We’re now living in what Vargas Llosa calls “the civilization of the spectacle,” an era characterized by the replacement of ideals, principles, and intellectual life with images, gestures, and a “universal prevailing frivolity … where everything is appearance, theatre, play and entertainment.” This transformation, he says, has affected every part of society: art, music, journalism, politics—even sex, which in the era of the spectacle “has become a sport or pastime, a shared activity that is no more important, perhaps less important, than going to the gym, or dancing or football.”
Atât de tribalist a devenit războiul cultural între ateii liberal-progresivi și creștinii conservatori încât aproape nimeni nu vede bârna din ochiul taberei din care face parte. Tocmai de asta interviul cu Camille Paglia din Salon e o gură de aer proaspăt.
Dacă criticile idolilor seculari ca Dawkins și Jon Stewart ar fi venit din tabăra cealaltă, ar fi fost ignorate complet. Dar nu vin din tabăra cealaltă, ci de la una dintre cele mai puternice voci liberale din ultimele două decenii:
I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system. They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny. Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.
A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.
What keeps you awake at night?
I’m not worried about our species surviving – we’ll go on until we don’t. I care how much we lose our intellectual traditions and culture.
A century or two ago most people had real-world skills– they sewed clothes, fixed tools, raised animals, grew crops, played instruments and organised neighbourhood lodges, rather than moving a cursor that simulated these things on a screen. Also importantly, though, school-children often read Plutarch or Shakespeare, logic and rhetoric, and it showed — 19th-century oratory for rural American farmers showed a complexity that flummoxes college students today.
Most Westerners today, both on the left and on the right, have abandoned such cultural standards. Few people today know they were once commonplace or understand their value. I wonder how much more people will lose that by the time their screens go black for the last time. It will mean the difference between a sustainable civilisation or barbarism.
“What am I doing here? What is my life for? Does it have any purpose beyond itself?” These are questions which human beings have always asked and are still there even though today to even ask such questions is something like bad manners. What is even more, the spaces where such questions might be asked — let alone answered — have shrunk not only in number but in their ambition for answers. And if people no longer seek for answers in churches will they find them in occasional visits to art galleries or book clubs? (…)
For some years now I have been especially struck by accounts I have heard and read of people who have chosen to convert to Islam. Partly these stories are striking because they are so similar — and not only to each other. They are almost always some variant of a story nearly any young person could tell. They generally go something like this: “I had reached X age (often the twenties or early thirties) and I was in a nightclub and I was drunk and I just thought, ‘Life must be about more than this’.” Almost nothing else in our culture says, “But of course this is not all.” Instead the voice of our culture just says, “repeat, repeat.”
Burke’s fundamental objection to revolutions inspired by rationalistic ideals was their arrogance. As he wrote in Reflections, “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages.” In Burke’s view, knowledge is held not individually but collectively—in institutions, in customs, and even in shared prejudices. Maintaining a population’s allegiance to and trust in such institutions is a more important goal than promoting efficiency or rationality.
Câteodată ma întreb de ce Liiceanu, Pleșu, Patapievici și Tismăneanu tot scriu despre comunism. Ei știu mai bine, dar cred că are ceva de-a face cu ce scria Roger Scruton despre responsabilitatea scriitorilor conservatori în lumea de astăzi:
So what should conservatives be doing? (…) Our work, it seems to me, consists in what Plato called anamnesis – the defeat of forgetting. We cannot ask young people to live as we lived or to value what we valued. But we can encourage them to see the point of how we lived, and to recognize that freedom without responsibility is, in the end, an empty asset. We can tell them stories of the old virtues, and enlarge their sympathies toward a world in which suffering and sacrifice were not the purely negative things that they are represented to be by the consumer culture but an immovable part of any lasting happiness. Our task, in other words, is now less political than cultural – an education of the sympathies, which requires from us virtues (such as imagination, creativity, and a respect for high culture) that have a diminishing place in the world of politics.