Variations about the Person and the Work
Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt
Pages 66 - 69
The century was coming to an end. A century of great scientific and artistic changes, innovations and decisions. The authority of old traditions had been made shaky by skepticism and rationalistic screening. Youth was in fiercer struggle against prejudice and convention than at any time since the days of the French Revolution. Worldviews clashed sharply.
There was the phalanx of socialists, led by spirits like the incorruptible Emile Zola, whose example would soon give new dignity to the status of writer and intellectual in the Dreyfus trial. The reforms of these political spirits reached over into the reserves of pure art. Pure art did not exist, it was decreed; the creative artist was an exponent of the society to which he belonged, poetry, painting, sculpture and music had a right to live only if they gave up their splendid isolation and resolutely placed themselves at the disposal of a new society, that of the worker. Industry, machines and factories gained through this prophethood a mythical trait of sublimity; a new beauty of poverty and the everyday was discovered and exerted its charm even in the districts of those who were very distant from all these social ideas.
There is no lack of an opposing party, an equally powerful phalanx of pure aestheticians who wanted nothing to do with such reforms. The literature of the fin de siecle, of the Parnassiens as well as of the Symbolists, professed a completely antisocial cult of form, of pure beauty, and of art for art's sake. In their circle it seemed a hundred times more important to find new nuances of expression, of rhyme technique, of characterization, than to satisfy the wishes of wide circles of buyers with formally questionable works of art. The culture of the 'mot juste', the unambiguous, uniquely correct, non-interchangeable adjective or noun was the noblest task of the artist. In effect, breadth and massiness were undesirable. But whoever touched new strings in the mind and soul of the connoisseur, whoever knew how to produce the 'nouveau frisson', the future belonged to him.
To speak of the present would have been the worst possible tone in these circles.
There were, however, border areas between the hostile camps. Already people began to believe in the compatibility of social art and parnassism. Had not impressionist painters depicted cabbages and butcher's stores by such revolutionary means that the representatives of the leading societies went through their exhibitions laughing and with imprecations? We will soon meet a Ravel who is intoxicated by the beauty of glowing blast furnaces.
During the last 3 decades the Global Brain has improved itself.
The authority of old traditions has been rendered shaky by the global communication of high quality knowledge. Youth is in fiercer struggle against prejudice and convention than at any time before. World views clash sharply. As ever so often, first a simple bipolarity has arisen. Gaia is starting to develop consciousness.
There is the phalanx of independent spirits joined by uncompromising humans like Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange, William Binney and Edward Snowden whose examples are giving new dignity to the status of the ones who speak up against traditional institutions. Pure science, pure knowledge does not exist, it is decreed; the creative, the thinker is an exponent of the society to which he belongs. Dissent has a new beauty and is discovered anew every day. It exerts its charm even in the districts of those who have been very distant from critical thought.
There is no lack of an opposing party, an equally powerful phalanx of basically conservative minds, people who enjoy their carefree and efficient lives and feel at home in a society with traditional values, even when they are shared by non-rationalists, people with a discernibly persistent mind. They enjoy their security provided by the state, their protection from disturbing fake news by the cooperation of big tech companies and government. They know they have nothing to hide from their democratically elected representatives. It is reassuring to them that the traditional media guide them through a complex and dangerous world.
To discuss problems brought up by dissenters is the worst possible tone in these circles.
There arise, however, border areas between the hostile camps. Already people begin to believe in the compatibility of opposing scientific statements. Had not talk shows revealed concepts that the representatives of the leading societies had been vilified? Every once in a while we meet a charismatic whistleblower who quite lightheartedly questions the widely accepted narrative.
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