Rebirth of Reason


Degrading Art
by Manfred F. Schieder

"The art of any given period or culture is a faithful mirror of that culture's philosophy."
(from "Basic Principles of Literature", by Ayn Rand)
     In his book "Picasso was no Quack", that exquisite humorist that was Ephraim Kishon, a polite yet unmerciful critic of "Modern Art", presented Pablo Picasso's intellectual testament, a document that those responsible for the "modern" smears that surround us, have carefully hidden.
     What follows are documented words by Pablo Picasso, who didn't deny them, though he lived for another 21 years after their publication in 1952: "Since art is no longer the food for the best, the artist can use his talent for all the changes and whims of his fantasy. This opens all the roads for his intellectual quackery. The general population does no longer find in art neither solace nor elation. But the snobs, the rich people, the good-for-nothings, and those that want to attract attention to themselves, find in art the strange, the original, the eccentric and the shocking. I have pleased my critics with countless jokes I devised, which they admired the more for the less they understood them. Nowadays I'm not just famous but also rich. But when I'm alone with myself, I can't consider myself to be an artist in the sublime sense of the term. Great painters were Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. I am merely a clown that understood its time and knew how to take advantage of all the stupidity, lechery and vanity of his fellow citizens."
     "Picasso wasn't a clown", added Kishon, "nor was he an impostor, but the sarcastic commentator of a confused time, a brilliant reporter of human stupidity."
     The distinguished philosopher Ayn Rand said: "Today, in the moment of their almost total triumph, the voices of the mystic-collectivist-altruist axis are rising in a single wail of despair, proclaiming that existence on earth is evil, that futility is the essence of life, that disaster is man's metaphysical destiny, that man is a miserable failure depraved by nature and unfit to exist." ("The Intellectual Bankruptcy of our Age")
     Has mankind, controlled by mentioned axis, lost the notion of beauty and the sense of life or is "modern art" merely the utterance of the embezzlers and impostors of esthetics?
     Let's analyze this further. Absolutely precise physical-chemical-mathematical laws rule the universe. It can't act in any way differently from how it does, because this is its intrinsically mechanical procedure. The universe is its laws and these are the universe itself. It exists, thus, in a totally self-related interpenetration.
     Human beings, as products and part of the universe, are subject to the laws that are the universe itself. However, the universe does not prevent us from disobeying its laws. Since we survive based on using the faculty of reason, the special faculty that characterizes and distinguishes us from all other species, we can think and, in accordance, we must decide. But the faculty of reason incorporates the capacity of free will, which allows us to take wrong decisions on purpose. Wrong decisions trigger reality to punish us.
     While thinking productively, yields progress, doing so in a destructive way will call for failure, which may not be immediate but, as history shows, comes unavoidably, most of the times involving many deaths. Nobody is exempted from this rule, however high his social/political status may be or how many medals may decorate his chest. And should any of us think that his personal decision doesn't count and that it's anyhow worthless to oppose the mistakes committed by others, he will have added his part of guilt to the creation of a malevolent world, a world where Stalitlers of all kinds and color impose dictatorial systems.
     The philosophy that predominates on a worldwide scale among the general population and which was and is enforced by the existing intellectual levels, provides the basis itself for the emergence and existence of malevolent societies. Each of us is, however slightly it may be, personally responsible for not opposing this and art is both the outcome and the spokesman of the philosophy that backs such situations.
     The modern pseudo-artists have forgotten the beautiful words expressed by that exquisite writer that was Oscar Wilde: "Art is beauty". Today's motto is the exact opposite: ugliness, the absurd, the hostility towards all positive human values is displayed daily in exhibitions of "modern art", so-called avant-garde theatres and other such atrocities. Not even symphonic music and operas have been able to escape from such appalling attacks.
     The Pollocks, the Nitschs and the Beuys of the world scatter their tins of paint on virgin canvasses or throw their absurdities around. Examples abound: the "Deutsche Gallerie" in Berlin bought a 10 x 20 feet canvas covered by three splotches of color for 2,300,000.00 dollars obtained from taxes obligatorily contributed by a productive population that didn't have any say in the matter.
     Atonal and dodecaphonic (or should I say "cacophonic") music represents the dissonance of ignorance existing in the meandering brains of those adhering to the malicious philosophy that rules the human population. The "vanguard" theatre acts up in the world of "art" what can be found in psychiatric institutions: irrational beings that not only awake in us feelings of pity but sheer terror, since they show what happens to normal human beings when they commit a contradiction against themselves or when they loose or leave aside the capacity to reason. Their decrepitude is even more aberrant than any physical deformity and, thus, their offense toward rational human beings couldn't be more evident.
     The irrational types of society in which we live has invaded even the artistic branch of the modern computer technology. Using the most advanced programming, graphic and sound technology, most of today's computer games present the dark social dungeons of the shameful Dark Ages, filled with its collection of deformed creatures and impossible spells. It is toward the young, virgin minds that these abnormal freaks are thrown, whose development is, thus, destructively shaped. Under these circumstances, it's hardly surprising that hor(r)o(r)scopes and further frauds, such as religious and political sects and their aim to defeat reason, enjoy nowadays high popularity.
     The joy of life and romanticism have sheltered themselves in the better expressions of science fiction. Nowadays Victor Hugos, Ibsens and Rostands appear sporadically on the TV-screen through serials such as Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone", an author that chose to set his romantic ideas in impossible places. Rationality reappears with characters such as Mr. Spock in "Star Trek" and some related stories written by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreth, who recognized the influence held by Ayn Rand on their writings.
     Fortunately, the graphic arts still provide shelter to many artists that may not be well known but that haven't lost the sense of beauty. Their drawings and paintings, which, however, are not priced at millions of dollars on any auction, show the beauty of the world that surrounds us and present people filled with life. Among them, I may cite Pierre Doutreleau, a painter that shows the vibrant sense of modern life and the life enhancing architecture of tall buildings. On this same line, we can point out the illustrations of Boris Vallejo and the like. While illustrations are, in general, considered to be a minor craft, they include the exquisite paintings and drawings of "pin-up" artists such as the late Alberto Vargas.
     In a world where the predominance of ugliness and violence is constantly enhanced, it is pressing to introduce courses teaching the philosophy of Objectivism into schools and colleges, as it is the only way to wipe aside the contradictions between the still existing social system and the extraordinary scientific and technological advance of mankind. Should the still existing dominant axis of mysticism-collectivism and altruism not be definitively thrown over board, the time will come when sciences will be totally eliminated, a goal that constitutes the main purpose of all environmentalists, and which will return mankind to a state of disgusting ignorance, a kind of existence that by no means can be called "human" and which Ayn Rand presented in sharp lines in her novel "Anthem", a "society" that doesn't even deserves to be called such, of clear collectivist character, where even the existence of the word "I" has been lost and where inventions are forbidden, since these could eradicate the eternal "status quo" desired by the self-established rulers.
     However, due to the growth of the human being's brain, sparked by the mechanism of evolution, the permanence of such a "status quo" becomes, in time, a totally unstable setup that necessarily develops into revolutions, uprisings and wars that would be fully avoidable if the existing conditions were to be changed.
     Hence, what role plays art to supplant the mystic-collectivist-altruist societies by a system adequate to free, rational individuals?
     "Art is the concretization of metaphysics," stated Ayn Rand, and added: "Art brings man's concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts." ("The Psycho-Epistemology of Art")
     This apparently so complex statement can be explained in detail as follows, and through it we will come to understand the function played by art in the foundation of a social system radically different from the existing one, a system based on the axis Reason-Individualism-Capitalism that corresponds in a precise and clear way to the modern state of mankind's requirements.
     Let's analyze it step by step. We obtain the primary information through perception, i.e. through our senses, which send to our brain what they receive from our surroundings. Kant's opinion, directly connected with Plato, that what we see is not real, for apparently being a misrepresentation made by the senses themselves, is false, as our senses, being a product of evolution itself operating with the surrounding reality, are mere conveyors of sensations, unless they are damaged or impaired (such as color-blindness), a condition that can be identified and corrected, for perception is the totality of related sensations.
     We specifically perceive an object itself as well as the environment within which the perception takes place. Our senses transmit what reality provides. Whenever we notice that a straw within a glass filled with water seems to be broken, we might err in our evaluation of the fact, but the information received is itself correct. Our further senses will provide the proof that the straw has not been damaged when it was introduced into the water, the whole reducing to an optical phenomenon triggered by a visual property peculiar to the behavior of light as it crosses the liquid barrier.
     What we perceive is, thus, an entity that has its own identity. To be is to be something, which means that existence and identity form a unit. There cannot be identity with nothing that supports it. Anything existing does so as a unit, even when it is an independent member within a set of two or more units. The capacity to recognize every existing thing as a unit is man's distinctive way of cognition.
     On the next step, we distinguish similar characteristics that belong to two or more existents, without taking into consideration any of its differences. In this way, we can isolate two or more existents and keep their common characteristics, leaving aside their constituent materials, sizes, etc. Now we coin a word that symbolizes the common characteristics. This word is a concept. Through it, we can identify an infinity of similar existents by way of a minimum of identification and a maximum of economy.
     This allows us to construct concepts as varies as "bed", "chair", "table", etc. The relation of common characteristics existing between concepts is identical to the relation existing among algebraic symbols and numbers, where letters symbolize any number. This process was detailed with extreme precision by philosopher Ayn Rand in her work "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology".
     Concepts themselves can be joined by connecting the characteristics common to two or more of them and even adding a new characteristic that may result from the connection itself and be common to all of them, always leaving aside sizes and materials and remembering that, however large the number of existents may be, they have been epistemologically united into a common union to economize the process of knowledge. This new, higher concept will have, however, no unitary tangible equivalent in reality itself. It is an abstraction of the concepts it unites. Hence, the concept "furniture", while not existing as a unit in reality, stands for and includes the concepts of "chair(s)", "table(s)", "wardrobe(s)", "bed(s)", etc. Through the new abstraction they can be differentiated as a family from other concepts that also have common characteristics, such as "door(s)", "window(s)", "wall(s)", etc., all of which are parts of a "building" (another higher concept). The abstract concept that unites these concepts - house - connected with the abstract concept "furniture" and many, many more, all of them depending on the main abstraction "human being", form a new abstraction: "home".
     The whole process is, of course, far longer and more complex, since it connects directly to the concept "conscience" and the definitions of all the other concepts, etc. up to the level of axioms, which are themselves general abstractions that include and contain all the particular abstractions and concepts, thus closing the whole cycle and returning again to its origins, the really existing percepts that, since they exist, are directly attached to the general abstraction-axiom of "Existent" (What is, is - A is A). The foregoing suffices, however, for the purpose of this article.
     Esthetics, the fifth pillar of philosophy, takes care of visualizing the abstractions.
     "Art," defined Ayn Rand, "is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." This means that whichever is the philosophy that explicitly or implicitly strings his "sense of life", so will be the works he produces and presents to the world. This implies not just how the artist views existence itself but also how he wants others to see it. Hence, a view of life, a philosophy that sees life as mere "preparation" for a "real" life supposed to exist after death and populated by assumedly "superior" beings - gods, saints, etc. - will produce works of art directly related with such a view - as religions hold to exist - and if it despises the real-life existence of human beings themselves, as Islamic religion and related religions do, their "artists" will not even be allowed to paint or draw human figures, but their task will be reduced to calligraphic craft and subjected to paint or draw arabesques, mere designs of lines, patterns or phrases, these mainly from the Koran. A society based on such a view of mankind (by its sheer inhuman behavior it cannot even be considered to be a "civilization") cannot progress towards a higher standard of life. It loathes science and technology and merely accepts the discoveries and inventions made by foreigners up to where they are required for trading the essentials needed for living or where they can be used for the aim of destroying and/or enslaving the "heathen" civilizations. To be obliged to act thus, adds more fire to their hate against the freer types of communities that, as per their beliefs, don't deserve such opulence. This, not unexpectedly, excepts the rulers from surrounding themselves with the most luxurious possibilities available.
     This deviant way of contemplating human life applies very specifically to women, who are breeders of future human beings and, thus, a constant reminder of real existence. They are considered as chattel "worth less than a camel" and useful only to rear future terrorist cannon fodder to be sent against nonbelievers, some of which may even be Islamists themselves, though hopefully belonging to an adversary sect. In accordance, women are obliged to remain within the house and cover themselves with chadors to hide their appearance since, else, their bodily appearance could remind the males of the tribe of how beautiful real life can be. The Taliban rule that women have to cover themselves from head to toe, which is the most evident example of the tortuous type of existence these kind of "societies" hold as proper to their beliefs, condemn their females to remain utterly ignorant and apply the procedure of infibulations to rob them even of the slightest possibility of knowing happiness. There couldn't be a more evident sign of how far the sheerest hint of existence is detested by these "societies", quite beside the fact that it is an esthetic sin to oblige females to hide their bodies, since the beauty of a woman's body is a true marvel of evolution itself.
     The true artist, knowing the responsibility he holds towards himself and the society where he obtains, by exchange, the required means of sustenance, visualizes from abstractions the positive characteristics of the human being, and shows them in writing, painting, drawing and sculpturing, in music, architecture and the further fine arts.
     Others, whoever, who seek to take advantage of mankind's gullibility, proceed along the path of intellectual deception in all its various forms, including, of course, politics. Picasso is a clear example of an artist who understood what certain fellowmen were ready to pay and to promote and while he, as shown through his earlier mentioned intellectual testament, was not willing to intellectually participate in this hotchpotch, used it nevertheless for his financial benefit, by building his own Potemkin villages which the High and Mighty paid with their stupidity, in the wrong belief that this revealed their intellectual superiority. While he gathered a fortune, he nevertheless acted immorally. He was an embezzler and an impostor of the human conscience.
     Let's look at what a true artist can convey through his works of a given abstraction, for example the concept "home". For the artists of the "Biedermeier" age (1814-1842) the concept "home" symbolized the ascent of bourgeoisie, the rise of the new, productive entrepreneur, the industrialists and merchants, a place of rest, solace and happiness for him and the family. This, however, did not exclude the need of pointing out the necessary social criticism. A painter of the greatness of Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865) was very able to point out details that the general viewer may not recognize immediately, details such as the smiling and playful children that, momentarily unaware of their own poverty, amuse themselves in a mix with other children that are very self-conscious of their wealthy position, as shown, for example, in his apparently idyllic painting "Early Spring in the Viennese Forest".
     Eugene O'Neill shows homes ripped by deepest desperation, depression and hate, where situations of conflict mirrored his own restlessness and his view of a depraved and sad life. Tennessee Williams added shocking details of pervasion to his own view of homes, while Andrew Wyeth painted scenes of American farm homes that contain dreamy figures representing far and longed for hopes.
     The positive way of facing the adversities of life are forwarded in the works of Victor Hugo, Henrik Ibsen, Edmond Rostand and Ayn Rand and, recently, in movies such as Will Smith's depiction of the true story of a man fighting against all odds "The Pursuit of Happyness", descriptions of humans that are able to reach their goals by applying their own will. They construct, thus, their own destiny. In particular, Ibsen opposes the accomplishments of the individual against a merely naturalistic way of description as the one used by the Swedish writer Johan August Strindberg (1849-1912), a playwright of socialist tendency who used such portrayals for his political aim to oppose the at his time rising bourgeoisie.
     Since our brain uses the mechanism of abstraction to be able to handle the massive amount of information continually provided by reality to our senses and being art the way to concretize the resulting abstractions, it can not just express the ratification of our convictions - i.e. our "sense of life" - but also act as a forceful tool to transmit our ideas, thus becoming a suitable medium to spread and establish a philosophical trend or a given line of politics. Art can, thus, be used as a dividing line between established but wrong social systems and innovative and invigorating ideas for a different type of society. Since art concretizes abstractions, it directly calls upon our feelings, as a bridge that covers the gap to our conscious thoughts.
     The view that man cannot bring to fruition his aims and that his life consists in living for his fellowmen as the sole purpose of his life, comes to light through the present degradation of art. Whoever considers that the human being is unable to turn his aims into reality, that he faces a dark and incomprehensible universe, that he is not a rational but merely an emotional person, that he is helplessly subject to a capricious and unexplainable world, will see himself represented by an "art" that lacks any and every connection to reality, where the canvasses are as empty or dirty as his own empty brain, where sculptures lack every form or represent the monsters which take human form when he discards his characteristic as a rational being, where literature and movies speak of uselessness, where drugs are the only relief to his desperation and failure and gangsterism becomes a "philosophy of life" to eliminate every possible competitor and renounce every productive collaboration. As Francisco Goya, the Spanish painter (1746-1828) said: "The sleep of reason produces monsters".
     "Disintegration is the keynote and goal of modern art," wrote Ayn Rand in "Art and Cognition", "the disintegration of man's conceptual faculty, and the retrogression of an adult mind to the state of a mewling infant."
     Politically this can be seen by the environmentalist's permanent proposal to stop the scientific progress by "controlling" its development, a proposition that would immediately bring science's progress to its end; in the collectivist inspired confederation of nations, such as the EU, to reach the control and constraint of the citizens through a steady issue of rules, and the continuous increase of statist bureaucracies towards the establishment of a dictatorship by means of a "world government".
     Perhaps mankind will eventually open again the gates to Nazism, Communism and theocracies such as the Islamic ones with its return to times thought to have been left behind already. The actual activities of art endorse such a fateful and malevolent possibility.
     This shows that just as the events within the universe compose a direct relation between them, so it also applies to ideas (or the lack of correct ones) and their incorporation to human societies. Facts have consequences and rational, productive and peaceful goals require no less rational, productive and peaceful methods. Art can lead to the destruction of civilization but, if it is based on the correct philosophy, it can also raise the individuals composing it to amazing heights.
     Ayn Rand built with her philosophical novels and analytical writings covering all areas of the intellectual and practical endeavors of us human beings, an unshakable set of content and system, the rational-egoistic-liberal formula and the dialectical method that forms the basis and structure for the consistent and permanent establishment of a fully human civilization in every aspect of its existence: metaphysically, epistemologically, ethically, politically and esthetically. Teaching and spreading the philosophy of Objectivism is the required tool to construct a world of positive ideals and its productive accomplishments. In view of today's menace of the savage lack of civilization seeking to spread its venom of religious incivility and bullish hatefulness against the modern world, there is no time to loose.
     Still, there is a significant international curtain of silence drawn over and repressing Ayn Rand's teachings and far too few channels to promote them. "Modern art" takes part in this automatic conspiracy, even though many of its "artists" seem to be unaware of it. If the work of destruction that "modern art" carries out is not brought to an end, the "countdown" that started some 150 years ago will end the evolution of mankind's intellect and, thus, the evolution of the mind itself.
     The lack of attention toward the artists of the line of "romantic realism", which displays the fulfillment of Objectivism on the esthetic area, is appalling. Thus, broadcasting a philosophically positive and correct esthetic is imperative and its application on an international level pressing to erase the dangerous storm clouds that hover over mankind's future.
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