of a Cultural Reactionary
by Charles A. Burris
by Charles A. Burris: Our
Establishment Church: Its Rules and Credo
As there are
ages of cultural renaissance and enlightenment, so are there, on
the critical evidence of history, ages of cultural sterility and
youth Rock/Rap culture, with its consecration of the trivial, the
sexually perverse, and the infantile, is characterized by the debasement
and corruption of language.
In his book,
Second Sin, Thomas Szasz observes:
like suicide, homicide, and genocide, we should add 'semanticide'
the murder of language. The deliberate (or quasi-deliberate)
misuse of language through hidden metaphor and professional mystification
breaks the basic contract between people, namely the tacit agreement
on the proper use of words. Thus it is that the 'great' philosophers
and politicians whose aim was to control man, from Rousseau to
Stalin and Hitler, have preached and practiced semanticide; whereas
those who have tried to set man free to be his own master, from
Emerson to Kraus and Orwell, have preached and practiced respect
and the Internet, hailed by some as visionary tools of liberation
and empowerment, are the new digital Platonic caves of false reality
and noble lies. They are the vehicles where vulgar manipulation
of a generation formed linguistically around the primitivism of
tribal Rock music by atavistic poseurs and the monotonous dirge
of Rap by nihilistic gangsters, will not be a difficult generation
to enslave politically, socially and culturally.
ignorant cybervultures (digital progeny of O’Reilly, Olbermann,
Hannity, Maddow, Coulter, Uygur, or Savage) leading thuggish illiterate
mobs via Facebook and Twitter.
For four decades
my mentor in political and culture matters has been the magnificent
Jay Nock, while Nock himself turned to the high Tory essayist
Matthew Arnold’s Culture
and Anarchy as his seminal
But Nock and
Arnold did not always see eye-to-eye.
a second generation educational bureaucrat, believed that in order
to move his sterile Victorian culture towards "sweetness and
light," the defining civilizational appreciation of the best
cultural achievements that the West had produced, a vast network
of state-sponsored schools must be created to educate the "barbarians,"
"philistines," and "populace," (his famous labels
for the aristocracy, the middle class, and the toiling masses of
Nock was adamantly
opposed to this compulsory imposition of coercive egalitarianism
and regimentation. He
believed (gleefully standing Karl Marx upon his head) the much-heralded
‘universal literacy’ of the statists would bring further immiseration
of Arnold’s "populace," while lowering the cultural common
denominator of the hapless bourgeoisie and the predatory "barbarians."
As a state-controlled
enterprise maintained by taxation, virtually a part of the civil
service (like organized Christianity in England and in certain
European countries) the system had become an association de
propaganda fide for the extreme of a hidebound nationalism
and of a superstitious servile reverence for a sacrosanct State.
In another view one saw it functioning as a sort of sanhedrim,
a leveling agency, prescribing uniform modes of thought, belief,
conduct, social deportment, diet, recreation, hygiene; and as
an inquisitional body for the enforcement of these prescriptions,
for nosing out heresies and irregularities and suppressing them.
In still another view one saw it functioning as a trade-union
body, intent on maintaining and augmenting a set of vested interests;
and one noticed that in this capacity it occasionally took shape
as an extremely well-disciplined and powerful pressure group.
Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, pages 263-264)
In this day
of the triumph of the Idiocracy,
Nock has the last haughty and disdainful laugh at the naiveté
of Arnold and the
progressive educational reformers who followed in his wake.
In the Arts,
the modernist and postmodernist projects are exhausted. No more
tiresome Épater la bourgeoisie
(Shock the middle classes). The avant-garde novelty of Rimbaud,
Klimt, Schoenberg, Joyce, Dada, Ligeti, Pollock, Sartre, and Mapplethorpe
has degenerated into boorish louts such as Eminem, Lady Gaga, and
Yet in a measured
bow towards the underclass lumpenproletariat, mainstream media moguls
market this filth as the authentic, spontaneous outpouring from
"the streets." But then, so is dog excrement.
should be an elevating celebration of the human spirit. It is an
affirmation of life, of the richness and texture of being.
literature and music is an unintelligible exercise in the pathetic
and the phallic performed by "trousered apes" (to use
Duncan William’s excellent descriptive title from his now woefully
archaic exposition on related cultural and literary subject
dissolve the cohesive authority of language in a society and the
rest follows rather easily – a life nasty, brutish, meaningless;
an existence void of beauty or purpose.
curmudgeon could be tragically wrong in my baneful prognostications.
I hope I am so.
may indeed be vastly freer and more just, as brilliantly sketched
by libertarian visionary Stefan Molyneux, in
his powerful, inspirational remarks delivered recently before
the Free State Project’s PorcFest 2011.
Let us hope
that the optimistic brave new world he describes will also
be characterized by more civility and simple decency and respect
towards one another.
analyst Marshall McLuhan famously observed, "The medium is
the message." McLuhan's most celebrated work, Understanding
Media: The Extensions of Man, was a revolutionary study
in media theory. He said that media themselves, not the content
they carry, should be the primary focus of analysis.
insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays
a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the
characteristics of the medium itself.
And in today's
world of Social Media and the Internet, erudite, principled, strait-laced,
grandfatherly, wonderfully middle class Ron Paul is that medium
towards the brighter future outlined by Molyneux.
Such are the
humble confessions of a cultural reactionary.
A. Burris [send him mail]
is a history instructor in an American high school.
© 2011 Charles A. Burris
Best of Charles A. Burris