Posts Tagged ‘Cancel Culture’

The music of Peter Tchaikovsky is universal

March 20, 2022

From a letter by Peter Tchaikovsky to a friend:

We must always work, and a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.  If we wait for the mood, without endeavoring to meet it halfway, we easily become indolent and apathetic.  We must be patient, and believe that inspiration will come to those who can master their disinclination.  

A few days ago I told you I was working every day without any real inspiration.  Had I given way to my disinclination, undoubtedly I should have drifted into a long period of idleness.  But my patience and faith did not fail me, and today I felt the inexplicable glow of inspiration of which I told you; thanks to which I know beforehand that whatever I write today will have power to make an impression, and to touch the hearts of those who hear it.

I was indignant all the cancellations of performances of works by Russian composers, and demands that Russian musicians and singers denounce Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine.

I think my own government is wrong in a lot of ways, but, if I were abroad and people demanded I broadcast a denunciation of, say, Donald Trump, I would not do it.

Forced loyalty oaths are bad enough, because they do not signify loyalty, only that you are willing to bow to pressure.  Forced denunciations of one’s own government are even worse for the same reason.

But then it occurred to me that Tchaikovsky could not be canceled.  All his works were available online to me, and to anybody else with a computer.  I in fact could have listened to great music by great composers, including Russians, every night of my life, and I never took advantage of it.

I spent yesterday evening listening to a YouTube collection of short sections of Peter Tchaikovsky’s works.  I am not a great concert-goer or music-lover, and I was surprised at how familiar so much of this music sounded to me.  His music is part of world culture, including U.S. culture.  It will be remembered when Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky are forgotten.

LINKS

Putin’s Russia vs. Pushkin’s Russia by Gary Saul Morson for Quillette.

The Cancelation of Russian Culture by Gary Saul Morson for First Things.

Classical Music Cancels Russians by Heather MacDonald for City Journal.

Not everyone in the Western music world has lost courage and humanistic values by Gilbert Doctorow.

The passing scene: Links & comments 9/1/2021

September 1, 2021

Here are some links to writings I found interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us – What’s the Secret? by Atul Gowande for The New Yorker.

The average Costa Rican’s income is about one-sixth that of the average US American.  Yet Costa Ricans enjoy longer life expectancies, and are healthier by many other measures.

Atul Gowande wrote that Costa Rica, more than most nations, emphasizes public health—preventing infectious disease outbreaks, malnutrition, toxic hazards, sanitary problems and the like.  It also has clinics that provide free medical care to the whole population, rural as well as urban, poor as well as rich.

Costa Rica is admirable in many ways.  Surrounded by military dictatorships, it has been a democracy with no army for 72 years and counting.  It also is a leader in renewable energy and environmental preservation.

The Great Game of Smashing Nations by John Pilger for Consortium News.

One of the rationales for keeping troops in Afghanistan is to protect women from being oppressed by the Taliban.  But, as John Pilger pointed out, the women of Afghanistan were doing just fine in the 1980s.  Half the university students were women, and women made up 40 percent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 percent of its teachers and 30 percent of its civil servants.

But Afghanistan was friendly to the Soviet Union.  The U.S. government recruited fanatic anti-feminist jihadists to overthrow the Afghan government, in order to draw the Soviets into a quagmire war.  The plan succeeded.  The people of Afghanistan, especially the women, paid the price.

Mob Justice Is Trampling Democratic Discourse by Anne Applebaum for The Atlantic.

In today’s USA, you can lose your job and become a social outcast if someone accuses you of violating social codes have to do with race, sex, personal behavior or even acceptable humor–codes that, as Anne Applebaum wrote, may not have existed five years ago or even five months ago.

I’m reminded of the McCarthy period in the 1950s, which I’m old enough to remember.  You could be accused of being pro-Communist for trivial reasons or no reason at all.  The difference is that, in that era, most academics and journalists defended freedom of speech and association, which is not the case today.

Zeynep Tufekci on the Sociology of The Moment, an interview on Conversations with Tyler.

Zepnep Tufekci, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, is doing some of the best writing on the COVID-19 pandemic.  She was born in Turkey.

Here she is interviewed by the economist Tyler Cowen about the pandemic, Turkey and her ways of understanding things.

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Rod Dreher on the coming soft totalitarianism

November 18, 2020

Communism and Naziism were different from plain old run-of-the-mill tyrannies.  They were totalitarian, not merely authoritarian.

An authoritarian ruler is content with passive obedience.  Silence is enough to buy safety under authoritarian rule.

A totalitarian regime demands active and sincere support, without mental reservations.  Totalitarianism aspires to control not only your outward actions, but your inner thoughts.

The rise of totalitarianism in the 1930s and 1940s was new and frightening.  But after the defeat of the Axis powers in World War Two and the breakup of the Soviet Union following the Cold War, totalitarianism was seemingly defeated for good.

But the conservative Christian writer Rod Dreher, in his new book, LIVE NOT BY LIES: a Manual for Christian Dissidents, warns of the danger of a new form of totalitarianism.

The danger, in his view, consists of two converging forces: (1) the rise of what’s called “cancel culture” or “political correctness,” which seeks to punish people for unorthodox words and thoughts, and (2) the rise of surveillance technology, which gives the powers that be new tools for tracking down what you’ve said and thought.

You might say both fears are exaggerated.  Where is the equivalent of the Soviet Gulag or the Nazi concentration camps?

Dreher interviewed Christian dissidents who suffered under Communist rule, and they in fact see the seeds of a new totalitarianism in the USA and other Western countries.

It would be a “soft” totalitarianism, enforced by economic pressure and the pressure of public opinion.

People really do fear for their careers if they go on record as saying something unacceptable, even with the best of intentions.  It’s not just Christians or conservatives who suffer.  So do liberals or progressives who make a misstep.

It’s customary nowadays to search social media for things people may have said in the past that’s unacceptable now. 

Meanwhile high-tech companies such as Amazon offer services based on connecting everything in your life to the Internet.  This of course creates a record of everything you do. 

This information is sold to advertisers, marketers, bill collectors, insurance companies, credit rating agencies and anybody else with an interest in knowing about you, and also used to manipulate your mind.

It would be naive to think that your political and religious opinions are excluded from this, or that police and intelligence agencies don’t have access to this information.  We see a preview of what might happen in China’s social credit system.

I recommend Dreher’s book.  His fears are not exaggerated.  In fact, it is even broader than he makes out.  It is not just religious people and conservatives who are targeted.  Anybody of influence who is anti-war or anti-corporate is a target for cancellation.

And this is against a background in which the federal government asserts new powers to start wars, imprison whistleblowers, order assassinations and pressure social media companies to censor all those who depart from the official view.

I do not argue that you should be concerned about these issues rather than Dreher’s issues.  All these things are forces converging on the same outcome.

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‘Cancel’ culture and American politics

July 29, 2020

The following is the the results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a strongly libertarian organization, but the poll was conducted by YouGov, which is a reputable organization, so I don’t think these results are biased.

Now the poll did not reveal the specific political views that Americans are afraid to express, but if highly-educated Americans are more fearful of expressing their opinions than the rest of us, I don’t think these fears are restricted to neo-Nazis or Klansmen.

I think a lot of the USA’s problem are due to misgovernment by an entrenched elite, and I hope for the kind populist revival that Thomas Frank describes in his new book.

But the Cato poll indicates just how hard it will be to make that happen.  We are too divided among ourselves.

It used to be that most self-described liberals thought of ourselves as defenders of free speech for all.  No longer, apparently.

Donald Trump and the Republican leaders are not friends of free speech.  But the divisions indicated in these polls work to their advantage.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 7/17/2020

July 17, 2020

What Lies Ahead? by Jack Rasmus.  The USA is headed into a depression potentially equivalent to the Great Depression of the 1930s, which will be made worse by the coronavirus pandemic and climate-related emergencies.  The American government and other institutions are unprepared to deal with any of this.  It’s not just Donald Trump!

Economists on the Run by Michael Hirsh for Foreign Policy.  Paul Krugman admits that neoliberal globalization was a mistake.

Why 3rd Quarter Economic Recovery Will Falter by Jack Rasmus.

On the Recession, Stimulus and Economic Recovery by Dean Baker for Beat the Press.

Poor Whites Have Been Written Out of History for a Very Political Reason, an interview with Keri Leigh Merritt for Jacobin magazine.

“Cancel Culture,” Race and the Greed of the Billionaire Class by Thomas Neuberger for Down With Tyranny!

Don’t Be Fooled by the Cancel Culture Wars by Chris Hedges for ScheerPost.

The Obesity Era by David Berreby for Aeon.  The growth in obesity among Americans is generally attributed to poor diet and lack of exercise.  But maybe the cause is something deeper.

Civil liberties and “cancel culture”

July 15, 2020

One might expect the liberal-left to be among the strongest defenders of free speech at work, and of the right of workers to say what they wish, but too many have enthusiastically called upon employers to fire workers for alleged reactionary speech outside of the workplace, in effect cheering on at-will termination of employment, and embraced the multibillion-dollar human resources department–organized and employer-supervised “sensitivity training” industry, imposing top-down workshops, where workers are petrified they might say the wrong thing.

How this enhancement of the semifeudal powers of bosses to deliver 24/7 monitoring of workers’ speech is going to advance the trade union movement is a mystery.

The Threat to Civil Liberties Goes Way Beyond “Cancel Culture” by Leigh Phillips for Jacobin magazine.