How We’ve Been Robbed of Beauty by the Left

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Thu, Jul 3 - 9:00 am EST | 4 years ago by
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Robbed of Beauty - The Wright Perspective

To be a man means to seek a truth that satisfies the mind, a virtue that sates the conscience, and a beauty that breaks the heart. Deprive a man of any of these things, and he will find neither happiness nor rest.

The most precious, profound and important of the great ideas which the Left has raped from us is beauty. I need spend no time on the proposition that life without beauty is a nightmare: those who have seen true beauty – sublime beauty, if even for a moment – have nothing to which they can liken it except the ecstasies of mystics and the transports of saints. Beauty consoles the sorrowing; beauty brings joy and deepens understanding; beauty is like food and wine, and men who live surrounded by ugliness become shriveled and starved in their souls.

Why, if beauty is so important, is there no discussion of it? The victory of the Left in this area has been so sudden, so remarkable, and so complete, that the discussion of beauty has lapsed into an utter and a desolate silence. Have you, dear reader, read anything discussing beauty, putting forth a coherent theory of beauty, or even extolling beauty’s central importance of the human soul in a year? In 10 years? Ever? This may be the only essay you will read on the topic this decade, and yet the topic is one of paramount importance. It is a matter of life and death not for the body but for the spirit.

There is no discussion of it because by convincing the public that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the Left has placed it beyond the realm of discussion. According to the Left, beauty is a matter of taste, and arbitrary taste at that. There is no discussion of taste because to give reasons to prefer tasteful to tasteless things is elitist, nasty, uncouth and inappropriate. To have taste implies that some cultures produce more works of art and better than others, and this raises the uncomfortable possibility that love of beauty is Eurocentric, or even racist. To admire beauty has become a hate crime.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then there is no difference between fine art as opposed to mere decoration, no difference between Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and wallpaper. Obviously there is a difference: we decorate an otherwise useful tool to make it more pleasing to look at or handle, like painting details on a car or putting embroidered images on fabric. Popular art is meant for entertainment; it is meant to please the eye and wile away the time. But an episode of I Love Lucy is not made for the same purpose as Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Art is not meant to be useful. When you hold a baby in your arms and look at him, merely look at the wonder and miracle of new life, you don’t do that because the baby is useful.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then there is no such thing as training the taste. One can sit down and watch well done popular entertainment – for example, a Mickey Mouse cartoon – with pleasure and enjoyment, and no study is needed to prepare you to appreciate and understand it. But to sit down and read Milton’s Paradise Lost for pleasure, one needs a passing familiarity with classical and Biblical figures to which he alludes, and one’s pleasure is increased if one is familiar with the epic models, the Virgil and Homer, on whose themes Milton plays out so creative and striking a variation.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then anything, anything at all, can be declared to be beautiful merely by the artist. Like God creating light from nothing by the power of His word, the artist creates beauty not by any genius nor craftsmanship, but by his naked fiat. It is beautiful not because he actually created anything, but only because he says so.

By this logic, a urinal is beautiful, a light going off and on, a decapitated cow’s head covered in blood, flies and maggots, a glass of water on a shelf, a crucifix dunked in urine, a can of excrement, or an unmade bed. The argument given by the Left is that your inability to see the beauty in these things is due to your limitations, your untrained soul, your dullness. The argument merely ignores the fact that training the tastes to be dull, philistine and coarse is the opposite of training the tastes to be sensitive to beauty.

The reader may at this point be wondering who or what on the Left has ever made such absurd assertions. Not every Leftist is concerned with art, it is true, and not everyone who leans Left on other issues adopts the mainstream Leftwing view on art. Those that do, say exactly what I say they say. If you have never heard such nonsense on stilts, I can but reply that you have not been paying attention to the art world – which, come to think of it, is very much to your credit.

You think I am kidding. I am not kidding. Each of the examples I mention is real.

Ridiculous art
Source: Creative Commons License – Wikipedia

Marcel Duchamp Fountain (1917) is a urinal; Martin Creed Work No. 227, The Lights Going On and Off (2000, Turner Prize Winner) is a light going off and on; Damien Hirst A Thousand Years (1990) is a maggoty cow head; Michael Craig-Martin An Oak Tree (1973) is a glass of water on a shelf; Andres Serrano Piss Christ (1987) is a crucifix dunked in urine; Piero Manzoni Artist’s Shit (1961) is a can of excrement; Tracey Emin My Bed (1998) is an unmade bed.

Ours is the first generation in the history of Christendom to have no fine arts at all. The public has turned away from the neurotic wallowing in self-disgust that dominates the fine arts and seeks to slake its craving for beauty in the popular arts: if portraits evoke disgust, one can always look at movie posters, calendars and magazine covers, I suppose. John Williams’ theme music of Star Wars will do in lieu of Elgar, Wagner or Holst. But all these popular entertainments serve to entertain, not to ravish.

Popular art serves the appetites and passions. Even if some serve noble appetites and passion, popular works are not meant to do what a true work of art does, which involves forgetting the appetites and passions. It is for this reason that a classical statue of a nude is not like a Playboy centerfold. One is selfish, as lust is selfish, and uses the other as an instrument; the other is selfless, as love is selfless.

At any point before World War One, if you asked any philosopher or intellectual what was the point of art, poetry, music, painting, sculpture, architecture, all of them of each generation all the way back to Socrates would have said the purpose of art is to seek beauty. Socrates himself would have said that by beauty, by the strong love and longing created in the human breast at the sight of something sublime, we are drawn out of ourselves, and are carried step by step away from the mundane to the divine.

The strongest argument against the atheism so beloved of the Left is not an argument that can be put in words, for it is the argument of beauty. If you see a sunset clothed in scarlet like a king descending to his empurpled pyre, or wonder at the gleaming thunder of a waterfall, if you find yourself fascinated by the soft intricacy of a crimson rose or behold the cold virgin majesty of the morning star, much less see and enter a cathedral or a walled garden, or you hear Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven or see the David of Michelangelo, or become immersed into the song and splendor and Northern sorrow of Wagner’s “Ring” or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, if indeed you see real beauty and for a moment you forget yourself, then you are drawn out of yourself into something larger.

In that timeless moment of sublime rapture, the heart knows even if the head cannot put it into words that the dull and quotidian world of betrayal, pain, disappointment and sorrow is not the only world there is. Beauty points to a world beyond this world, a higher realm, a country of joy where there is no death. Beauty points to the divine.

The Left hates this argument, because – since it is not put into words – it cannot be refuted in words. It can only be refuted in images: a urinal, a several cow head, a can of shit, a messy bed. These images are ugly, aggressively ugly, meant to be demeaning, meant to be absurd, harsh, jarring, repugnant and gross. If the vision of a the morning star points to a world beyond this world, fair and filled with the music of the spheres, then visions of shit and blinking lights and severed heads and unmade beds point to a world of roaring despair, a desecrated graveyard, a dungheap.

The Left hates this argument, because if beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder, then beauty tells us what is a truth, a real truth, a truth from a world beyond the world of petty propaganda, a beauty beyond the world of pornography. The Left hates this argument, because if beauty is not merely in the eye of the beholder, then beauty is meant to be served, not used for your selfish pleasures. Beauty humbles the proud, for it shows them something beyond themselves and their appetites. And the left hates that.

Do you think I am exaggerating? Do you think what we are dealing with is merely distaste or polite disagreement, and not hatred? Go into a modern art museum: look at the urinal, the severed cow head, the can of shit, the soiled bed. These are not the expressions of one or two aberrant individuals with psychological problems: this is the condition of our culture for nearly a century, an industry involving endless amounts of money public and private. This is the leadership of the artistic vision controlling our civilization, and the thing future archeologists will point to as the defining spiritual images of our times.

Why do they adore such imagery? That answer is not difficult: the desolation of ugliness aids the Leftist cause in a very real and very subtle way.

Imagine two men: one stands in a bright house, tall with marble columns adorned with lavish art, splendid with shining glass images of saints and heroes, mementos of great sorrow and great victories both past and promised. A polyphonic choir raises their voices in golden song, singing an ode to joy. The other stands in a slum with peeling wallpaper, or a roofless ruin infested with rats, hemmed by feces-splashed gray concrete walls lurid with jagged graffiti, chalked with swearwords and flickering neon signs advertising strip joints. Rap music thuds nearby, ear-splitting, yowling obscenities. A bureaucrat approaches each man and orders him to do some routine and routinely humiliating task, such as pee in a cup to be drug tested, or be fingerprinted, or suffer an anal cavity search, or surrender his weapons, or his money, or his name. Which of the two men is more likely to take a stand on principle not to submit?

Which one will automatically and unconsciously assume that human life is sacred, human rights are sacrosanct, and that Man is made in the image and likeness of God? The man surrounded by godlike images? Or the man surrounded by mocking filth?

Which one, in other words, is more likely to fall prey to the worldview of a dark world cosmos without meaning, without truth, without virtue?

The point of nearly a century of aggressive ugliness in the fine arts is to produce disgust. It does not matter whether you become a fan of the jarring ghastliness and horror of modern art, or if you turn away in cynical disgust and seek for beauty only in popular entertainment. Both fans of ugliness and cynics repelled by it have lost their innocence. Neither one will hear the argument of beauty; neither will hear the music of the spheres.

Read last week’s column: The Left’s Twisted Perspective of Virtue.

John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.

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  • William

    This might be the dumbest thing I have ever read. Seriously, I am not a fan of the pieces of “art” presented in article, but to isolate a political group for these works is just plain ignorant.

    • John C Wright

      You have not been paying attention. The Left is not a political party but a cultural movement like a religion that embraces all aspects of the human condition, including philosophical, social, meteorological, factual, and economics dogmas, not just political opinions. This latest serious of articles concerns their fundamental philosophical dogmas concerning truth, virtue, beauty, and so on, and it is contrasted with the conservative and Christian view.

      Unless you are willing to claim that some of these artworks are conservative in nature, it is safe to categorize them as aligned with the opponents of conservatism. Or you could simply listen to what the artists involved say, or how they identify themselves.

    • Coiltesla

      It’s not exactly Christian to fetishize beauty. As Isaiah 53 says of Christ: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

      I find it weird that Conservatives act like they own Christianity, which they do not. The right wing “philosophical, social, meteorological, factual, and economics dogmas” are often at odds which the man who preached: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Why that’s practically communist!

      The majority of people are not just one thing, even those who have rigid ideas on certain issues. Particularly when it comes to art and taste, where everyone has things they consider amazing and terrible and you are mystified as to why they think x is good art.

      It’s weird to reduce things to The Evil Political Force Who Raped Our Societies Notion Of Beauty Versus Us Right Thinking People. Except that mythic, fake narrative is both exciting and self-flattering. Rather than being a guy who feels threatened by art which doesn’t appeal to you and rants about it online, you are fighting some grand culture war of civilization. Except you aren’t. Beautiful things are made, as are ugly ones and it isn’t the left alone who set up policies which insure huge sections of the landscape are ugly strip malls with nary a beautiful sculpture in sight. That’s on everyone, right and left.

    • Patrick

      Ignorant of what?

    • Booch Paradise

      Don’t think about it too hard. Ignorant is just a leftist buzz word used for universal dismissal. The fact that JCW’s article clearly showed a great deal of knowledge about the history of art and philosophy and how they tie together, clearly showing that he’s in fact quite educated, is not important to Williams comment. What is important is that by saying ignorant and magically waving his hands, William, can blissfully dismiss JCW’s point without having to suffer the fear of engaging.

    • Rick Gutleber

      This article isn’t dumb at all. It is simply recognizing that absolute moral relativism and absolute aesthetic relativism go hand in hand. Both are attitudes that create nothing of value and in fact hate anything of value.

    • akulkis

      William, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that you were not properly educated in how the world works outside of academia. How the KGB has an entire directorate with it’s only mission being the subversion of western civilization (and how ironic it is now, that a former KGB Colonel is probably (although imperfectly) the greatest guardian of many western values alive today).

      You obviously don’t understand that the left even WROTE about their agenda to fill the public spaces with UGLINESS, so as to make everyone feel utterly helpless to find nay sense of enjoyment in their life.

      Your ignorance of what’s going on, and how it’s been documented by the perpetrators for decades before it was even practice does not detract in the slightest from the truth of what Mr. Wright wrote.

    • Coiltesla

      If you’re such a history buff, how do you not know:
      1. Jackson Pollack and much of modern art was promoted by the CIA and other government agencies as an answer to Soviet Culture.
      2. One of the most notorious haters of modern art were Hitler and the Nazis, who wrote about it in similar terms as Wrights. One of the best collections of beautiful modern art is the “Decadent Art” exhibit which was stocked with artists persecuted by the Nazis. I mean, if you want to argue that Hitler’s aesthetics are awesome, you can, but…

  • Athens

    The documentary “Why Beauty Matters” by Roger Scruton is something good to watch on the matter.

    • Montague

      Also Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible.

  • Rick Gutleber

    The thing about deconstructionism and dadaism and other forms of modern art that eschewed the ideas of beauty that had been previously universally accepted by all culture is that they were a real statement, one time. It might not have been a particularly interesting or meaningful statement, but it was a statement that had not been made before.

    The problem is that in the century since, the thousands upon thousands of sad imitators have added absolutely nothing to the idea and have literally used the concept of ugliness as a means to become “famous” or “important” without having to bother with any skills or talent, nor by contributing anything meaningful. What’s the point of producing a work of “art” to which the only response would be “This is garbage.” or “A drunk monkey could have crapped this out.” (assuming in the latter case that wasn’t literally how the work was created).

    So much of art today has nothing to do with anything other than attacking the viewer, exercising a lack of tact and a lack of common sense that was once (and still should be) condemned. When you have nothing meaningful to say, and when you feel nothing but hatred towards all that is meaningful and important, the only thing you can do is attack it and try to tear it down. This sort of art is nothing more than a mindless tantrum.

    It takes real intelligent, talent and hard work to create, but absolutely no skill to destroy, and the leftist thinking, which pervades this kind of art (see Communist architecture for instance) sees nothing good in inspiring and uplifting people, but only in assaulting and degrading them. Perhaps that is why the result of it has always been nothing but decay and ruin.

    I agree that it is simply, at its root a hatred of all goodness and beauty.

    • Centurion13

      Three somewhat related things?

      FIrst, I believe that much of what has passed for art in the past century is related to beauty as flippancy is to a clever and amusing joke. It’s easy to speak as though the joke had already been made – but it almost never brings genuine laughter; mockery never does. Thus post-modern art, which derives much of its shock value from trampling on the thing behind most of the artistic endeavors of the past – genuine beauty, an objective thing that not all agree on in words, but which always seems to fall into the “I’ll know it when I see it” category.

      Second, it always seemed to me the joke of modern art was on the viewer first (for being forced to admit that if he didn’t like it, the fault was with him), then the buyer of the piece (for being foolish enough to pay thousands or even millions for ugliness when it could be had all around him for free), then the culture last (for being convinced that shock value, outrage and emotional response were the primary considerations when attempting to evaluate a piece of art.) I see why we as a culture have fled to the entertainment industry in an attempt to find beauty. Our need for beauty is so strong!

      Third, I recall playing Warhammer:40K many years back. While building the models, I commented on how all the art, all the sculpture, and indeed all the writing revolved around human death and its representations (so… many… skulls…). I was told it was meant to evoke a ‘mood’ (and subsequent response in the consumer). I replied “how, if everything in the Warhammer universe from one end to the other is nothing but horrible things and horrible people, all festooned with skulls – how do any of them know it’s there? Or bad? There are NO ‘good guys’ or beauty in this game universe!”

      I was met with silence, but later I realized the contrast was not within the Warhammer universe, which was ugly and horrible from one end to the other, but with our (the player’s) real world, where such things as tanks slathered with human skulls are (thankfully) rare.

      I think the Left has been somewhat constrained by the fact that, in order to celebrate ugliness or disgust or deliberately shock and outrage, they are dependent on a standard outside their own morally relative world. The world they would like us to believe is entirely dependent on the taste of the beholder, actually relies on this more real, ‘outside world’ for its shock and contrast. In producing and pushing ugliness as REAL, they are implying that its opposite – beauty – is also real, and not merely a subjective taste that we happen to have or lack as the case may be.

      Furthermore, beauty is MORE real. You cannot deconstruct something that has not yet been constructed. If you DO attempt to deconstruct something, and your first efforts do not do the thing to pieces, perhaps the thing you are attempting to deconstruct is more lasting than a mere subjective taste. Thus, the ‘artists’ have been at it for a century and show no sign of slowing. And the thing you want to tear apart is still there.

      In other words, their strongest argument essentially cuts their own throat. And now I understand the image of the Left, as that of a man busily sawing off the branch on which he sits. The branch is all he will ever affect – the tree itself is untouchable by him or anyone else.

    • Bronson Justice

      Welcome fellow tabletop wargamer!

      I had never made the connection with Warhammer 40K before but you are right. The horror of the 40K universe only makes sense in comparison to the normalcy of our own.

      Indeed, I would imagine that in a future as filled with war and horror as WH40K, the art would try to show something else – peace and serenity – just as samurai art tried to during the height of the Sengoku Period. Man cannot live by the sword alone.

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    • akulkis

      I prefer historical or speculative wargames… the whole fantasy, D&D, Warhammer,Battletech, simulate non-reality never piqued my interest in the slightest way.

    • Porphyry

      Heh you just think those Dark Angels aren’t beautiful, before they murder you in their sleep with S7 plasma coming out their eyes.

  • Wake up

    I think your a wrong on all counts. Too just pick out a few pieces of modern art and say the last century was filled with these types for art is grossly misleading and foolish at best. The art world is filled with tons of beauty, death, grossness and humor to name just a few. As a artist myself I don’t find any of the pieces you stated above to be very good or true examples for modern art. I love art that is beautiful, strange, weird and thought provoking. I find you very simplicity and small minded to group art and people into these very narrow views. As a writer I think you are a waste of talent.

    • John C Wright

      ” I find you very simplicity and small minded to group art and people
      into these very narrow views. As a writer I think you are a waste of

      Sorry, was this directed at me? Suppose Roger Scruton looks at the same evidence and comes to the same conclusion, is he also thereby a ‘simplicity’ and a ‘waste of talent’?

      The problem with an ad hominem attack is that it only disqualifies one speaker. Anyone else uttering the same argument must be disqualified again on other grounds, and so on endlessly, until and unless you address the argument itself.

      The argument does not intent to apply to all peoples nor to all forms of strange nor thought-provoking art, and you are dishonest to imply that it does. This is the error called ‘strawman argument’ where you pretend I said something weaker and more foolish than I did say, so as to trounce that and declare preposterous victory without actually coming to blows with the meat of the ideas.

      And by that last sentence did you mean that my novels and stories are a waste of my talent as a writer, or did you meant that you are a writer, and from that perspective think I myself am a waste of talent?

      I am just curious; because it is not often a professional author is upbraided by a semi-illiterate for his lack of craftsmanship at the use of the English language. Usually a sense of irony, if not of shame, would silence such an eructation.

    • Centurion13

      As a writer, you should consider an editor. And maybe think twice and do some homework before you lash out with the insults, sneers and claims to know things no one person could possibly know. Admit it, you just flipped that stuff out there to see what would stick. Weak sauce, sir. Judging by what you’ve written so far, you’re no reliable judge of talent.

    • Tom Kratman

      The point you may be missing is that, fairly broadly speaking, modern art is worthwhile insofar as it is reaches back to more classical art; it is modern only in its timing, not in its themes or construction. Conversely, the modern art under justifiable attack here is thoroughly modern, and thoroughly vile.

    • akulkis

      It’s all become nothing more than trying to create another “in-joke” and nothing more.

    • Tom Kratman

      Indeed, and in goodly part. Now if only their jokes were actually funny, as opposed to absurd.

    • akulkis

      Of all of the pieces of art in the world, each of these catasstrophes was celebrated by the “in-crowd” of the art-world…and in the last few decades, by the contemporary press, too.

  • Bronson Justice

    What a beautiful article! I wholeheartedly agree. I’m reminded of Ayn Rand’s comment that the purpose of art is to show life as it is and should be.

    If modern art shows life as it is and should be, then man is a villain, life is a cesspool, the future is a nightmare. If classical art shows life as it is and should be, then man is a hero, life is a triumph, and the future glorious.

    What does it say about our culture that we’ve chosen the former and not the latter?

    • Montague

      Well, you tend to get into the Christian period if you say “the future glorious.” The more purely pagan sort thought the past was bright, and the future probably less so.

    • akulkis

      That’s because pagans are nihilists. And to a nihilist, the future will never be bright, because their only goal is to destroy tha twhich precedes them.

    • Montague

      Kinda. But some pagans are better than others. Our pagans don’t believe in Pietas or Arete; they are barbaric in addition to pagan.

      But in a sense, paganism is doomed (by its own admission) to devolve, so it’s not so much kinds, but stages, perhaps.

    • John C Wright

      Wow! You get bonus points for even knowing the word ‘arete’ much less using it correctly in a sentence! After being upbraided by the semi-illiterate above, I am delighted to be met with a fellow educated man.

    • Montague

      I think I am more accurately to be termed a half-educated youth; but I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift-horse (or rather, gift-praise) in the mouth.

      To quote (for lack of wit on my part) GKC, “We went not gathering ghosts, but the shriek of your shame is arisen/ Out of your own black Babel too loud: and it woke the dead” – which seems to be your own reaction to the buffoon you refer too. I share your excitement concerning those partially lost words and ideas, and annoyance concerning modern miseducation.

    • Montague

      You are right about our modern pagans, though. They have nowhere to go so they have to find a bogeyman, real or fake, to run from.

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    • bopeep

      It’s taken you that long to realize this? Humanity (see, I’m not misandrist!) is villainous but our villainy can be awe-inspiring and our cesspools and nightmares gorgeous!

  • Leedog

    This article is pure garbage… just another example of Conservative stupidity.

    • Centurion13

      This comment by Leedog is just another example of drive-by trolling, brought to you by the usual suspect – a lazy liberal.

    • akulkis

      Projection much?

    • John C Wright

      The problem with an ad hominem attack is that it only disqualifies one speaker.

  • Luscinia

    I can tell when someone isn’t an artist because they rail against all things modern.

    • Centurion13

      What, exactly, are you trying to say? Why don’t you just say it instead of penning this passive comment aimed at no one in particular? Do you really believe other readers will think better of you because you did not own your criticism (well-founded or not) of another comment-er or even the author? You would be wrong, Miss.

    • Tom Kratman

      Does that mean if Michelangelo complained of the shit in the streets in his own modern day and the corruption of his own, then modern, day, and of all things in his day, that he was not an artist.

      Conversely, if someone complains only about Piss Christ but likes the can of Artist’s Shit that he might be an artist?

    • akulkis

      I’m willing to bet that Mr. Wright is already more highly regarded as an artist than you could ever dream of of being.

      And I say this a someone whos own creations are on display on 4 continents.

    • John C Wright

      As I said to the other two progressives making the exact same non-argument in the comments here, the problem with an ad hominem attack is that it only disqualifies one speaker.

      Also, the article was not about ‘all things modern’, but about the Leftist desire to obliterate beauty. As I said to the other progressive you tried it, a strawman attack avoids the actual issue by attacking a weaker and invented version of the argument.

      Aside from ad hominem and strawman attacks, your progressives really, really have nothing to say, do you?

      Doesn’t it bother you, at least a little bit, to live in an intellectual vacuum at the same time pretending yourselves to possess intellectual acuity?

  • Luscinia

    “To have taste implies that some cultures produce more works of art and better than others, and this raises the uncomfortable possibility that love of beauty is Eurocentric, or even racist. To admire beauty has become a hate crime.”

    What happened here, did Dan Simmons collide with Fred Ross.

    • Eric Brown

      Spam much?

  • Luscinia

    “To have taste implies that some cultures produce more works of art and better than others, and this raises the uncomfortable possibility that love of beauty is Eurocentric, or even racist. To admire beauty has become a hate crime.”

    What happened here, did Dan Simmons collide with Fred Ross?

    • Centurion13

      Check this:

      I don’t think John was suggesting that at all. Such a suggestion would be at odds with the other things he’s written (that I have read) so far. Perhaps you read something into it that is maybe not there? A mistaken impression?

  • Luscinia

    Is Wright’s use of “authoress” bewildering or am I just Hungarian?

    • Centurion13

      Nah, it’s just that he has about six different words for a thing where you and I might be able to dredge up two. An authoress is a female author, presumably. Furthermore, he makes errors from time to time, mostly typos, and they get ironed out as the days pass and they are pointed out by readers of the piece.

  • Thor

    What a bunch of crap. Not all art is meant to be beautiful but it art fails to elicit an emotion, then it’s nothing more than a pretty picture. “That’s nice” is about the last thing an artist wants to hear about their creation. Either like it for a reason or don’t like it for a reason but at least feel something

    • Shawn Smith

      A pile of fresh vomit on the floor can elicit an emotion. Does that make it art?

    • Winston Blake

      You’re a pile of shít on the floor…

    • akulkis

      Not all art is meant to be beautiful … but how does that get us to the point where the “world-class” in-group of the fine-arts crowd universally make NOTHING that is beautiful, because EVERYTHING they do is flat out ugly and insulting.

  • Xavi’

    The final and unrelenting assault upon honest aesthetics by the Progressive has emerged from their wellsprings of filth, Academia of course, has been deemed “Pretty Privilege”, grounded once again in the paralysing fear of supposed Eurocentric beauty, the specter of racism and White Supremacy, invokes a guilt, governing the thinking and dictates reality, amoungst other dysfunctional pathological ideologies such as “Fat Body Politics” and of course “Sexism”. They have moved beyond the artificial and are now placing dichotomies upon the physical female herself, in fear pride may be harbored in personhood.

    Which is surprising as woman is the Progressives ally, but I suppose upon realising as Weininger stated, woman is usually, only upon rare occasions, incapable of producing beauty externally, they must now attack her form, which is pleasurable to the male, to degrade it, within the larger culture as the vehicle for decline.

    It is astonishing the Liberal does not see Progressivism as more than just a Political ideology, it is infact a perverse Metaphysical abstraction, a Zohar Modifier of sorts. However this about produced beauty, as beauty has been stolen and deemed a profanity. In art, music, dance the last bastion of art is found within the gaming industry, not the commercial Goliath, but studios producing stunning art and narratives. What is not surprising of course this is male dominated and under fierce attack to conform to the whims of Progress.

    • akulkis

      You forget, the progressive’s most reliable ally is the morbidly obese woman (whose weight control problems are entirely due to her personality disorder(s)) woman.

  • Space_Chief

    Surely the can of excrement alludes metaphorically to the idea of what is wrong with much of post-modern art (as stated in this article)? :-)

  • Tom Kratman

    One minor bit of evidence for your case, John; contemplate the horrible living conditions – ugly, unsanitary, unsafe, vile, disgusting, and frequently enough on fire – that Man has put up with, without complaint, through the ages. How could they? How could they stand it? The answer is in the Great Pyramid, the Forum, the Acropolis, Notra Dame. The answer is that Man has a minimum daily adult requirement for beauty, without which he cannot endure, but with which he can endure anything.

    And, of course, each of those beautiful works was also a reaching for the divine.

  • Kyle

    Great article Mr. Wright. I’m reminded of this excellent hour-long documentary on beauty in art, that I saw a few years ago on Youtube. It’s excellent and I think that you’d enjoy it.

    What’s strange, though, is that the guy who made this video also made a documentary with the likes of Richard Dawkins and other atheist goofballs. It’s sad that he doesn’t seem to realize that the end result of life without God is the desecration of beauty that he acknowledges as an objective value. On the other hand, I suppose that Dawkins and his ilk who see themselves as classical humanists love the trappings of Western civilization at its peak (great art, classical music, architecture, etc.) but just wish to remove God from it. Unfortunately they fail to see that the grotesqueries of progressivism are the end result of their ideology, not a secular utopia. Without objective values rooted in the reality of God, there can be no objective beauty.

    • James

      What I find amazing is that so many atheist actually want to be thought of at the same time as Dawkins. Man is borderline insane though he explains it away as reason.

      I have often found people like him the ones who draw the most hate to Atheist most of whom don’t care if you worship god or not. Dawkins like most fanatics is a absolutist. Evolution existed and seemed to make more sense to him therefore all other forms of belief are for the weak willed and stupid.

      In effect they are the equivalent of the Absolutist Christian who says evolution in no way exist.

    • John C Wright

      This is an excellent video. And sad.

  • meredithk

    Excellent analysis. also addresses this issue very well.

  • Bubba

    We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.

  • J. Vaux

    Saw this on FB shared by a friend and went WHAT!

    As an ACTUAL artist who’s been observing the arts scene for decades well I don’t know how funding works in your area but both Left and Right wing governments UNDER or OVER fund a wide variety of arts and crafts fine popular and contemporary … YES sometimes money gets wasted on total nonsense but this idea the LEFT supports bad taste … Bad taste lack of taste and appreciation of Beauty doesn’t follow neat tidy political boundaries. Personally I’m tired of seeing the lack of taste that goes in to Photoshopping propaganda LEFT and Right.

    No fine arts NO concept of BEAUTY

    Look at ceramics and the crafts then.

    Finally as someone also a student of art history may i point out the borderline between fine and popular art wavers as styles go in and out of fashion. Just look at the PreRaphaelites who have influenced a lot of SFnF illustration


    Artist Designer

    • Porphyry

      The difference is that the left is willing to call thins that are deliberately ugly art, while the right is not.

  • Zap Rowsdower

    Here’s the thing: aside from this literary abortion being bugfuck INSANE, the premise of is is just wrong on its face. Yes, people create controversial, “ugly”art. That’s because the purpose of art isn’t always to soothe. Sometimes people create art to shock or provoke thought. But nobody is forcing you to look at “Piss Christ” and declare it’s beautiful. Nobody’s expecting you look at a urinal and say “I want to hang that above my sofa.” In fact, I’d venture to say that most of the artists who create “ugly” art don’t want you to think it’s beautiful. When people make ugly art, the intent is not to desensitize; in fact, most often the intent is to jolt.

    And, ya know, let’s not forget that for every lefty out there making ugly art, there’s a lefty out there making mundane, goofy, whimsical, innocent, bad, kitschy and, yes, beautiful art. The idea that there are armies of left-leaning people out there cranking out art that’s raping John C. Wright of his god-given right to beauty is just…I feel like I’m going to over-use this word…insane.

    • kingmcdee

      I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I didn’t see him arguing that one cannot make or use art to shock. Nor did I hear him say that absolutely zero beautiful art is made nowadays. I did, however, hear him opine that “modern art” as such is largely of the abstract and/or vulgar kind. The argument does not require 100% of modern art to be made in such a manner, only that “Modern Art” galleries be full of the stuff, that it dominate our idea of what “Modern Art” is. The point is this – that most “Modern Art” is simply ugly and poorly-executed, without so much as the very desire to seek beauty. Yes, you *can* make art to shock, but that’s sort of like subverting a literary trope for “shock” value – its value is entirely parasitic on something else. It’s shocking because art *isn’t meant* to be willfully ugly, just like a shameless plot twist is only any good because it’s *not* how things usually happen. When such “shock” pieces become so common that they *are* the establishment, they lose that value, and since it’s the only value they had, they become nothing more than ugly and valueless things.

  • Coiltesla

    I’m amazed at a rant which cites 97 year old examples to complain “Ours is the first generation in the history of Christendom to have no fine arts at all.” – not how generations work and hating “modern” culture since before one was born.

    By the standards of beauty in this rant, the following things are also Left Ugliness:
    1. Edgar Allen Poe – a purient obsession with the grotesque.
    2. Thomas Nast – ugly images used to undermine market friendly politicians.
    3. Oscar Wilde – GAY! ’nuff said.
    4. 16th Century Vanitas Still Lifes – these young painters and their obsession with rotting food and skulls. Why can’t they appreciate beauty!
    5. Fransisco Goya – ant-war thug who depicts pagan gods biting the heads off people.
    6. William Hogarth – A Rake’s Progress – another disgusting “anti-hero” story reflecting the decadance and dispair the left loves so much.
    7. Hieronymus Bosch – This guy ruined painting with his unatural ugly lefty drug crap.
    8. The Canterbury Tales – Chaucer’s “naturalism” was a cover for ugly jokes and, in one horrible tale, misandry. It’s been a downward spiral for literature ever since.
    8. Aristophanes – His best known play is one huge dick joke. Lefty youth may laugh, but I have no truck with this generation’s below the belt garbage which passes for humor.
    9. Venus of Willendorf – Filth and a fatty.

    • Porphyry

      Wow haha do you skin yourself before you take a shower to make sure you’re extra clean?

    • Curia Regis

      Is this meant to be more evidence in support of the article? Seems that way to me.

  • alboy2

    This author clearly needs 1) writing lessons and 2) immediate medical help. WTF is wrong with you, dude? Are you really that insane?? Please see a competent therapist immediately, and stop taking your writing inspiration from Ayn Rand. You are a complete tool. “The Left has raped Beauty”?? Yeeah, right, and there are aliens among us. Piss off, you jackass.

    • kingmcdee

      Ad hom, Ad hom, Ad hom. When you have an argument to make, we’ll be listening.

    • pdxtb

      Just telling someone (quite justifiably, in this case) to go fuck themselves is not an ad hominem.

    • kingmcdee

      If it is not an Ad Hominem, then it is a non-argument. You will notice that he first stated that Mr. Wright “needs immediate medical help”. This is a claim that he is mentally deficient and so his opinion is worth nothing (if you can think of a more plausible interpretation of alboy2′s words here, feel free to lay it on me). If THAT isn’t an ad hominem, then what is? He also suggested that Mr.Wright was insane and called him “a complete tool”. That’s ad hominem. So no, it’s not an ad hom *just* to tell someone to go fuck themselves, but that’s *not* the only thing he did.

    • pdxtb

      Every wingnut in the world suddenly thinks he’s a logic expert now. Much to the hilarity of *everyone else* in the world. An ad hominem is not *any* personal attack, it’s a personal attack for the purpose of discrediting an argument. Me just saying “you are a tool” does nothing to discredit anything you’ve said, and it is not an ad hominem. Saying the author should “get medical help” is here obviously just meant as an insult, does nothing to discredit the author of this piece of garbage, and is not an ad hominem.

    • kingmcdee

      Very well, then! But you do realise that this is an admission that alboy2′s statement was a non-argument? That it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not Mr.Wright is, in fact, right? Thank you for conceding my point.

    • pdxtb

      Of course. It’s right there in plain English.

    • Porphyry

      Frankly it’s quite inspiring, the genius and general civility that comes forth from the party of the bleeding heart. One only wishes one’s own party members could be so dignified.

  • bekabot

    Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings? But isn’t that popular culture, and isn’t popular culture supposed to be the disappointing expedient we’re all turning to since we don’t get enough of the true soul-saving empurpled-pyre stuff from those whose job it is to hand it down to us? I’m confused. The rest of the passage rings true but the Tolkien part stands out like Vilya on the thumb of an orc. Is it really only that The Lord of the Rings is the only work mentioned which was produced after 1900, and that the rule being hammered out here is that we’re only supposed to like things which were made before then? Can it honestly be that simple? Or is my lefty spoil-sportiness running away with me?

  • Scott

    A well done criticism of ugly art – the attempted to tie ugly “art” to “left-wingers” bears contains as much rational thought as “piss christ” contains beauty . . . (in case you still have your head stuck up in your ivory tower of self-delusion, the answer is “none) -

  • Coiltesla

    The thing I like best about this essay is how you don’t realize how much your arguments mirror the sentiments of the “Degenerate Art” exhibit by the Nazi’s, except for the part where you blame The Left instead of The Jews for “Insolent mockery of the Divine under Centrist rule” and “Nature as seen by sick minds” and “Madness becomes method”. But y’know, just because Hitler and Goebbels presented the Avant Garde as a threat and championed a return to “true” beauty doesn’t make it bad. And yes, I have Godwinned this, but you make it so easy.

    • Curia Regis

      The leadership of your precious left is mostly Jews though, so you could easily replace “the left” with “the Jews” and the article would still be 100% correct.

  • Okra God

    Are the kids still playing on your lawn?

  • Corey Yates

    I would love someone to tell me the connection between a piece of art created in 1917 and a liberal from 2014.

    • Porphyry

      Apparently scientists have just discovered a “quantum entanglement gene” that causes inverse proportional relationships in art opinion. Which is what Wright is proposing as the cause of vast moral disintegration in the West. Its a daring hypothesis, but I’m not sure whether the hard science is there to back it up.

    • Curia Regis

      What a stupid statement. I suppose Thomas Edison is irrelevant to light bulbs and the ancient Greeks irrelevant to democracy. Moron.

  • George Cleveland

    You know nothing, John Wright. Even Plato saw art and beauty as two different things, with art being described as almost a mockery of beauty. Sheesh. If you’re going to write about something at least do some research.

  • Mike Hawk

    This is one of the most profoundly ignorant things I’ve ever read. It Thank you to the person who sent me the link.

    To the author: You might want to do a little reading on the subject (say, Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization, or perhaps anything by anyone not as stupid as you on the subject) before you open your mouth and start flapping the gums of idiocy. For example: Do you have a working definition of “beauty”? Is it mere sensuality? One quails to contemplate how shallow your “thinking” is.

  • grendelkhan

    I recognize that this may feel nitpicky, but this essay’s sensibility rests so thoroughly on its examples that I have to at least mention these things.

    Go into a modern art museum

    I did, recently, and saw The Cycle of Tragedy and Terror, constructed over five years in the classic fashion. You might as well judge Christianity by Fred Phelps, if you’re going to judge Art as a whole in this way.

    Have you, dear reader, read anything discussing beauty, putting forth a coherent theory of beauty, or even extolling beauty’s central importance of the human soul in a year? In 10 years? Ever?

    Sure I have! Here’s a beautiful essay by the Art Renewal Center on the “validity, power and beauty of the realist visual language”. Here’s Greg Egan in an interview saying that ” it’s worth putting aside the endless myopic navel-gazing that occupies so much literature, in order to look out at the universe itself and value it for what it is”, which is a bold aesthetic statement if ever there was. Craig Thompson’s Habibi is an extraordinary aesthetic achievement, the sort that involves the author burying himself in an ancient tradition and wringing something new from it.

    None of this necessarily matches your taste, but people are most certainly thinking about beauty, making beautiful things, and caring deeply about what makes things beautiful.

  • Michael Van Nuland

    many of those who argue how wrong this essay is demonstrate the success of the conditioning he discussed. You defend the ugly because you have been told that you must. So you do. Do not think critically, just defend.

  • Frank DiSalle

    Yeah, art sucks now because the free market is gone!

    Damn those nasty leftists for having the government take over the art world.

    Millionaires are now forbidden to invest in works of art.

    And every painting hung in a gallery must be painted by a left-handed black Jewish lesbian.

  • Herb Borkland

    Immediately below are desperately academic attempts to refute Mr. Wright’s central premise. They don’t wash. A simple historical truth supports irrefutably the essay’s argument. THERE HAS NOT BEEN A NEW ART MOVEMENT IN THE WEST SINCE THE SIXTIES — the decade when the Left took over culture and politics and education.
    So here is Mr. Wright’s point made with equal cogency and vigor but in a slightly different way…

  • Jesse Waugh

    Thank you John C. Wright for this article! I knew I wasn’t alone. I started an art movement called Pulchrism back in 2012. Pulchrism champions Beauty as the purpose of art. I wrote The Pulchrist Manifesto to announce the art movement.

    Following is a link to The Pulchrist Manifesto:

    And to a dissertation I wrote on the subject, entitled PULCHRISM: Championing Beauty as The Purpose of Art:

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