Life is being gradually forced out by death, culture – by glamour and kitsch
The white ribbon movement [the 2011-2012 Russian anti-governmental movement that nearly ended in a Ukraine-style maidan coup in Moscow – translator’s note] has lost a part of its positions on the political field. But the division of society into two groups, which it brought about (into a “creative” one and a “conservative” one) had firmly entered the the country’s cultural life. This way, music critic Artemy Troitsky writes in Novaya Gazeta that “Humanity owes all of its development to the intellectuals, movers and shakers, artists, saints, daredevils, unmercenaries, heroes.” Everything seems to be correct. But then Troitsky specifies, “To the creative class.”
These are the people, according to him, whom “the authorities have consciously exterminated throughout the past century”, and now the authorities “force [them] out of the country and active life.” Meanwhile, only “the creative class”, according to Troitsky, can save Russia. “No one and nothing in Russia will move in the foreseeable future. This is death. The end of a great country’s history.”
We had heard multiple times that, without the aid of the so-called creative class, Russia will turn into a kind of an Oriental despotism. But now they talk about a possible “end of the history of a country.” And about a savior in the form of the “creative class.” It is necessary to pose a question here, what did the “creative class” turn Russia into? Is this class not responsible for the processes occurring in Russia? Has it not contributed to the current truly dire situation?
So why does this murderer of culture deserve to be delegated the role of its savior? Because this is exactly what some people are doing, even though they are far from stupid.
The prominent movie critic Daniil Dondurey asked Vladimir Putin during a meeting of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights of Russia to task the Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications with the independent analysis of the content in television programming. In order to justify the necessity of such research, he gave an example – titles of TV shows aired in one week on the Russian NTV channel. The selection featured: Homies-3, Rules of Hijacking, Homies Stand Together, Cold Cases [the Russian TV series, not the US’ procedural Cold Case – translator’s note]. In addition to that, NTV airs the Emergency Situation program three times per day, which tells about crimes, while news broadcasts and other documentary formats regularly air stories on cannibals and serial killers.
Dondurey explains the interest towards these topics in a simple fashion. Commerce, nothing personal. “In order for the viewers to keep their TV sets constantly on, it is easiest to use the so-called reductive selection, in other words, to move downwards, to the subconscious, to instincts, to rely on the sense of danger, interest towards rumors, and pathologies. Meanwhile, striving upwards, towards personal development and intellect, drastically decreases the audience, and therefore, deprives the TV channels of money.”
But did our “creative ones” not strive for such commercialization of culture in general and television in particular? Did they not do this by denouncing Soviet culture, which, incidentally, pulled people upwards?
It is impossible for Dondurey not to understand this! Just like he must understand something else. That post-Soviet culture had broken down into kitsch and glamour. Dondurey fairly condemns kitsch, which is being constructed in order to entertain the mass audience. But how is glamour better than kitsch? It has the same anti-cultural nature.
What solution is suggested for the situation on hand? The following. Dondurey suggests to find support in… that same “creative class”! According to him, there are “four to five million people in the country who are interested in complex things,” and “these people make all the scientific achievements, feed the country, govern it.” The “creative class” can engage in “nurturing a ‘second nation’, residents of a new Russia,” according to the film critic. He adds that only culture can teach “both Russian nations, the conservative one and the one craving change, to live together.”
The “creative class” is not going to nurture anything. It wants to live for itself. And to create that which tickles its pseudo-creative ears, and precisely that is glamour.
Glamour against kitsch is the conflict that they try to create now by exclaiming, “This kitschy scum does not accept our glamour!” But in the end, glamour and kitsch will come to terms. They will unite against their common enemy, which is culture. Glamour and kitsch alike hate culture. Something very familiar can be seen in this hatred: “When I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun”.
Glamour and kitsch alike are anti-humanistic. And there is no culture outside of humanism.
Someone can tell me that culture is capable of building itself upon the denial of humanism. And they will give me examples. I agree, but only in part. Culture can build itself in such a fashion only until, and only because, there is humanism. Even if this culture only wishes to express its disapproval towards it and to remain culture, humanism has to be there. When it is not there, then there is no culture. No culture, neither the one praising, nor the one cursing humanism.
Fascists came to power in Spain as a result of general Francisco Franco’s coup of 1936. Millán-Astray, a close friend of general Franco’s and the commander of the Spanish Foreign Legion in Marocco, was appointed in charge of propaganda. The Foreign Legion was famous for its violence and atrocities. The legionnaires greeted general Primo de Rivera, who came to inspect the Spanish forces in Africa, by holding bayonets with human heads on them in their hands. The motto of the Foreign Legion was the slogan “Viva la muerte!” (“Long live death!”).
One of Millán-Astray’s deputies colorfully explained the reason why the Spanish monarchy did not hold up to foreign journalists. Spain, according to him, was brought to ruin by the sewer system. Everything was fine when the sewage was poured on the streets and caused diseases and plague among the poor, the majority of the “lowlifes” did not survive. The invention of the sewer system tilted this favorable balance, leading to devastating consequences for the elite.
So, what did the fascist culture, which reveled in its anti-humanism, aristocratism, etc., give us? It gave us various combinations of glamour and kitsch. Over the years, it became clear to what extent precisely such transformations are characteristic of fascist culture, and to what extent are they tied to its fight against humanism.
It is possible to fight humanism without ceasing to be culture as a special kind of delicacy, and in quite small doses. When such a fight becomes a norm of life and takes place constantly, then culture completely disappears. It gives way to the abomination of glamour-kitsch.
The “creative class” in modern Russia had long stopped giving a damn about humanism, and it obtained a corresponding anti-cultural quality. While calling others “fascists”, this class keeps demonstrating its own fascist essence. A quote from Bozhena Rynska’s [a Russian blogger and opposition figure – translator’s note] blog, “In my opinion, a disabled person has all the rights healthy people have, but he has no rights to advantage. For example, they don’t have the right to poison healthy people’s lives. We, relatively healthy people, owe such a person nothing for the fact that this person got the short straw either at birth, or in the course of his life… Endless concessions to the weak are the betrayal of the strong. It becomes very much disadvantageous to be strong.”
Among similar statements are the words of Smolensk Legislative Assembly member Andrey Ershov. During a meeting on the question of allocating public transportation funds for former child prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps, he said, “What is our debt to them? That they weren’t finished off?”
In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II condemned anti-humanism, defining it as “a war of the powerful against the weak.” Just imagine, he called this war a “conspiracy against life.” Against life, do you understand?
Fascists attempted to represent themselves as friends of life, calling Christians the enemies of life for obstructing the triumphant establishment of the powerful. John Paul II wrote, “A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated.” This is the kind of a stance that he calls a “conspiracy against life.” And he is right. Because everything begins with contraposing the disgusting life-denying humanism and the splendid life-promoting anti-humanism. And it ends with glorifying death and denouncing life.
Progressive intellectuals tried fighting the “conspiracy against life” back in the 1920s. This way, in May 1925 Benedetto Croce published The Manifesto of the Anti-Fascist Intellectuals in the Italian newspaper Mondo. In the Manifesto he declared incompatibility of fascism and culture. In 1935 this thesis was expanded upon by such writers as Heinrich Mann, André Gide, Isaak Babel, Bertolt Brecht, Louis Aragon, Romain Rolland, and others on the Paris Congress. The main motto of the congress was the urge to “Save culture from fascism!” The artists realized that where fascism resides, there is no humanism. Where is no humanism, there is no culture.
Fascists had proudly called their anti-culture comprised of glamour and kitsch “the new culture”. But a new culture has to be created, not proclaimed. It soon turned out that it is impossible to create it without humanism. It also turned out that, having freed oneself from humanism, one will glorify death even if one wishes to glorify life.
Fascist mysticism must become the basis of “new culture” – this was the thesis proposed during the Anti-Idealist Congress, which took place in Rome in 1934. At the foundation of this mysticism was “joy of life and, if it is necessary, joy of death.” “The most important thing to us, fascists, is not to live long, but to live industriously,” claims The First Book of Fascism published in Rome in 1938. “We, Germans, may not know how to live, but we perfectly know how to die!”, proclaimed a character in the famous fascist movie Morgenrot.
Life was being gradually forced out by death, culture – by glamour and kitsch. Hitler had an eye in both. He picked the best pieces of glamour and kitsch for fascist exhibitions. Culture was something he did not need.
I want to note here that kitsch and glamour can be of quite a fine quality. But they are not culture. I suggest to carefully watch in this sense the glamour-kitsch eclectic created by the very gifted Leni Riefenstahl. For example, her film Olympia, based on the Olympics that took place in Germany in 1936.
The form is there – the human isn’t.
True culture is a message about humans. It is necessary to revere humans in order to create such a message. This is the essence of humanism, which is inaccessible to fascism to the same degree as to our “creative class.”
Ludwig Klages, one of the founders of modern psychology, was one of the highly esteemed and peculiar “philosophers” of Nazi Germany. Klages thought that the body and soul of a person are tightly connected. Together, they create a united pole in tune with the cosmos. In addition to the soul and body, there also exists the spirit or the mind, which denies life and is hostile towards matter. The mind promotes the creation of consciousness, personality. As a result, the soul becomes a slave to the consciousness. Yet, the life of body and soul, according to Klages, is absolutely valuable and harmonious. Humans must exist in unity with nature. As a positive example, Klages referred to prehistoric culture, mythology, and orgiastic cults.
First comes the eradication of humanism… Then the dissolution of the alliance between the spirit and the soul. Then, orgiastic cults glorifying nature and condemning humans. Then, the condemnation of nature and glorification of its opposite – death. Klages dissolves the ties between the soul and the living spirit, and in the end surrenders both the soul and the body to the mercy of the dead spirit. That is the fate of anyone who consistently walks the path of anti-humanism. The path our own “creative class” ecstatically walks for the past twenty years.
So what is left is only to marvel at Daniil Dondurey’ naivety, when he proposes “the creative ones” as a cure against the progressive decay. Or perhaps this is not naivety, but cynicism?
The only chance to avoid the catastrophe of culture and a full-fledged triumph of anti-culture together with everything that follows from this is war. War for humanism, which means war for culture. In this war it is possible to find support on islands not affected by the glamorous, kitschy, and anti-humanistic decay. It is pointless to look for these islands inside of the self-proclaimed “creative class”. It was just as pointless to look for them inside of the same social entities in the era of Ancient Rome’s decline, or in the era of pre-revolutionary Russian decadence. It is necessary to look for response, support, and true creativity in different communities.
He who seeks will find.
Source (for copy): https://eu.eot.su/?p=16691&preview=true
This is the translation of the article (first published in the Essence of Time newspaper issue 5 on November 21, 2012) by Maria Ryzhova on the culture of death. Fascism worships death and, at the same time, turns death into means of achieving its inhumane goals, from enslavement to extermination. Last time they failed, and so now they try to enter through the back door, make people accept death.