Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Landscape of Death

The Globe and Mail interviews Camille Paglia on the vital issues of the day, and discovers that — wait for it, now — modern academia is besotted with multiculturalism.

Not that there's anything wrong with other cultures per se; they're perfectly alright in their place, if you get my drift. But when you start portraying Caribbean or African authors as "important," where does that leave Shakespeare? Where does that leave real art, as defined for all eternity by middlebrow snobbery the illustrious dead?

See, when colleges validate the artistic pretensions of minorities and women and so forth, it can lead to the creation of "institutional fiefdoms." It'd be much better to have a single fiefdom, presided over by the Immortals of Art, whose irrevocable judgments on the modern scene will be made known to us by Camille Paglia.

Educators need to take "the long view." And they need to direct it uncritically toward an Official Past. Only then will they see that the artistic productions of women fade into nothingness when compared to the genius of Michelangelo. Why did he get to paint the Sistine Chapel, instead of some chick? Because he was way better than any of the bitches who applied for the job, duh.

Again, this is not to imply that "world culture" has no value. For instance, Hollywood and jazz are wonderful. But when you start making grand claims for the scribblings of some goddamn wog...well, it's very dangerous, obviously, because you're going against decades or even centuries of settled belief and what if you turn out to be wrong? What if your experience of art becomes mired in subjectivity, instead of being a ritualized expression of forced belief, as God intended?

You might think that some "ethnic" novel is powerful or meaningful or what have you...but a hundred years from now, will someone like Paglia be treating it as a spiritual pinnacle that no modern writer can challenge? If not, you'll have to admit you were wrong. Great art lasts, and in doing so it brutally limits human possibilities. That's how you tell it from mere trash.

Although she was "the first to advocate the Web," Paglia is troubled by its tendency to misinform: It can be hard to tell "whether something is solid, dubious, or whether it’s a joke or a scam." (Books are different, because the solid ones bear tokens of authenticity, like a blurb from Harold Bloom on the back cover.)

Which brings us inevitably to global warming. Previously, the sciences were a unified whole, thanks to the groundbreaking work of Aristotle, whose scientific accomplishments no woman has ever matched. But in the intervening years, thanks to feminism and postmodernism, they've splintered into institutional fiefdoms that don't communicate with each other. And this is the result:

This whole thing about global warming – I am absolutely incredulous at the gullibility of people. What is this hysteria over drowning polar bears? And finally I realized, people don’t know polar bears can swim!
See how it helps to take an interdisciplinary approach? Speaking of which, what is this hysteria over the Gulf Coast oil spill? Has no one noticed that birds can fly and fish can swim? If they choose to wallow in oil, how is that BP's fault? Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

People nowadays are too emotional, too melodramatic. It's one thing to call the humanities "a landscape of death" because you don't like Foucault. But to worry about polar bears, even though they're very nearly capable of swimming from Kotlik to Unalakleet? That's just silly. If people studied geology, as Paglia recommends, they'd take a much more sensible view of the matter.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'll leave you with this quote from Sinclair Lewis:
The men leaned back on their heels, put their hands in their trouser-pockets, and proclaimed their views with the booming profundity of a prosperous male repeating a thoroughly hackneyed statement about a matter of which he knows nothing whatever.


Spiny Norman said...

You forgot to hotlinkHarold Bloom. I fixed it for you.

Phila said...

You forgot to hotlinkHarold Bloom. I fixed it for you.

Gah. Somehow, I'd missed that.

I'm sure we can imagine what Paglia would say to her.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

I believe in Hollywood and jazz

i believe i'll have another drink