fictions
which Marx wrote much is his fiction about German Jews, whom he
detested. He wrote, "The most rigid form of the opposition between
the Jew and the Christian is the 'religious' opposition. How is an
opposition resolved? By making it impossible. How is religious
opposition made impossible? By abolishing religion. As soon as Jew
and Christian recognize that their respective religions are no more
than different stages in the development of the human mind,
different snake skins cast off by history, and that man is the snake
who sloughed them, the relation of Jew and Christian is no longer
religious but is only a critical, scientific, and human relation.
Science, then, constitutes their unity. But, contradictions in
science are resolved by science itself." [Karl Marx, "On
the Jewish Question," Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher, February, 1844.]
Lest the less harmful quotes from his text be sought out in
response, it does well to rush to the end. Marx clearly wrote,
"...the perfect Christian state is the 'atheistic' state, the
'democratic' state, the state which relegates religion to a place
among the other elements of civil society." But then Marx adds,
"Once society has succeeded in abolishing the empirical essence of
Judaism -- huckstering and its preconditions -- the Jew will have
become impossible, because his consciousness no longer has an
object, because the subjective basis of Judaism, practical need, has
been humanized, and because the conflict between man's
individual-sensuous existence and his species-existence has been
abolished. The 'social' emancipation of the Jew is the emancipation
of society from Judaism." This is bigotry, plain and simple, showing
that Marx' goal was that the "Jew will have become impossible."
[ibid.] What then of Jewish artists? One saw this played out in Nazi
Germany, wherein many fled, others were imprisoned and executed, and
art was politically branded as "degenerate." This was and remains
the end game for Marx's beginning gambit, as we read above.
[ 5 ] Lost in a
history not cautiously retold are many details, one being this:
"Upon taking power in Washington, Wilson and the many other
Southerners he brought into his cabinet were disturbed at the way
the federal government went about its own business. One legacy of
post-Civil War Republican ascendancy was that Washington's large
black populace had access to federal jobs, and worked with whites in
largely integrated circumstances. Wilson's cabinet put an end to
that, bringing Jim Crow to Washington. Wilson allowed various
officials to segregate the toilets, cafeterias, and work areas of
their departments." [Charles P. Freund, "Dixiecrats Triumphant
- The menacing Mr. Wilson" in Reason, December 18, 2002]
[ 6 ] Polti,
Georges. (1916). The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. Boston:
The Writer, Inc. This is an English translation, for the Georges
Polti was a French writer from the mid-19th century (born in 1868),
and the original work is titled L'art d'inventer les personnages.
The list is popularly suggested as an aid for writers, dramatists,
storytellers and many others. Similar taxonomies have since been
made, more attuned to modern sensibilities, but Georges Polti has
created one of the most popular and enduring lists and analysis.
[ 7 ] It is
ironic that these words seem apt today: "It is an old and
historically established maxim that obsolete social forces,
nominally still in possession of all the attributes of power and
continuing to vegetate long after the basis of their existence has
rotted away, inasmuch as the heirs are quarrelling among themselves
over the inheritance even before the obituary notice has been
printed and the testament read -- that these forces once more summon
all their strength before their agony of death, pass from the
defensive to the offensive, challenge instead of giving way, and
seek to draw the most extreme conclusions from premises which have
not only been put in question but already condemned."
These words were aimed at the English oligarchy, and yet apply
equally well to other forms of political power seen from the
perspective of the artist. Why ironic? Because they are Marx's
editorial, published in Neue Oder-Zeitung, June 28 1855, but
written after a London demonstration which he writes of as
"Anti-Church Movement Demonstration in Hyde Park." Fast forward a
century and a half, one finds continuing demonstrations against
political power, including that which his poor and very fictional