Sunday, 23 July 2017

Climate change

There is not only a problem with the climate change in real terms, but also in cultural terms, which are 'real' in another way. As in the real world sea levels are rising, people will be forced to seek higher territory to avoid being engulfed; in culture, the rising tide of populism and cultural ignorance has a similar effect: people, aware of the dangers, seek the higher territories where the accumulation of experience of the human condition as embodied in visual art, literature, poetry and music, is still intact. In the course of time, this territory will break-down in rather isolated pockets of knowledge and understanding, like isolated libraries in medieval monasteries, and they will be considered, by the masses, as 'conservative'. The rise of populism is experienced by the emancipated masses as progress, because it gives them voice, more influence, and promises the much-longed for elimination of 'elites'. The critique upon culture, and hatred even, where people are confronted with their ignorance, results from being unaware that the riches of culture - most of it created in past ages - can be greatly benefitting to us in our own times, so it is entirely self-destructive to consider the cultural heritage as being 'conservative' and 'undemocratic' and 'patronizing' and as 'hindrances' to the ever forward march of emancipation and liberation. Seeing 'the past' only as a suppressing force, and not seeing that so much has been achieved in spite of all those problematic aspects of past societies of which we are all too aware, is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

What can be done? It boils down to the challenge of protecting the masses against themselves, and informing and instructing them, merely provokes more critique and hatred, like children in a classroom protesting the answers to arithmetic questions for being undemocratic, patronizing, excluding the pupils' different opinions on the matter, and the attitude of the teacher as suppressive. As far as people are open to any rational discussion, showing the obvious advantages of certain knowledge seems to be the only way of protecting culture, and especially demonstrating that preserving precious knowledge about the human condition is not 'conservative' and thus, a hindrance to 'progress', but mere common sense and, in fact, the most progressive enterprise one could imagine, in an age of cultural decline.

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