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A recent symposium: F(o)unding Culture, organized by Czech Center New York and the Aspen Institute Prague, explored the subject of ‘art as a common good,’ with particular emphasis on state and private funding.
The first panel (which included: Benjamin Barber, Wendy W. Luers, Krzysztof Czyzewski, Jan Bondy, Fritzie Brown and Andreas Stadler) addressed the ‘concept of advancing public diplomacy through the arts’ and lessons learned from the experience of the US and Central Europe in securing ‘sustainable development in the field of art and culture.’
In his remarks, Benjamin Barber (Senior Research Scholar at CUNY) commented that “democracy permits arts to flourish and arts permit democracy to flourish.” While some of the speakers suggested that government funding has had an adverse impact on the arts others said the same about private and corporate funding. Perhaps a more significant issue, one that wasn’t really addressed, is what effect the arts, of the last 100 years, have had on Europe, the US and the world? Are democracies truly flourishing? If not, what role have the arts played in undermining societies?
Since the 1913 Armory Show, and the arrival of Dadaism, Cubism, and Surrealism to America’s shores, the art world in the US has delighted in its assault on tradition, nature and form — fomenting a counter-culture and contributing to a band of rebels, driven by misguided freedom and self-absorption.
“I am working for myself; what else have I got to work for?…I have got nobody to excite me except myself…I’m very lucky, of course, to be able to earn my living by something that really absorbs me.” Francis Bacon
The resulting toxic egoism, characterized by no fear, no rules, no boundaries or regrets has been infused into into all areas of American society and is being exported to the world — with Predator Drones, Credit Default Swaps, BPA etc.
It’s interesting how America uses her culture to destabilize other countries and even torture people (see music used on prisoners at Guantanamo) all in the spirit of advancing democracy — without realizing the adverse effect it has had on her own people. Democracy and society don’t work if everybody is a rebel.
“The dignity of every human being and the vocation corresponding to that dignity find their definitive measure in union with God.” Pope John Paul II, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women
If a return to fundamental principles and traditional Chinese culture means becoming a warrior state, it’s worth noting that didn’t end well for the Han Empire — nor will it for the American Empire.
“The flame of militarism which burns itself out.” Toynbee
“The judgement on such a secular philosophy of life and education will depend on one’s Weltanschauung (world view)…For others, however, Montaigne’s concept of human autonomy will mean nothing but the consumation of individualistic self-assertion and the arrival of man at a precipice from which he may suddenly fall into lonliness, despair, and the relativism of all values.” Robert Ulich, History of Educational Thought (1950)
“If I were writing today, I’d have to assert that human life begins even earlier (than the womb), with the complex process of fertilization — a miracle in chemistry, physics, and molecular biology occurring within the fallopian tube. By the time the fertilized egg, dividing and beginning to organize itself, enters the womb, life has been in action for at least three days.”
After overseeing or performing 60,000+ abortions — “I did my last abortion in 1979. I had come to the conclusion that there was no reason for an abortion at any time; this person in the womb is a living human being, and we could not continue to wage war against the most defenseless of human beings.”
“I am no longer alone. It has been my fate to wander the globe in search of the One without Whom I am doomed, but now I seize the hem of His robe in desperation, in terror, in celestial access to the purest need I have ever known.” Dr. Bernard Nathanson (1926-2011), The Hand of God (Regnery, 2001)
After running the largest abortion mill in the world — in New York City, Bernard Nathanson had a change of heart. He spent his final years advocating against abortion and was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1996.
The plan called for Arun, a technologist, and his son to remove their trousers at the appointed time, while his wife documented the ritual for their Facebook page — perhaps an alternative to the Ganges River.
In his state-of-the-state address yesterday, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo called for a women’s equality act that would codify abortion rights in state law. To emphasize his point, he twice yelled out: “Her Body, Her Choice!”
In New York, female minors can get an abortion without parental permission. And yet less than a year ago Governor Cuomo, citing health risks, signed a bill into law requiring that minors get parental permission — in writing, before getting body piercing or access to a tanning booth. Most honest medical professionals would say that abortion poses a far greater health risk, physical and psychological, than a tanning booth.
Often times political leaders and activists see a woman as just a body, and a fetus as just a clump of flesh. As a result their advocacy is rooted in a flawed understanding of (or rebellion against) the human person and reality. LE once asked Gloria Steinem — ‘Where do women get their power?’ She replied: “Their body.”
Photograph: Stephen Wise
Chuck Hagel was introduced today by President Obama as his choice to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. In his remarks Mr. Panetta said that “A strong democracy depends on a strong defense, but you can also not have a strong and stable defense without a strong and stable democracy.”
Since 9/11 Americans have seen their government go rogue, under the guise of keeping everyone ‘safe and secure’. At home that has come to mean total surveillance, forfeiture of assets and indefinite detention and interrogation for anyone labeled a terrorist. In foreign policy it means fomenting revolutions, wars-of-choice, assassinations, plundering of assets, and the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (American values?).
It’s hard to see where democracy still exists in the U.S. today — given the disregard for the rule-of-law (by the ruling class), the disregard of the will of the people (especially in matters of foreign policy), the elimination of checks and balances, a calamitous fiscal situation and presidents that are appointed.
When Mr. Hagel mentioned “advancing the global goals of freedom, decency, and humanity” one couldn’t help but think that he is being used as a human shield by much darker forces.
While the democracy movement may have failed in the United States, future generations can learn from America’s mistakes in the hope of establishing more stable and just democracies. Democracy can’t be built on the sands of egoism.
Photograph: Edmund Clark, Guantanamo
“Shrunken in vision and sensitivity, we move monolithically, straight ahead, like the ancient dinosaur who could not learn, blind even to our own dinosaurian movements.” Rollo May