Talking Movies

September 1, 2019

The Cultural Waterwheel

Filed under: Talking Books — Fergal Casey @ 12:39 pm

I’ve been reading Matthew Arnold again, and, even as I’ve enjoyed the pompous old ass’s writings more than I ever previously did, it’s struck me that we’re failing more than ever at living up to his high standards for what constitutes Culture as opposed to Anarchy…

Matthew Arnold held that culture meant informing yourself of the best that has been known and thought. Was that ever a realistic proposition? CP Snow after all insisted that people in the humanities ought to feel ashamed for not knowing the three laws of thermodynamics or understanding quantum physics.  And now, you must see the good blockbuster, you must see the interesting art-house films; there is no place for personal tastes to say no, I don’t want to see that film. And that is before we get to the rise of the streaming services…

Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy. No one feels the need to actually go and read Darwin, Smith, Locke, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Freud, Jung – everything is presumed on, and built upon. Could anyone keep up with the pace of modern cultural production? Could anyone keep up with the pace of commentary on modern cultural production? And should one even try? Might it not be best to simply do a Franzen and drop out from this nonsense?

Try it. Don’t check Twitter, Facebook or Gmail for a week and see how much of actual consequence you miss. How much that you will remember for a long time rather than for a week tops. You’ll be surprised.

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