Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm saying it's time for us to reassess our conceptions of the West

Warrior for the word Pages 1 2 3 4 5 At the end of the introduction, you write: "I am uncertain about whether the West's chaotic personalism can prevail against the totalizing creeds that menace it. Hence it is critical that we reinforce the spiritual values of Western art, however we define them." It has a markedly a different note than "Sexual Personae," which is largely celebratory and optimistic about Western culture.
But no, actually. "Sexual Personae" is about decadence! -- the beautiful decadence of Western civilization. There I say I am a decadent, and I celebrate it, but I don't know how long the West is going to last. If our popular culture is equivalent to Hellenistic culture during the Roman republic and empire, I have no idea if we are going to last 50 years or 500 years. But there is no doubt that there is an end to every civilization, whether it's from some climatological disaster or invasion or something else. I mean, last December's tsunami showed everyone that my vision in "Sexual Personae" of nature was right -- that we just huddle here on the thin, brittle skin of the globe. Civilizations rise and fall. I'm saying it's time for us to reassess our conceptions of the West. In all its failings, the West has produced a great art tradition.
So I'm saying to the left: Stop bad-mouthing your own civilization; get over it, you little twerps. I'm saying to the religious far right: If we are defending Western civilization, as you claimed in the incursion into Iraq, then you'd better realize it's much more than Judeo-Christianity and the Bible. You'd better get real and accept that we have a Greco-Roman tradition of literature and art that started in 700 BC. And yes, some of it deals, quite frankly, with sex and the body; you must deal with it and allow students to deal with it, because that is part of the brilliant strength of our arts. I'm demanding that conservatives support the arts and that liberals stop being so snobby about art and quit celebrating art that is simply cheap sacrilege of other people's beliefs.
Artists have got to get back to studying art history and doing emotionally engaged art. Get over that tired postmodern cynical irony and hip posing, which is such an affliction in the downtown urban elite. We need an artistic and cultural revival. Back to basics! Camille Paglia, from a 2005 interview 1:26 PM

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