Thursday, January 8, 2015

Beat the Drum! Equally!

Tom Service, who has done a lot of good work in the past, reveals a dispiriting moral stupidity in his latest at the Guardian: "Classical Music in 2014 - still dominated by dead white men's music performed by living white men". And written about by other living white men, like Tom Service. Before I deliver the kind of bashing this kind of thing richly deserves, let's savor a quote:
I wish this was only a cliché, but even though things have improved in a small way since 2013 - when there was only one single female conductor in the top 100 busiest maestros (this year there are four times as many, but four out of 100 is hardly breaking new ground for gender equality); and if in 2013 there were no women at all in the top 150 most performed composers, at least this year Sofia Gubaidulina claws her way to no. 132 in the list), it’s clear that the institutions of classical music, above all the orchestras and opera houses, are moving at a collectively glacial pace when it comes to equal gender representation.
I said "moral stupidity" for this is what it is. It is also racist and gender biased to an absurd degree. People like Tom tend to live in a monoculture where everyone shares precisely the same opinions and are deeply offended when anyone disagrees. So, Tom and your fellow-travelers, prepare to be offended.

"Equal gender representation" is a moral good only to those people whose moral compass has been crushed by indoctrination. Equality is one of those treacherous ideas that can be morally good or bad. If it means that everyone must be treated equally fairly according to the demands of justice, then it is a good. If it means that the Vienna Philharmonic must have precisely 50% women, 50% men and the exact quotas of Asian and other visible minorities according to the regional demographics then it is a horrible travesty of justice. To people like Tom Service, it is an assumption so basic that it cannot even be questioned. He doesn't even realize that citing with great moral fervor how few women composers are in the top 150 does not jibe with the statistics of most performed composers he also cites. All the top ten composers are male: surely, according to Tom's criteria, this is equally a moral failing and classical music must move towards performing precisely equivalent numbers of works by male and female composers (and yes, with the previously mentioned racial quotas as well).


This is the implication and none of these thumb-sucking articles ever state it openly. But it is inherently absurd. If audiences and performers have made Beethoven the most performed composer last year, then the reasons for that were very likely due to the quality of his music. Any interference with this through crude indoctrination or government regulation would be a moral evil as it cuts directly against the freedoms of the artists and their audiences. Given what absurdities are currently practiced in the UK, it wouldn't surprise me if, especially after reading a few more articles like this, the government did not proposes legislation stipulating how many performances of female versus male composers will be required by law.

Articles like Tom's and a thousand others, only are acceptable to the extent that they conceal their basic assumptions. As soon as you state them clearly, their absurdity is evident. According to Tom's moral code, tonight when I am deciding what music to listen to, I must choose it according to equal gender representation!

This whole moral morass is an example of cultural Marxism, the appeal to collective identity, which is a direct assault on the true principles of justice and fairness according to which individuals must be treated as individuals. The implied collective guilt of "white men" is a moral, historical, legal and aesthetic absurdity. It is just and fair that Beethoven be performed more than another composer (male, female, black or Asian) simply because his music has earned it aesthetically.

Politically, Marxism has proved very useful to autocrats of all sorts. But it has consistently proved ruinous to those very people it purports to help. We have seen this over and over again in the sphere of economics, it is just as true in the field of aesthetics.

I think we need to hear some Beethoven at this point. Here is the Violin Concerto played by Anne Sophie Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Seiji Ozawa:

(and I did not choose Mutter because she is a woman, nor Ozawa because he is Japanese, but simply because they perform this music well.)


Rickard Dahl said...

Well, given writing such as Tom Service's article here and writings of people like Jessica Valenti (who is a radical feminist that writes the most absurd stuff imaginable, including arguing that tampons should be free (i.e. through tax) and that men should be paid less for the same work as women because of the supposed wage gap (the gap that has been debunked countless times through actual analysis of statistics etc. and use of logic)) it's easy to wonder what kind of low standards The Guardian has for who they hire or the quality of the articles in general. Of course, Tom Service has at least some good writing to balance out the trash so it may be forgivable.

In general it's a good idea to boycott mainstream media as they tend to provide biased views of things and there are plenty of stupid journalists writing completely absurd and irrational things too (see Jessica Valenti for a superb example of this). I'm even boycotting Metro even though it's free, too much cultural marxism there.

Anyways, back to the core of the issue: All this marxist equal outcome stuff is pure nonsense. The types of "arguments" the people supporting this tend to have is "evil white cisgendered heterosexual men", "check your privilege", "white guilt", "misogyny", "patriarchy" and so on. These type of arguments seem to stem from a lack of or bad understanding of reality.

It's true for instance that white men have done most of the innovations in technology and engineering, most great artistic and musical endeavors and so on. However there are many reasons why. I think the main reasons boil down to civilization. Wherever there is civilization there tends to be progress. The Chinese had their inventions, art etc. which the Europeans didn't. The Arabs had a blooming civilization that made mathematical progress when the Europeans were in the dark ages. And so on. However the main differences between European civilization and the rest of the World came when Europe was able to move away from the dark ages and the civilization has lasted so far thanks to all the progress that was made in Europe and later in America. I think one of the reasons for its' success was that we had knowledge from other civilizations to build upon, primary the Greek and the Romans (on the shoulder of giants like Newton put it). Now it's true that the European civilization was exploitative through colonization but that's the nature of civilizations. Civilizations are expanded in search for resources and influence. The situation is like it is and no amount of "white guilt" will change the facts.

I don't know what the future will hold but it looks like Western civilization is in decline, both cultural and economic. It wouldn't be surprising if we are heading for collapse or if at least the World's economic power is moving to East Asia (might even be a good time to learn mandarin).

There's an interesting theory that the historical progress made in North America, Europe and Asia is partially due to that it's easier to spread plants used for food, for instance wheat, along similar longitudes (West-East) and more difficult to spread it in latitudinal (North-South) direction which is why Africa or America (before colonization) had more trouble in developing/spreading civilization/s. But I digress.

Rickard Dahl said...

Anyways, whether in music, art, literature, video games, movies etc. you can only real judge things from an aesthetically standpoint. Trying to judge these types of things with regards to external details is a futile matter. It's almost as if Tom doesn't understand the difference. In the end it will be the aesthetic quality and taste of consumers that will decide what is hot and what is not (so to speak). Well, I'm a bit tired from writing this comment and you already said what needs to be said but I will conclude with:

I think marxism appeals to people who see themselves in their current position as a result of external circumstances and see themselves as unable to get away from the circumstances, thus demand others (mainly governments) to help them rather than looking internally and examining their lives and what they themselves can do in order to improve their lives.
I don't know if it's true but I've heard that the welfare systems are in fact contributing to more poverty as opposed to a more free market capitalistic system. With welfare there's basically no reason to strive for more.

Bryan Townsend said...

Cui bono? as the Romans said. It is always the case that political ideologies are supported by those people who are likely to benefit from them. The puzzle with this kind of ideology is that it has been so successful in gaining the support of those who are, like Tom Service, white European males, most likely to be harmed by it.

Anonymous said...

In 2013, the most performed composer in the UK was Benjamin Britten, a composer of limited talent. Perhaps things are more complicated...

Rickard Dahl: Why in the world would the Guardian feature Jessica Valenti is a mystery.

Rickard Dahl said...

I think I was a bit unclear in explaining the theory about historical progress due to spreading of plants like wheat. Basically a plant such as wheat trives in similar climates and generally the climates are more similar if you go East or West rather than North or South. For instance Russia (primarily Siberia), Scandinavia and Canada have similar types of climates and thus similar types of plants (and animals) thrive in those areas. However there's a bigger difference in climate when going North or South such as when comparing Scandinavia and the Mediterranean Region and thus (while not always the case) the same plants won't generally thrive in both climates. Of course with modern agriculture it's possible to bypass some of these limitations but in a historical context the technology wasn't available. The theory is that due to these circumstances it was historically easier to spread an empire across parts of Europe and Asia due to more similarities in climate as opposed to spreading an empire across Africa where the climates differ more vastly due to the shape of Africa (more spread in North-South direction).

Anyways, maybe the word civilization could be replaced with empire in some places in my comment.

Another example of how the degree of prosperity and civilization influences progress in art (as in umbrella term for literature, painting, music, movies etc.) is to look at video games. Video games is a relatively new medium of art and most of the development/progress of important (and also less important) video games was made in North America, Europe and Japan. This is not surprising at all because those places have good economies and are basically prosperous nations and were also such at the time when the video game industry was in its' infancy. One could look at other industries such as the automotive industry and see the same thing. Once again: Most cars are developed in Europe, North America and Japan (or East Asia in general) although most of the manufacturing is elsewhere.

Well, actually the most vocal supporters of cultural marxism seem to be upper class young white men and women, or at least that's the case with their recent attack on video games. See Anita Sarkeesian, Johnathan McIntosh and Alex Lifschitz for examples.

It's ironic that (cultural) marxists say they fight against racism, sexism etc. when they use those things themselves. Part of their ideology is that they think that there are oppressors and oppressed but that the oppressed can't be oppressing. So according to them you can't be racist against whites or sexist against men.

An interesting thing to note regarding self-proclaimed communists: Actually they see communism as an utopia where everyone is equal basically and shares everything equally out of their own "free" will, a kind of communist anarchy. But first to reach that stage there needs to be a tyrannical government which convinces people to share etc. (that's basically the stage which all the "communist" countries have reached). Eventually as time goes on the government would reduce its' influence as people do the sharing more automatically until the utopia is reached.

Bryan Townsend said...

I think Britten is quite a good composer, but the high numbers for performances in 2013 were due to it being his centenary.

Looking at the comments to the original Tom Service article I see that quite a few people were very critical of his approach.