More about The Madness of Crowds

My father, who hated the totalitarian regime he grew up in, taught me that a crowd is always wrong and always scary. He’s also a Jew, and a Jewish instinct is that when a crowd is approaching, it’s on its way to beat you up. Whenever you see everybody nodding vigorously in agreement, that’s when scary things are about to happen.

Here are some quotes from Murray’s great book that is inspired by the same terror of totalitarian mentality.

“We can no longer trust that our listeners are honest or are searching towards similar goals. An outburst of insincere claims from members of the public may be made as eagerly as sincere ones. And so the collective ambition of public figures must become to ensure that they write, speak and think out loud in such a fashion that no dishonest critic could dishonestly misrepresent them. It should go without saying that this is an impossible, and deranging, aspiration. It cannot be done. It cannot even be attempted without going mad.”

“It is impossible to unscramble the different standards being applied simultaneously by the content of speech because speech itself has become unimportant. What matters above everything is the racial and other identity of the speaker. Their identity can either condemn them or get them off. This means that if words and their contents do still matter then they have become deeply secondary orders of business.”

“It is a curiosity of the age that, after the situation appears at the very least to be better than it ever was, it is presented as though it has never been worse.”

“Even after death the excavation and tomb-raiding will go on, not in a spirit of enquiry or forgiveness but in one of retribution and vengeance. At the heart of which attitude lies the strange retributive instinct of our time towards the past which suggests that we know ourselves to be better than people in history because we know how they behaved and we know that we would have behaved better. There is a gigantic modern fallacy at work here.”

On the truly insane story of Nathan Verhelst (which everybody should learn about): “It is not hard to imagine future generations reading such a story in a spirit of amazement. ‘So the Belgian health service tried to turn a woman into a man, failed and then killed her?’ Hardest of all to comprehend might be the fact that the killing, like the operations that preceded it, was performed not in a spirit of malice or of cruelty, but solely in the spirit of kindness.”

“Among all the subjects in this book and all the complex issues of our age, none is so radical in the confusion and assumptions it elicits, and so virulent in the demands it makes, as the subject of trans. There is no other issue (let alone one affecting relatively few people) that has so swiftly reached the stage whereby whole pages of newspapers are devoted to its latest developments, and where there is a never-ending demand not just to change the language but to make up the science around it.”

“It is hard to persuade society that it should change nearly all of its social and linguistic norms in order to accommodate sexual kinks. Society may tolerate you. It may wish you well. But your desire to dress in lady’s knickers is no reason to force everyone to use entirely new pronouns.”

And here’s the best explanation I’ve ever seen of the conflict between trans-fanaticism and feminism: “Trans campaigners intent on arguing that trans is hardware can only win their argument if they persuade people that being a woman is a matter of software. And not all feminists are willing to concede that one.”

And here is a brilliant paragraph on the consumerist mentality advocated by a doctor who cheerfully mutilates 12-year-olds with puberty blockers and believes toddlers can be trans: “It is the casualness with which she makes the follow-on point that is vaguely staggering. ‘Here’s the thing about chest surgery,’ she says. ‘If you want breasts at a later point in your life you can go and get them.’ Really? Where? How? Are people like blocks of Lego onto which new pieces can be stuck, taken off and replaced again at will? Is surgery so painless, bloodless, seamless and scarless today that anyone can just have breasts stuck on them at any point and live happily ever after, enjoying their new acquisitions?”

The meetings of these trans-affirming doctors are scarily similar to a certain brand of religiousness: “Just one of the strange things about all of this, from the audience reaction at the USPATH conference, is that Olson-Kennedy is not speaking at a meeting of ‘professionals’ but to a congregation. A fixed set of ideas are being discussed. A fixed set of virtues are being celebrated. And a fixed set of propositions are being set up, laughed at and dismissed. The audience does not sit, listen and then ask questions as at an academic or professional conference. They cheer, laugh, snort and applaud in a manner which more than anything else resembles a Christian revival meeting. Or some kind of comedy club.”

It’s a lot of quotes, I know. But this stuff is so good. Let’s enjoy it while it’s still legal. The most tragic story in the book is that of a Down’s syndrome kid: “This girl – who was known as Melissa – suffered from a range of physical and mental-health problems and had reportedly also suffered from leukaemia. For complicated reasons the mother of the child appeared to be shopping around for other diagnoses for her daughter. One conclusion that she came to – with help – was that her daughter was in fact trans. Among those who supported this claim and the resulting call for the girl to transition was Aydin Olson-Kennedy. Indeed, he asked for other trans people to donate funds in order that the Down’s Syndrome child could have a double mastectomy.” Chopping body parts off a sick child because it pleases a clearly deranged mother and a bunch of smug adults in need of some bizarre affirmation. This is beyond wrong. But has anybody here heard of this case before? This is clearly much much worse than all of the hugely publicized transgressions of a smiling kid in a wrong hat and that kind of thing. This is about actual bodily integrity of a disabled child, and nobody gives a crap.

29 thoughts on “More about The Madness of Crowds”

    1. Very similar, yes. People are not Lego puzzles, that’s the problem. Murray is gay and has every sympathy for trans people. But he says it’s a very very complicated phenomenon that can’t be easily dismissed with a set of platitudes about affirming whatever a person, especially a child, feels at this moment. He also says that 80% of children who are ambivalent or unhappy about their gender grow up to be very much ok with it and turn out to be gay. If we accept (and on this blog we obviously do) that it’s perfectly ok to be gay, then we should be bothered by the idea of “curing the gay out of these kids” before they get a chance to understand their sexuality.

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      1. // After his death, Verhelst’s mother publicly said she didn’t care anything about him and didn’t care that he died.
        It is mentioned in the book.

        Most trans-stories Murray describes include horrible parents. Verhelst’s and Melissa’s mothers are clearly monsters, so one could do nothing to stop them destroying their kids.

        It is a seemingly well-meaning mother that made me want to jump into the book and shout to make it stop the most since she is described as a person capable of listening. Her eight-year-old daughter went to “a very religious school” and because of – ” ‘completely presenting male’, which means, ‘short haircut, boy’s clothes” – people asked “Why is there a boy in the girls’ bathroom, that’s a real problem” and the poor child started thinking of enrolling in school as a boy.

        A visibly confused kid told Olson-Kennedy she was a girl because “I have this body” when asked whether she was a boy or a girl. However, already a few minutes later, after the ‘professional’ explained to her she was like “a strawberry pop tart in a foil packet in a box that contained ‘cinnamon pop tarts … the kid turned to the mom and said “I think I’m a boy and the girl’s covering me up.” ”

        I wanted to shout at that mother to take the kid away from that ‘very religious’ school already. If the matters have deteriorated to the breaking point of taking the kid to Olson-Kennedy, is the biggest thing the mother worries about her kid not getting religious enough education in a more normal school?

        Clarissa said:

        // He also says that 80% of children who are ambivalent or unhappy about their gender grow up to be very much ok with it and turn out to be gay. If we accept (and on this blog we obviously do) that it’s perfectly ok to be gay, then we should be bothered by the idea of “curing the gay out of these kids” before they get a chance to understand their sexuality.

        But accepting gays is not the issue here. If someone doesn’t accept gays, one is even less likely to accept trans, regardless of the diseased behavior of Iranian government which lets gays escape execution if they do sex-changing surgeries.

        Even if one fears and hates gays, it’s supposed to be perceived as the “lesser evil” than being trans.

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        1. The issue here is whether accepting an underage person as trans is possible at all. The human brain isn’t fully formed until 25. The idea of permanently damaging a child’s body when nobody has the slightest clue what the child’s brain will want 10-15 years from now is an atrocity.

          In the story you cite, I don’t see how the school is a problem here. If little girls see somebody they think is a boy in the bathroom, they’ll feel uncomfortable and ask questions. Possibly freak out. I don’t think all these girls have to suffer in silence because these particular two adults are shitty parents. And what is the school supposed to do? Shut these girls up? Or start a gender-fluid bathroom, like that school in NYC where kids were scared to go pee and had to hold it in for hours?

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          1. // I don’t think all these girls have to suffer in silence because these particular two adults are shitty parents.

            What should they have done? Dressed their daughter in a more girly fashion?

            Cultural-exchange moment: it was funny to see this school described as ‘very religious’ when moderately religious schools in Israel won’t let a girl enter without a skirt.

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            1. It’s the job of the same-sex parent to teach body acceptance. Klara loves her long hair because I love mine and I’m teaching her how to take care of it. I have also already explained the difference in male and female physique. Shaving, peeing sitting down or standing up, that only ladies can grow babies in their tummies, why women go in the doors and up the stairs first (because they tend to be shorter), etc. And I present this all as a really wonderful thing. Girls are great! We are happy to be girls! Boys are great! Daddy and Grandpa are happy to be boys! It’s all completely sincere, so it works.

              I explained sex differences in the same way I explained race differences. Some people are black, some people are white. It’s all good.

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              1. What do things like long hair or shaving have to do with “body acceptance” or “the difference in male and female physique.” These are entirely social aspects of gender, not biological sex differences. If you think it’s best to raise children in conformance with gender roles, that’s fine (in this context, because these are just cosmetic things; I know you’re not raising Klara to be a subserviant, cowed woman.) But these things aren’t an aspect of physical sex.

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              2. I meant shaving facial hair, of course. As for hair, she does know that there are some men who wear long hair but that’s a lot more rare than women who do.

                And of course it’s very important to raise children in conformance with gender roles because there’s no benefit from confusion at this age.

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              3. She’s way too young to know about shaving other body parts. For now I’m trying to explain why I don’t need her to make daddy share the razor with me. 🙂

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      2. A colleague’s teenage son recently came out as a girl. I’m sure it’s an absolute coincidence that the mom is the most unhinged lefty and a completely disengaged mother.

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  1. Usually I read books long after you finish them, but I have a vacation now and used the free time to read “The Madness of Crowds”. Just finished it a few minutes ago and am ready for a discussion. 🙂

    It was fascinating to read about the entire new worldview being created in English-speaking countries that were the only countries Murray mentioned. Interesting how things are in other Western-European countries except UK.

    Despite the numerous real problems, I feel a bit envious and sad when reading f.e. about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ‘mansplaining’ to a young polite woman ‘We like to say people-kind, not necessarily mankind, because it’s more inclusive’. Israeli politicians are much closer to Trump with Netanyahu once accusing Left-wing NGOs of busing Arabs to the polls in droves. The result:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Election Day high noon appeal to his supporters to go out and vote to offset the “droves of Arabs” flowing to the polling stations may have played a decisive role in his victory, the country’s best-known political pollster indicated Wednesday.
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahus-arab-droves-warning-may-have-been-decisive-in-his-victory/

    Other more Right-wing politicians are even less “PC.” To be fair, Arab politicians also say not less inciting things all the time and even commit crimes according to Israeli law.

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  2. Unlike previous ideologies, f.e. Marxism talking about the workers of the world uniting, the new ideology is very US-centric and it is one of the reasons I cannot see it spreading to Eastern Europe or other parts of the world. The focus on White Privilege and on the understanding of Race (derived from very specific US history and also specific colonial histories of a few other countries) makes it impossible to apply the theory to Eastern Europe or in the Middle East unless one casts Israel as a vice character in a quasi-religious morality play regardless of suitability.

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    1. Oh, absolutely nobody else will take it seriously. Latin America,for instance, will laugh itself to death with all this crap. And Eastern European countries, too.

      As Murray says, this is a game only very rich societies can play.

      I’m really happy to be able to discuss the book with somebody who read it!!! Thank you!!!

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      1. // I’m really happy to be able to discuss the book with somebody who read it!!! Thank you!!!

        I am very happy too. 🙂 Hope other readers like cliff will join later. 🙂

        You said what you were reading so I could search and enjoy too. Do you always mention especially good authors on your blog? It’s a pity you don’t have “Recent Recommended Reading” below “MY BLOGROLL” f.e. , or some other way to see.

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        1. This discussion is so fascinating that I completely forgot my pedicure appointment. The receptionist is texting me and I bark at him, “what appointment? Who are you?”

          I try to mention all the best books I read but I read so much that sometimes I don’t want to overwhelm people with Book Notes and I don’t mention them. For instance, I read quite a lot of bestsellers in business. And I never mention them although I sometimes find them extremely useful. This whole psychological health challenge is inspired by my business book reading.

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          1. // I try to mention all the best books I read but I read so much that sometimes I don’t want to overwhelm people with Book Notes and I don’t mention them. For instance, I read quite a lot of bestsellers in business.

            Are they extremely useful for your personal life or research? If the latter, would like to hear the titles.

            Personally, I am interested in художественная литература and in books of thinkers like Bauman, Bobbitt and Murray. Their discussions about the nation state and analysis of the changing world today are fascinating.

            For some reason, find it difficult to read literature (художественная литература) now, but books like Murray’s do work for me.

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  3. Now to criticism of Murray’s analysis:

    I enjoyed the book but the part on Women seems the weakest to me. (The book discusses Gay, Women, Race and Trans.) The author cherry-picks the craziest ‘feminists’ who tweet ‘Kill All Men’ and then takes at face value a wise, politically aware and suave journalist Ezra Klein who claims to interpret this phrase as “it would be nice if the world sucked less for women”. Naturally, Klein would have been foolish to say something different publicly when Murray’s entire book is built on descriptions of consequences of straying from the popular, ever-changing dogmas.

    Another problematic US-centered (but masquerading as universal) passage was when the author approvingly quotes Dr Jordan Peterson asking ‘Can men and women work together in the workplace?’ and then Peterson points out “it’s only been happening for around 40 years and so is a fairly new thing whose rules we’re still trying to work out.”

    Haven’t men and women being working together for far more than 40 years in Eastern Europe after the Bolshevik revolution? What about Russian enslaved peasants who have been working in the fields much earlier? Even a historical book on European women in the Middle Ages I read talks about wives working in their husbands’ guilds and continuing to do so after becoming widowed. Don’t know anything about Asia or Africa, so can’t say but it’s hard to believe men and women were not working together for the entirety of human history till the last two seconds.

    The passage in which Murray describes “the ability to drive members of the opposite sex mad” as one of “types of power that women wield almost exclusively” also made a bad impression. It sounds like coming from ThingsSexistsSay hashtag and ignores the difference between power and “a type of power which allows a young woman in her late teens or twenties to take a man with everything in the world, at the height of his achievements, torment him, make him behave like a fool and wreck his life utterly for just a few moments of almost nothing.”

    I had to quote it to show how bad it is. It’s a pity Murray is not a bit more careful and spoils otherwise interesting, informative book with passages that leave a bad taste in the mouth.

    To end with something positive, it is among my favorite quotes since the first sentence is true and shows the author’s sense of humor:

    “To ‘deconstruct’ something is as significant in academia as ‘constructing’ things is in the rest of society. Indeed, it is one curiosity of academia in recent decades that it has found almost nothing it does not wish to deconstruct, apart from itself.”

    Btw, I do not view the first sentence as criticism of academia, but the observation is made in a nice, funny way and stresses that constructing is important too.

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    1. I don’t think he ever makes the claim that this is universal. The whole point seems to be that the very people who defeated these problems are the ones who claim to suffer the most from them.

      I also found the part about women having the capacity to drive men crazy to be funny. Murray is a gay man, so female sexuality is not something he’s very familiar with. He doesn’t know that men have the same effect on women. He should come to my fitness program and see all the 50+ women going nuts over the male coach’s cute butt. (I have a cuter one at home, so I’m immune.)

      But the larger point does stand. I recently was walking with a male colleague who opened the door for me and then immediately got scared and started apologizing. He almost slammed the door in my face he was so flustered. People are confused. And I don’t know whom this is benefiting. We all grow terrified of any real human contact because anything can be misinterpreted and the worst motivations can be assigned to the tiniest things.

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      1. But the larger point does stand. I recently was walking with a male colleague who opened the door for me and then immediately got scared and started apologizing. He almost slammed the door in my face he was so flustered. People are confused. And I don’t know whom this is benefiting. We all grow terrified of any real human contact because anything can be misinterpreted and the worst motivations can be assigned to the tiniest things.

        I have never encountered anyone apologizing for opening a door for me in my life. People open doors for me, I open doors for people (especially if they’re carrying a load of stuff). Sometimes it’s performative, sometimes it isn’t. It’s all good. I’ve never known any woman to scold a man for opening a door.

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  4. I also found myself partly disagreeing with the idea behind unconscious bias training. The need for it is described thus:

    ” Our brains are so wired that we are sometimes not aware of biases and prejudices that may lie dormant in the back recesses of our brains. These engrained prejudices may lead us to prefer men over women (or, presumably, vice-versa) or people of one skin colour over another. Some people may be put off hiring somebody because of their religion or sexuality. And so ‘unconscious bias training’ is available at J. P. Morgan and at an increasing number of other banks, financial institutions and other private and public companies … ”

    I simply find it hard to believe most biases are unconscious. For instance, because of living in the Middle East conflict, I am biased against Arabs, as are most Israeli Jews. It is definitely not UNconscious.

    Even if the Middle-East conflict is a different kind of situation, FSU anti-Semites I’ve seen or heard about have also definitely known how much they liked Jews.

    Do people truly do not suspect they are “put off hiring somebody because of their religion or sexuality”?

    I suspect the true goal of unconscious bias training is to warn with a veiled threat “hire those people or else … “

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    1. The idea behind unconscious bias is that even if you are completely sure you have no racist or homophobic feelings, you might still be a total racist. You just don’t know about it. This doesn’t mean conscious racism doesn’t exist. It means anybody can be accused and hounded.

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  5. Have you looked at Murray’s another and even more famous book “The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam” (2017)? From Amazon:

    // The Strange Death of Europe is the internationally bestselling account of a continent and a culture caught in the act of suicide, now updated with new material taking in developments since it was first published to huge acclaim. These include rapid changes in the dynamics of global politics, world leadership and terror attacks across Europe.

    Douglas Murray travels across Europe to examine first-hand how mass immigration, cultivated self-distrust and delusion have contributed to a continent in the grips of its own demise. From the shores of Lampedusa to migrant camps in Greece, from Cologne to London, he looks critically at the factors that have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their alteration as a society. Murray’s “tremendous and shattering” book (The Times) addresses the disappointing failures of multiculturalism, Angela Merkel’s U-turn on migration, the lack of repatriation and the Western fixation on guilt, uncovering the malaise at the very heart of the European culture. His conclusion is bleak, but the predictions not irrevocable. As Murray argues, this may be our last chance to change the outcome, before it’s too late.

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    1. I will neither confirm nor deny that I know which book you are talking about but there’s this:

      “At the peak of the crisis in September 2015 Chancellor Merkel of Germany asked the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, what could be done to stop European citizens writing criticisms of her migration policy on Facebook. ‘Are you working on this?’ she asked him. He assured her that he was.”

      “Europeans cannot become whatever we like. We cannot become Indian or Chinese, for instance. And yet we are expected to believe that anyone in the world can move to Europe and become European. If being ‘European’ is not about race – as we hope it is not – then it is even more imperative that it is about ‘values’.”

      “For religion had not only retreated in Western Europe. In its wake there arose a desire to demonstrate that in the twenty-first century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions which could exist even without the source that had arguably given them life. Like Kant’s dove we wondered whether we wouldn’t be able to fly faster if we lived ‘in free air’ without the bother of the wind keeping us aloft. Much rested on the success of this dream. In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of ‘human rights’ (itself a concept of Christian origin).”

      “The world is coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot. Even now Europe’s leaders talk of an invigorated effort to incorporate the millions of new arrivals. These efforts too will fail. In order to incorporate as large and wide a number of people as possible it is necessary to come up with a definition of inclusion that is as wide and unobjectionable as possible. If Europe is going to become a home for the world it must search for a definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world.”

      The idiots who judge books on the basis of Twitter outrage will say he’s a racist, sexist, Nazi, anti-immigrant, whatever. But the book is about the constant enactments of boring old self-flagellation that Westerners are so obsessed with.

      But I have no idea which book you are talking about. :-))

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      1. Another quote from I don’t know where: “Of course there are various claims as to how this post-1997 immigration surge occurred. One, famously made in 2009 by the former Labour speech-writer Andrew Neather, was that Tony Blair’s government wilfully eased the immigration rules because they wanted to ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity’ and create what they unwisely took to be an electorate that would subsequently be loyal to the Labour Party.” US Democrats are doing the same thing because they have convinced themselves that Hispanic people are “just like” African Americans and will always vote Democrat. This is clearly a stupid thing to believe but that’s how they are.

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      2. I was afraid the entire book would consist only of endless descriptions of “boring old self-flagellation that Westerners are so obsessed with” which I am not interested in reading 300 repetitive pages about.

        However, the 4th chapter gave me a summary of the history of immigration into Europe and the 5th chapter was even more interesting since it included his visits to migrant camps and interviews with refugees, volunteers and aid workers.

        What I still miss is the level of analysis provided by Bobbitt or Bauman. Wonder whether any academic analyzes well the current situation.

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  6. The best chapter was 16th; his analysis of the rights movements as a new religion people feel a desperate need to hold onto and of the modern art clarified a lot to me.
    (Now I discuss the 2 quotes below.)

    Regarding art, may not artists accept that while art does influence our culture, it’s not omnipotent ?

    In a great play (recommended if you haven’t read it yet) by Arthur Miller “Incident At Vichy,” a character wonders how Nazis could enjoy listening to classical music while running concentration camps.

    As a not religious person who wants to find a way to (at least somewhat) believe in the power of art, my attempted explanation is that art can connect people to the higher parts of ourselves, but one has to have the gift to open oneself to the experience.

    It is the same with religion: many say they believe, but not everyone truly does and, even if does, not necessary in the right or best way.

    BEST QUOTE 1

    For if the rights movements that sprang from the social progress of the twentieth century, and the movement towards reason and rationalism that has spread throughout Europe since the seventeenth century, are not the preserve of all mankind, then it means that these are not universal systems but a system like any other. This means not only that such a system may not triumph, but that it may in fact be swept away in turn like so much else before it.

    It is no overstatement to say that for many people the collapse of this dream is, or will be, just as painful as the loss of religion is to those who lose it.

    Many people in Western Europe today have been taught these myths or taken them on because of their quasi-religious attraction. They provide not only something to believe in and to campaign for but something to live for. They give a purpose and an organisation to life. And if they cannot provide the afterlife promised by religions they can at least suggest – almost always erroneously – a veneer of immortality suggested by the admiration of your peers.

    In other words the liberal dream may prove as hard to wrench out of people’s hands as religion was, because it shares the same irreplaceable advantages.

    BEST QUOTE 2

    For now the world of higher culture remains a part of the wider European crime scene. Artists and others might pick over the debris to work out what happened. But they know that any continuation of that tradition risks at some point kindling the embers and causing the crime to reoccur. The only answer is to conclude that what happened occurred in spite of the art and that art in other words had absolutely no impact on the culture. If that is so and art does indeed make nothing happen, then in the final analysis culture is of absolutely no importance. This is one explanation at least for why the art world currently plays the same games of facile deconstruction that the academy has engaged in. And why the partly New York-imported art of tongue-in-cheek, naïve, ironic or jokey insincerity, fills so many galleries and sells for such huge sums of money.

    These three movements in contemporary art – the parasitic, the haunted full stop and the studiedly insincere – are not aberrations in the culture. They represent the culture all too well. The first cannot sustain itself, the second comes with such an oppressive weight that anybody might eventually wish to throw it off, and the last has no point. We can witness the results of this all about us.

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    1. Interesting what other blog readers would say about modern art and its function. What they think and feel.

      Have we already discussed it on the blog? Do you agree with the author’s analysis?

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