By Nora Hoppe for The Saker Blog
The culture and arts of a society, of a civilisation can be seen as a barometer of its development and the quality of its statehood. Confucius, who saw music as the noblest of all the arts, said: “If one should desire to know whether a kingdom is well governed, if its morals are good or bad, the quality of its music will furnish the answer.”
The arts – in their truest and noblest forms – have always posed a serious threat to despotic powers because they represent a freedom of spirit and independence of thought.
During the Third Reich, the Nazis engaged in “Cancel Culture” by censoring various forms of music, literature, films, theatre plays that were considered an “an insult to German feeling” and which they condemned as “Entartete Kunst” [degenerate art]. Instead, they promoted works that exalted the “blood and soil” values of racial purity, militarism, and obedience.
In times of Roman imperial decay the arts had no fertile soil from which to develop as the previous arts had either been “cancelled” or perverted for propagandistic purposes. Edward Gibbons described the state of culture during the Decline of the Roman Empire: “…this age of indolence passed away without having produced a single writer of original genius or who excelled in the arts of elegant composition. […] The beauties of the poets and orators, instead of kindling a fire like their own, inspired only cold and servile imitations […] The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.”
In his “Satires” (written in 100–127 AD), Juvenal describes the degeneration of Rome during his lifetime, mocking the customs and beliefs of many of his contemporaries and providing insight into the prevailing value systems and morality of that age. Some examples of the deviances and annoyances that prompted him to write this “category of ills” include “eunuchs getting married, elite women competing in beast hunts, and the dregs of society suddenly becoming wealthy by gross acts of sycophancy”. He maintained that traditional Roman virtues, such as fides and virtus, had disappeared from society, to the extent that “Rome was no longer Roman”. “I get an itch to run off beyond the Sarmatians and the frozen sea, every time those men who pretend to be old-time paragons of virtue and live an orgy, dare to spout something about morals.”
Juvenal describes a society whose population is devoid of any civic responsibilities: “The mob follows Fortuna and cares for nothing but bread and circuses” – the only remaining cares of a Roman populace which has given up its birth right of political freedom. “Bread and circuses” was a reference to the Roman practice of providing free wheat to Roman citizens as well as lavish circus games and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power. Accordingly, those who lusted after power could easily attain it and rule without hindrance as long as they offered diversion and distraction: by resorting to the instrumentalisation of satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of the populace…
A time of banalisation, self-absorption, irrationalism, meaninglessness
Today we are at an entirely new low with regard to culture and the arts. Indeed this could be called the lowest point that the arts have ever reached in history… And this is not limited to one country or one empire – but sadly it is a global phenomenon… because we have a global hegemon today whose ideology has infiltrated all areas of culture and society throughout the world.
Noam Chomsky once said, “He who controls the media controls the minds of the public.” But one can expand this sentence to: “He who controls the arts controls the minds and souls of the people.”
In an earlier essay of mine, I suggested that, with the progression of neoliberal ideology, culture has been reduced to trivial entertainment, an object of consumption, a distraction and a tool used for brainwashing and propaganda… and that “postmodernism” was created to deprecate beauty, truth and sincerity and rendering previous art movements and culture as a whole meaningless – to serve the interests of neoliberalism and imperialism. Because in order to remove opposition to absolute rule, it is necessary to destroy the past, to destroy history, to destroy civilisation… then one can reach a tabula rasa from which to create a pure technocracy devoid of any humanity.
I cited German literary scholar and philosopher Thomas Metscher wrote in his text entitled “Postmoderne und Imperialismus”: “… I see postmodernism as a form of consciousness of a certain stage of capitalist society, of an advanced imperialist society… a form of consciousness of the global condition of the present, in relation to the imperialist metropolises. […] …the “morbidity” of imperialist society today has now reached a scope and a blatancy (…) that one can justifiably speak of a pathic society – a ‘culture of death‘. …”
In a neoliberal paradigm, everything is commoditised. Spirituality today is a product packaged in esoteric retreats, mentoring videos and self-help guide books. Rampant self-absorption has replaced civic responsibilities and communal ethics. Individuals are motivated to become their own marketing machines… to parade their “unique victimhood” and their “virtues” on social networks and in cultural events. The paradoxical aim of this fixation on individualism is the homogenisation and Gleichschaltung of the entire population – something that can be attained only when society has been destroyed and human beings have been isolated and fragmented.
The Pageantry of Virtue
The cultural hegemony of the unipolar power is particularly visible in its media events: “international” festivals, extravaganzas, gala ceremonies, etc. A glaring example of this is the tireless and desperate placement of the sniffling buffoon Zelensky at almost all the recent “cultural” events… be they the film festivals of Cannes, Venice, Berlin, ceremonies such as the Golden Globe Awards, the Grammys or music festivals such as Glastonbury. Zelensky has now become the obligatory sprig of parsley for every neoliberal dish.
A brand has been created of him. He is probably the most widely seen public figure in the world today. He is the icon of the times: a pathetic, empty puppet, pumped with unlimited cash and drugs, posing as an endearing emissary of the world’s conscience.
His most recent video appearance at the grand inauguration of the Berlin Film Festival was met with cheers and standing ovations by the entire audience whose applause remained throughout his speech … especially when he declared: “Culture chooses a side when it decides to speak out against evil… and it takes a side when it remains silent and in fact helps the evil.”
One of the “highlights” of this self-righteous festival so far is a documentary on Zelensky made by Sean Penn entitled “Superpower”. At the end of its premiere the audience once again rose obsequiously to its feet to give both Penn and his collaborators a standing ovation.
Just three years ago the Berlinale greeted war criminal Hillary Clinton as a star. This year’s Berlinale rolled the red carpet out for NATO with full condemnation of their enemies Russia, Iran, China and Belarus; even the mascot – the Berlinale bear – appeared in sky blue and yellow, the Ukrainian national colours.
The pious Hollywood Reporter reported: “… ‘the festival stands, crystal clear in solidarity with the people in Ukraine [and] with the protest movement in Iran’ noted the hosts on opening night. […] After banning any attendees from Russia or Iran with direct ties to the regimes in their respective regimes [sic], Berlin’s European Film Market handed over control of Iran’s EFM stand to the newly-formed Iranian Independent Filmmakers Association, saying they, not any state-sponsored bodies, should be the true representatives of Iranian cinema. On Friday, the festival and the EFM backed a group of filmmakers-in-exile from the dictatorial regime of Belarus, to launch the first independent Belarusian Film Academy, gaining immediate support, and promises of help with funding, from the European Film Academy and national cinema promotion body German Films. The position of Berlin as the world’s most political festival gave extra weight to comments made by Hong Kong filmmaker and Berlinale jury member Johnnie To […] one of the greatest filmmakers Hong Kong has produced, responded: ‘For me, cinema has always been the vanguard. When totalitarian rule emerges, when people lose their freedoms, cinema is the first to take the hit. […] That’s why dictators always target the cinema. I think Hong Kong… No, sorry. I think all the countries and peoples fighting for freedom across the globe should support the cinema. Because the cinema speaks out on behalf of you.’…”
Outside the grand “Berlinale Palast”, climate activists had glued themselves to the legendary Red Carpet. Two days later the same carpet welcomed a silent protest featuring sombre-looking expatriate Iranian actresses in support of the regime-change activists in Iran entitled “Women Life Freedom”.
With the exception of Sean Penn’s eulogy of the Ukraine and its jester, there is little press coverage of the films at the festival… Will any be remembered in the future as noteworthy works of art?
The virtuous mission
Because Western capitalist ideology has been so successful in setting material, technological progress as the criterion of “a new civilisation” and in commoditising virtues and morals all over the world, it has become a creed for many to follow… It sets global dictates and trends (e.g.: global warming, gender fluidity, cancel culture, re-adaptations of history, colour revolutions, etc.). And, in the absence of spirituality, many people follow these global trends and dictates religiously in order to secure an “identity” in the modern world.
The targets and victims of this cult are not only the global young but the global bourgeois “intelligentsia” and “contemporary artists”. The working class have luckily been neglected and are thus less affected. And that is why workers today tend to be much more conscious of the realities in their societies.
These “victims” of neoliberalism have been imbued with an unshakable sense of superior morality. They feel they are the enlightened chosen ones… and, indeed, many become “missionaries” of the neoliberal ideology… the ambassadors of transatlantic soft power. In sovereign nations striving for a multipolar world, we find these “missionaries” often in the fifth column. They are the ones often spearheading colour revolutions, creating currents of “rebel art movements” and forming “enlightened” opposition movements. They receive international platforms at media events – especially at film festivals. Some even receive training at “freedom forums” subsidized by the Empire. In their own lands, they are unfortunately imbedded in various cultural and academic institutions.
Many sovereign nations find themselves beset by these crusaders. Indeed they represent a major threat – not so much to the governments – but to the further natural development of culture and the arts… as well as the mindset of future generations.
What to do?
It is now indispensable, more than ever before, to support and promote enlightenment, education, culture and the arts by reconstructing the bridge (that was damaged by postmodernism and neoliberalism) to our historical cultural roots. We can only truly advance in the footsteps of the maestri of our civilisation.
Engaging in censorship of these crusaders and their works would not only be counter-productive – as that would only vindicate the claims of the neoliberal opposition (e.g. that they are “struggling for freedom in a dictatorship”), it would be engaging in the same “cancel culture” practices as the Hegemon.
The most sensible course to take with these individuals would be constructive criticism and debate. Debate is exactly what the neoliberal world frantically shuns… it is exactly what all forms of zealotry abhor. Debate takes time, patience, courage and an environment free of fear. How this can be established and organised is a matter of debate… But everyone is welcome!
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The Saker site has always been a perfect example of a place for intelligent DEBATE… Over the years it has created a community of people from all over the world of a variety of backgrounds. It has furthered critical exchanges, fostered independent thought and provided refuge to so many who feel isolated and alienated in their environments. Andrei’s own essays have not only offered enlightenment but compassion and humanity.
I, too, am disconsolate over the closing of this valuable, incomparable site, but I respect Andrei’s decision. And I will be forever grateful to Andrei for having given me a space… I have also been very touched and inspired by the motivating comments of the community to my essays.
Tariq and I send our best wishes and love to Andrei.
Thank you – an excellent article.
“The paradoxical aim of this fixation on individualism is the homogenisation and Gleichschaltung of the entire population …”
I believe it’s actually worse than that.
Liberalism is based on the economics of the individual, so when an entire global system is based on individualism then the system has a foundational flaw, as the inevitable outcome of rewarding those who play the individualist game, is that society becomes narcissistic, and narcissists rise to positions of power and influence. Policy decisions in such a system will rarely benefit society.
Hello Nora Hoppe,
I am delighted by your analysis. Thank you.
What stark contrast between the pictures of these self serving false prophets of our sorry times and the traditional art that you have shared with us here.
I wonder if you are aware that you are a Traditionalist ? Tradition as defined by S.H. Nasr in his seminal work ‘Knowledge and the Sacred.’
Excellent and compelling essay.
So much food for thought.
After Sakes closes not sure of any blog will match this cornucopia of great critical writing from so many different vantagr points.
I knew about Sakes for a few years, but only really started reading committedly at the start of SMO. So glad to be able to dive into the archives to clarify much of the history. This site has been an essential companion for the last year. Will miss it.
Oh degeneracy, thy name is Woke.
It’s an interesting phenomena this Woke business, but in only one of its two main particulars. Let me explain.
There are two issues here. The first is the sexual lives of the individuals involved. These are of no interest to anyone except the individuals involved and the prurient among us.
The second issue is, however, of great interest, or at least it should be. This whole Woke phenomena is big. It’s huge. It many ways it has come to dominate our public places and our public debate and dialogue. Who is funding it. That is the second issue. and that deserves careful scrutiny. Much about Woke would be revealed by answering this question.
Gustave Dore’s illustration (top) is set in the Lower Circles of Inferno: The Hell of Perverted Intelligence. A deep chasm separates the specifically human crimes of Lower Hell from the more natural animal crimes of violence, greed and lust. Here Dante and Virgil contemplate the Hypocrites, clad in monks cloak and hood but weighed down because it is made of gold and the metal is burning hot.
“Woe unto you, Hypocrites and Pharisees” — New Testament.
Here is a modern hypocrite and pharisee in public display: Zelensy’s video appearance at the grand inauguration of the Berlin Film Festival was met with cheers and standing ovations by the entire audience whose applause remained throughout his speech … especially when he declared: “Culture chooses a side when it decides to speak out against evil… and it takes a side when it remains silent and in fact helps the evil.”
Note that the audience gave the Jewish president of Ukraine a standing ovation; same as the Congress of U$A gave Natan Yahoo the Jewish prime minister of Israel. This business of giving a Standing Ovation seems to have been “Standardized”. The first such “Standard” ovation that I can remember in Britain was the one given by the Labour Party to prime minister TB.Liar, member of Labour Friends of Israel, when — after starting a war on a Lie that killed 2 Million people in Iraqu — BLiar became Peace Emissary to the Middle East. And of course, BLiar and Bush were two very Publicly Praying Christians during the rape of Iraq.
It is difficult to progress in politics as long as people fall for this sort of play acting. The moral quality of a state is only as good as the moral quality of its people.
There can be no real civilization without good morality and values. Elevated technology is an inert tool that the human intentions generated by collectively held values can either weaponize for tyranny and slavery or utilize to civilize. Technology is potentially a double edged sword whose direction is determined by morality. I think the highest values and morality are divinely sourced and achieving an elevated and sustainable civilization is not achievable without tapping into this divine source, technology alone cannot acheive it. Humanity has never yet achieved sustainable civilization and I believe will never do so untill the majority of individuals really get in touch with their personal divine source.
Excelllent, and the comments also if I may add, for indeed, follow the money trail, sit back and enjoy the delights of the entertainment citadels of perversion on the way…….
Having spent my life, and with a great maney others, attempting to counter this civilizational, greedy consumption of the good, the true and the beautiful by the magnets of evil, I will say in reytrospect, surrounded by the fabulous views of the moral high grounds, bleeding, bruised. financially broke but with good friends,,every step of the way was worth it.
The Russian premiere of the opera “War and Peace” was successfully held in Budapest.
Nora Hoppe, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your reflections here on the Saker. It’s very sad indeed that this blog is closing down, though of course I also respect the decision, I will miss reading your pieces here. I will really miss this space
I just find it truly inconscienable that people still applaud Zelensky. How? Don’t they have any idea about the reality of his actions of extreme political , ethnic, religious and legal repression and persecution in Ukraine. The corruption? The slaughter? The theft?
Where were the antiwar demonstrators? No doubt the repression of dissent in Germany is bearing fruit. The whole event sounds orchestrated by American neo cons, yes right down to the regime change anti independent Iran imperialist feminists standing out front.
I am finding it difficult to find grace. Your description of the Berlinale awakens bile and rage in me. I think it’s because art is meant to see, (politically motivated) artists are meant to be free – not just as you describe to be reduced to a hollow extension of imperial propaganda – because it feels like a betrayal of something personal to me, my experience of freedom in Berlin, my love of the freedom, of the arts there and in Germany. I am so tired of constant disillusionment and fallacy. There’s no space to even breathe it seems let alone to debate. The thorough co-option of the Berlinale you describe represents to me the life being squeezed out of Berlin, it’s suffocation. It’s colonization.
The rage I feel is desperate, almost like needing to scratch ones way out of being buried alive under the weight of the lies. The weight of the empty shells of people filled with lies, pressing up against me in a deranged, genocidal stampede to oblivion.
I think there is a line or two about this in the i-ching, something about times when only the petty thrive.
Thanks. Appreciate the article.
The ‘Culture of Death’ is descriptive of contemporary developments. We are killing life in the name of ‘efficiency’.
Technology is primarily used to remove the need for humans or human interaction.