Thursday, December 05, 2013

Runaway Capitalism Murders Another Artist

From TruthDig:

“On the one hand, government lavishes unprecedented economic and social privileges on its elites, taking an axe to programs benefiting those who fall behind. At the same time, the distinction between high and low artistic culture having been erased, the result has been a single standard for qualitative judgments derived from the commercial marketplace.”

It’s hard not to avoid making a connection, Halle writes. “[T]he decline of musical literacy and the large-scale forms which they make possible, the increasing demand for immediately catchy tunes, striking sonorities and flamboyant stage presentations pairs with the impatience of the elites classes” in “the demand for investments to show an immediate short-turn return. Elites have long since jettisoned the expectation for steady growth embodied in the now retired Goldman-Sachs slogan, ‘long-term greedy,’ having come to accept and even embrace … ‘the erosion of the planning function, and any rationality beyond the most crudely instrumental.’ ”

In the present era, austerity is taken as the panacea for both the economy and the arts. “The solution to a supposed ‘culture of poverty,’ ” Halle writes, “consists of work requirements and benefit reductions to break the ‘cycle of dependency’ and promote ‘self-reliance.’ The longstanding crisis in classical music is treated by the imposition of market discipline requiring institutions to devise ‘working business models.’ This means in practice supporting themselves predominantly by ticket sales, something which virtually no major orchestra or opera company in history has done successfully and which would require jettisoning most of the defining virtues of the medium.”

More here.

I've spent a lot of time over the years wondering how it was that, even though I grew up in a Republican and Southern Baptist home in a well-to-do Texas suburb, I ended up as a far-left bleeding heart liberal.  Of course, everyone's lives are rich tapestries, but this one might be the straw that broke the camel's back for me, ideologically speaking.  That is, while I was studying theater as an undergrad, I had a dawning realization that my understanding at that time of the way the world works rendered valueless that which I loved, and love, more than anything else in the world, the arts.  From then on, my days as a conservative were numbered.

Neoliberalism, trickle-down, Reaganomics, supply-side economics, free market fundamentalism, conservative economics, whatever you want to call it, is awful for all sorts of reasons, but possibly the worst of them is that what is pushed ostensibly as being about money, taxation, business, the economy, and so on, is, in fact, a philosophy of life in disguise.  It's a very simple philosophy, and embraced by not only our ruling establishment, but also millions of rank-and-file citizens: value is assigned only to that which can be bought and sold--conversely, if something cannot be bought or sold, then it has no value.

Personally, I think the horrific and self-destructive nature of such a philosophy is self-evident.  But we're so far gone as a people in our embrace of this concept that you may not see it like I do.  So think of it this way.  If Mozart cannot fill the seats in an auditorium, while making a profit, then Mozart has no value, at least, none that the establishment, which lives by this philosophy, is willing to take seriously.  Really?  Mozart has no value?  If you honestly think that, then you're a fool.  You discard your own humanity and the humanity of every person you know.  You have more in common with sheep, pigs, and cattle than you do with the human race.  But this is how our society behaves.  Or think of it this way.  Jesus told the rich man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor.  And now we have this filthy and heretical "prosperity gospel."  There are no more sacred spaces.  All that's left is dollars and cents.  We might as well bathe in the sewers, we so devalue ourselves as a people.

As writer Chris Hedges has asserted, commerce cannot be society's sole concern.  But I think I prefer how the character John Keating put it in Dead Poets Society: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."

If we don't change course right now, if we don't reject this disgusting philosophy that reduces all things to their dollar value, there's just no point in continuing.  Because we're not animals, not robots, not things.  We have a right to live as human beings.