Thursday, 17 November 2016

I'm a culturist - I believe some cultures are superior to others. So does the American writer and commentator Andrew Klavan.

I recently read Andrew Klavan's latest book, The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ As I try not to "do God" on this site (well, not overdo Him, anyway), I won't deal with the overtly religious parts of the book - fascinating though I found them, as they're full of parallels to and echoes of my own experience. I will, however, highlight his thoughts on culturism (i.e. the belief in the superiority of one's own cultural tradition to others) because they strike me as enormously sensible, wise and well-expressed - and extraordinarily important, given the success of the cultural and moral relativists who run so much of our national life in emptying our existence of meaning:
"Through my years of reading, I had come to believe, as I do still, that the nations of Europe from, say, the Renaissance to the First World War, had produced more of mankind's greatest artistic achievements than any others. I know this is now an unpopular sentiment. Some people condemn it as triumphalist. Some even call it racist. Some consider it merely impolite. In fact, it sometimes seems to me the entire postmodern assault on the concept of truth has been staged to avoid just this conclusion: some cultures are simply more productive than others and the high culture of Europe has been the most impressive so far. It's as if, in the aftermath of the racist cataclysm of the Holocaust, Western thinkers have grown so skittish around the idea of racism they will do anything to avoid naming their culture as superior to others, even if it means avoiding the evidence of their own eyes.
I despise racism. It's in conflict with everything I feel and everything I believe. But for me, the greatness of European culture is neither a racial issue or a moral one, just an observational truth. As the discoveries and calculus of Newton are more important scientific breakthroughs than anything that came before or since, as the Constitution of the American founders is the most profound piece of distilled political wisdom in all history, it makes simple sense that the artistic culture that underlay those advances, the culture that includes the poetry of Shakespeare and Keats, the music of Bach and Mozart, the painting and sculpture of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the novels of Cervantes, Zola, Tolstoy, and Dickens was somehow better, richer and deeper than any other culture that has ever existed on earth...
...I believe art does something. I believe it records and preserves the inner experience of being human. I believe some art does this better and more honestly and more completely than other art, whether I happen to enjoy it or not. I'd rather read Raymond Chandler than Gustave Flaubert, but Flaubert is greater. 
So I thought - and think - that the beauty and truth of man's inner life - the beauty and truth of the human spirit - were recorded in the artwork of high Europe more consistently than in any others. This, in turn, gave me a deep respect, bordering on awe, for the underlying philosophy that shaped and informed these works: the Christian worldview.
Yeah - let's hear it for dead white guys!

I don't know why it should matter, but there's something pleasing about the fact that Klavan isn't some High Culture Ivy league academic or a well-reviewed writer of novels about living in comfortable angst in one of the tonier sections of some liberal American city. Despite being a New York (well, Long Island) Jew, despite a comfortable upbringing (his father was a successful comic radio disc jockey), and despite reading English at Berkeley, he's neither a leftist or a neocon. He's a muscly, combative conservative who writes thriller novels and film scripts and presents an  extremely entertaining - and funny - online radio show on The Daily Wire.  As he's a Jew who earns his living in industries which are run by secular leftists, and is both right-wing and Christian, I think we can safely conclude that Andrew Klavan is his own man. Given the abysmal quality of the current deluded, misguided, goofy, left-wing leaders of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, it's comforting to know that there are still people like Andrew Klavan - tough, funny, wise and conservative - on the team.

1 comment:

  1. My sentiments exactly and one of the reasons I visited The Prado before it's turned into a refugee centre.
    Mind you the subject matter of the paintings on display would probably drive most of them out.