The Craven Conformity and Pseudo-Rebelliousness of the Left
First of all, I did not do this. Rather, I specifically stated that I adore the music produced by black culture -- of which I am only an honorary member, by decree of my half black cousin, Dupree, whose father is supposedly the musician Pinetop Perkins -- and regard its various musical idioms to be America's greatest contribution to world art. Frankly, I'm not sure what would be in second place. I suppose the films of the 1940's and the American musical theater. And perhaps the poems of Suzanne Sommers.
While angry, the troll is not surprised at my perfidy, as it seems that I am simply attempting to hide under cover of blackness due to "the recent total collapse of any possible defense of neo-conservative ideas and fundamentalist dogma." He does not enumerate the conservative (which is to say, classical liberal) ideas that can no longer be defended, nor does he outline how I fit the definition of a weird dogmatic fundamentalist -- the weirdness I will cop to -- but he seems to be suggesting yesterday's post was an exercise in flailing about and trying to find something for which I can blame the left, since my own fanatical Bush/Rove/Free Market/Fundamentalist Christian ideas have been so thoroughy discredited.
In other words, this fellow Jonwo is a bit of a psychologist. He's telling me that I don't really believe what I believe, but am engaged in some sort of paranoid defense mechanism whereby I lash out at the left as a way to ignore the reality of my crumbling world view. Could be.
Regarding black music, he writes, "It's certainly safe for you to claim [it] as your own now, isn't it? Now that the rough veneer of actual rebelliousness has been polished to a safe and genteel shine? Glad you and your golf buddies are so musically progressive out in the suburbs. Would you and your caddie [have] been so accepting hanging out with these same heroin-addicted, frequently crazy and passionate poor black folks when they were alive? Of course not. It would be Lawrence Welk all the way. Once dead you can gussy them up and try and make them belong to you. Coltrane's Christ is not your Christ and his Christianity is not your Christianity. Don't demean his work by attempting to lump him with your other half-baked generalizations. By the by, if you discover that you are unable to make a point without resorting to weak generalizations, you should sit down and think about what it is you believe."
Yes, this is a stupid and infantile rant, but it is important to analyze it, for it does reflect certain ruling ideas of the left. First, it is thoroughly racist, which almost goes without saying, for there is no leftism without racism. But even before that, there is another fanciful assumption, that religion equates to fundamentalism, which equates to dogma and absence of reason, for he writes,
"The sad fact for many modern conservatives is that they have allowed the faith-based voodoo talk of the fundamentalists to replace any vestige of the reason-based ideas and discourse of the old conservatives. We've ended up with a generation of Republicans unable to put simple ideas together."
First there is the ubiquitous conflation of Republicanism with conservatism. But more noteworthy is how the "new liberals" always claim to be in common cause with the "old conservatives." Witness Time magazine's recent cover story with the photoshopped tear on the face of Ronald Reagan. Leftists now supposedly pine for the old days of Reagan conservatism, when in reality, if you check out a Time magazine from the 1980s, you will see that they routinely mocked and excoriated Reagan as an addle-brained extremist, just as they mock Bush today.
Thus, the left does exactly what Jonwo accuses me of doing, that is, reinventing the past in order to make it serviceable for present ideological needs. You will find that they are doing the same with Goldwater, resurrecting him as a sensible conservative, nothing at all like these extremists running loose today. But if you read what liberals actually wrote at the time, it was just as full of hatred and bile as the present denunciations of imaginary "Jew-loving Christian fascist neo-cons."
Jonwo does something that one should always avoid, which is to confuse art and politics. He writes, "It sounds as though you have a nice collection of music created by people who would despise your politics, which is perhaps why you have such an odd tension between your musical tastes and your social conservatism. Interesting."
First of all, the feelings an artist has about my politics are completely irrelevant to both their production of the art and my enjoyment of it. I do not have to be a great admirer of Napoleon in order to enjoy the Eroica symphony, nor am I troubled by the fact that if Beethoven knew that I preferred a representative republic over a dictatorship, he'd probably thrash me about the head and shoulders with his baton. Nevertheless, I suppose it is "ironic," in a way, that Beethoven was inspired to produce this great work of art by political ideals I find objectionable. How about that?
Perhaps the most notorious example is Wagner, whom a fair number of people believe to be the greatest composer -- in fact, the greatest genius, bar none -- the world has ever known, despite his vicious anti-Semitism.
Jonwo asks if I and my caddie, Dupree, would enjoy hanging out with "poor, crazy, heroin-addicted, black folks" today. That is a good question. I know that Dupree would in a heartbeat, which indeed is one of his "issues." As for me, I wouldn't want to go on an amphetamine binge with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and stay up for a week (not today, anyway -- bad for diabetes), but it doesn't mean I can't enjoy their music.
I myself used to be an artist of sorts. Not really, but I was in a band, and we didn't want to not be artists. Yeah, that's me:
Mostly we wanted to extend our adolescence and forestall adulthood for as long as possible. In fact, one of the things that impeded my career was that I had other options available to me. I could avoid the horror of a conventional "day gig" by becoming a psychologist, of all things. It seems that many popular artists are alienated *losers* of sorts, without other options in life, which gives them a certain desperate ambitiousness that I never possessed. Someone like John Lennon would have been in prison or on the dole had he not been Elvis Beatle. Outside that context, he was a completely dysfunctional person. One could cite hundreds of other examples. As the Mother expressed it, artists often
"live in the vital plane, and the vital part of them is extremely sensitive to the forces of that world and receives from it all kinds of impressions and impulsions over which they have no controlling power. And often too they are very free in their minds and do not believe in the petty social conventions and moralities that govern the life of ordinary people. They do not feel bound by the customary rules of conduct and have not yet found an inner law that would replace them."
Amen to that, Mother!
Speaking of my days in the band, it is something of a truism that artists and artistic wannabooze down through the centuries have taken advantage of whatever was available at the time in order to facilitate "non-ordinary" experiences, whether it was religion, herbal remedies, absinthe, morning glory, belladonna, heroin, amphetamine, psychedelics, what have you. But it is not as if anyone can simply take a drug and become an artist. Supposedly, this is the reason so many jazz musicians were hooked on heroin during the 1940s and '50s. They were so in awe of Charlie Parker's talent, that they thought perhaps his secret lay (or is it lie? -- help me out here, Martin) in the substance he was injecting. Thus, if you look at my profile, you will see that many of my favorite musicians were heroin addicts at one time or another: Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Art Pepper, Jackie McLean, and Bill Evans, not to mention Lee Morgan, Phil Woods, Ray Charles, Grant Green, and so many others.
Does this mean that I have to be a rebellious heroin addict to enjoy their musical accomplishments? Of course not. First of all, Kenny G. or Wynton Marsalis could take heroin all day, but it would not elevate their art. And most of the above musicians produced better music once they stopped using heroin.
When I began exploring jazz in the early '90s, it was simply because I had hit a certain wall with other musical forms and was in search of something deeper. I began in the middle, with people like John Coltrane, but found it too daunting, so I returned to the beginning and educated myself in the same order that the music organically developed, from New Orleans "trad jazz," through big band and small group swing, and on to bop, cool, third stream, hard bop, post bop, avant-garde and fusion.
Eventually I settled on a particular period between around 1959 and 1967 (with many notable outliers in both directions), during which time the genre of "freebop" or avant-garde small group jazz reached its artistic apex. And if you want to know why I love this music, it is because it combines a maximum of order and spontaneity, which, as a matter of fact, is an exact mirror of my classical liberal political philosophy and the basic pattern of spiritual and psychological evolution. It takes incredible discipline and sensitivity to play this music, and yet, it is always right on the verge of chaos. It's not just the music I like -- i.e., the order -- but the chaos. But if the chaos goes any further, it ventures into "free jazz" -- AKA, musical anarchy -- which I do not like.
And as a matter of fact, the development of free jazz was completely tied up with the afrocentric political movement of radical black liberation. Chord progressions and structure are for slaves! That's the white man's music! As always, when art explicitly merges with a political program, it generally becomes time-bound didacticism and not art. Bob Dylan's most forgettable songs are from his early days as part of the leftist movement -- "Masters of War," and the like. His art took a quantum leap forward when he left the tediously earnest left behind, and began playing with the possibilities of language to explore the interior landscape.
Now, it is a mildly interesting question to ask: who's "cooler," modern liberals (i.e., leftists) or traditional liberals (i.e., conservatives)? Who's more hip, more free-thinking, more open to experience, more "rebellious" and non-conforming? Not that any of these things are worthwhile on their own in the absence of real intellectual or spiritual substance, but one of the biggest surprises of my life has been how startlingly conformist and parochial my baby-boomer generational cohort became. These people were supposed to be the great questioners of authority, but most of these craven conformists haven't taken a new cognitive imprint since the 1960s or early-'70s -- which we see every day in the MSM. Who could possibly be more predictable and vacuously conformist than Katie Couric, Maureen Dowd, Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews, or Keith Olbermann? Have they ever had a creative thought in their lives -- not counting paranoid creativity? Doubtful.
Clearly, leftism represents the entrenched interests of the day, as they have taken over virtually every influential institution. They have control of television, Hollywood, academia, the arts, labor unions, the major daily newspapers, the biggest websites (dailykos and huffpo) and virtually all of the major professional organizations, including my own pathetic pressure group, the American Psychological Association.
Conservatives have, what, the Washington Times, the editorial pages of the WSJ, talk radio, and Fox (which is really more populist than conservative).
I believe my philosophy is much closer to the aesthetic ideals of my musical heroes because, like them, my posts, for better or worse, are a combination of discipline and spontaneity. I had to spend half my life disciplining and preparing myself, and now I am spending the second half improvising and riffing on what I internalized along the way. Mind jazz, baby! It's not for leftist squares and moldy figs. What they don't know -- cannot know -- is that genuine religion is by far the greatest form of adult entertainment, emphasis on the word adult, for it is so much more musically and harmonically deep than the screechy and repetitive horizontal ditties of the left.
Classical liberalism, like the greatest art and the great religious revelations, will still be around in 10,000 years, whereas bonehead leftism will have been long forgotten, if only because the world will not survive another 10,000 years should leftism prevail in our current three-party civil war between Islamism, leftism and liberalism. "Integrating" them in the manner of Ken Wilber (TW: Alan) is a non-starter.
There is nothing to prevent a Yogi from being an artist or an artist from being a Yogi. But when you are in Yoga, there is a profound change in the values of things, of art, as of everything else; you begin to look at art from a very different standpoint. It is no longer the one supreme all-engrossing thing for you, no longer an end in itself. Art is a means, not an end...
If you want art to be the true and highest art, it must be the expression of a divine world brought down into this material world.... If you consider it in this light, art is not very different from Yoga.... In both, the aim is to become more and more conscious; in both you have to learn to see and feel something that is beyond the ordinary vision and feeling, to go within and bring out from there deeper things. --The Mother, Conversations on Yoga
The fellows I played with, Dave and Eddie, went on to form the group Sun 60.