Western Culture, Opera, and Cultural Marxism

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Times
are tough for those of us who are both passionate about high culture
and philosophically averse to political correctness. The pickings
are pretty slim and we are generally what’s on the menu.
The Italian Marxist writer Antonio Gramsci exhorted his fellow communists
to infiltrate Western culture and work to bring forth a socialist
utopia from within. And infiltrate they have.

It
is virtually impossible to patronize any art form in America today
without being bombarded by cultural Marxism. Painting and sculpture
have wandered into the wilds of the abstract.  To the extent
that one can discern a meaning at all, it is inevitably some sort
of snide swipe at Western Civilization or some paean to victimology.
Dittos with photography (see Robert Maplethorpe).

The
theater is a particularly hideous wasteland. It seems that every
play produced in the past three decades is either about nothing
too important…or revolves around some predictable theme of political
correctness.

Television
and movies are now thickly laced with overt and covert political
ideology. The vilification of men, the trashing of Western Civilization,
and the monotonous victimization of various non-Western groups is
a given. Add a dash of mindless consumerism and decadent over-sexualization,
and these forms of artistic expression are insulting to Western
sensibilities at best (my own prize for the most viciously anti-Western
movie is a tie between American
Beauty
and Dances
with Wolves
).

A
quick stroll through the bookstore reveals that most contemporary
novels are not much better. It seems as though men have largely
dropped out of the fiction book target audience (thank God I prefer
non-fiction), since the overwhelming majority of novels on display
at the front of any major bookstore are either directed at women,
children, or yet again, some politically correct victim group.

In
my opinion, the purpose of art is twofold. First, is the minor goal
of entertainment. While this may seem light-weight, one should not
overlook the importance of giving the brain a little R&R. We
live in a stressful world. It is a nice break to occasionally sit
back and enjoy an artistic creation strictly for the momentary joy
and beauty of it.

The
more profound purpose of art is to inspire. Art should work on the
soul of the individual to prompt him to strive for greater heights…to
rise above his mundane existence and carry forward the work of his
civilization. It should endeavor, by both positive and negative
example, to stir the passions of the viewer and prompt a thirst
for greatness.

By
this measure, our culture has been functioning in reverse (i.e.,
its general purpose is to degrade and destroy).

So…what
is one to do?

My
preferred solution has been the opera.

The
reason why I love opera is that the soul of opera, unlike almost
any other current art form, resides in the 18th and 19th
Century cultural zeitgeist. Modern performances tend to maintain
fidelity to the original creation. The cultural milieu of that period
was far better, from the perspective of the typical non-self-hating
Westerner, than the fare produced today. The stories revolve around
love, heroism, and comedy. The composers were, by and large, men
who consciously or subconsciously loved their native culture and
wished to celebrate it in music and stage.

Examples
abound. William
Tell
fights to free his homeland from German domination.
The
Ring Cycle
tells of the struggles of man and the Gods in
Nordic mythology.

Opera
allows me to relax, sit back, and soak in my culture.

At
least until last summer, that is.

My
first rude awakening that there was a weasel in the henhouse came
when I decided to take in a late-season show at the Pittsburgh Opera.
La
Boheme
was on the schedule, and I navely strolled in for
my breath of cultural fresh air.

What
followed was 2 hours of old fashioned Marxist critiques of capitalism
and a variety of snide attacks on Western civilization. Now, assuming
here for a moment that Puccini was not attempting to lampoon the
Bohemian lifestyle (something which I still believe is possible),
then this opera represents one of the earliest examples of anti-Western
diatribes with which many of us have come to dread in modern art.

The
characters are typical coffee house intellectuals who spend most
of their time glorifying their superior, anti-materialistic credos
and denouncing the greed and avarice of the bourgeoisie. I was having
flash-backs of my Brown freshman orientation. The “heroes” bounce
between biting verbal attacks on “the rich” and sarcastic jabs at
“the system”.

While
the context was more “old Left” (i.e., 19th century labor union-style
communism) instead of “new Left” (i.e. modern political correctness),
the fundamental philosophical worldview was there for all to
see.

But…I
survived. I grinded my teeth for a few hours and whispered gripes
to my wife (who gets quite annoyed with me when I go into “political
mode”).

I
wrote La Boheme off as an aberration, figuring that it was
a fluke.

Then
I went to see HMS
Pinafore
.

This
past July, I made my first pilgrimage to the Chautauqua Institute.
For the uninitiated, the Institute is located on the wonderful Lake
Chautauqua in upstate NY. It is a true gem of culture, spirituality,
and learning which hosts a 9-week-long affair including orchestral
performances, opera, theater, and various intellectual pursuits.

Upon
arriving, I quickly scanned the schedule and saw that there was
a performance of HMS Pinafore coinciding with my visit. I
purchased tickets and eagerly went off to the opera hall.

Almost
immediately after the show began, I began to get that queasy feeling.
This opera was also drenched in Marxist philosophy. Once again,
I sank into my chair while the characters went on harangues about
class oppression and "the system." The whole opera revolved
around the idea that class distinctions are unfair, immoral, and
arbitrary. In essence, any person of higher rank, knowledge, or
position must have attained it through caprice or nepotism. People
in positions of authority are ignoramuses, hypocrites, or both.
People in positions of low social esteem are likewise victims of
circumstance. Their situation in no way reflects any shortcomings
of their character or ethics.

Taken
together, these two operas have forced me to re-evaluate my analysis
of the decline of Western Culture. I was of the general opinion
that the undeniable cesspool that has become our contemporary culture
had its roots in the chaos of the 1960's and counterculture/anti-Vietnam
war movements of that era. At most, I considered the socialism of
FDR's New Deal to be the beginning of the end.

But
La Boheme was first staged in 1896. HMS Pinafore's
inaugural performance was even before that (1878). The fact that
the latter opera was created during the High Victorian Era in Britain
is disheartening in the extreme.

Clearly,
the rot had been eating at the roots of our culture for quite some
time before the appearance of Abbie Hoffman and the Weathermen.

If
this Nation is ever turn itself around, those of us on the libertarian/paleoconservative
right are going to have to come to grips with these unpalatable
realities. Things are pretty far gone…and they have been going that
way for quite some time. We didn't arrive here overnight, and we
will not likely extricate ourselves anytime soon.

December
15, 2003

Steven
LaTulippe [send him mail]
is a physician currently practicing in Ohio. He was an officer in
the United States Air Force for 13 years.


        
        

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