[-empyre-] Vor dem Gesetz/Before the Law, hoveringly

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Fri Nov 21 06:16:33 EST 2014

On Thu, 20 Nov 2014, Christina Spiesel wrote:

This is a long introduction to a simple thought: we need the arts to come 
to the rescue. I keep thinking of the art teacher in (Teresin?) who taught 
the interned young very advanced modernist aesthetic tools to express 
themselves even as they waited for transfer to extermination camps. Their 
wonderful works are on now display in Prague. Was it foolish to keep them 
spiritually alive in the face of atrocity or the best protest possible 
under the circumstances?  What comfort did the teaching give the teacher 
when all other sources of power were eliminated? And for the children? 
Didn't it give them an experience of freedom and possibilty?

We need arts both in the universities and out there in public spaces. And 
we need artists to keep themselves alive, somehow, both as beings and as 
creators. I believe that this is the counter story to the awfulness of our 
perceptions of the world these days. And there is always an 
inter-generational conversation between arts makers and their forebears, 
and hopefully, inventively, we'll find ways to play it forward.


Of course I agree with you, but what is happening is the reverse - budgets 
are being drastically cut back, arts in the schools are being eliminated, 
and even art colleges are suffering or turning into vocational schools for 
digital technicians who dream of the next big game but end up doing 
commercials. There are so many disconnects. I feel that the right wants 
less education - 1. It interferes with religious dogma; 2. It's an 
imposition from cabals with liberal agenda; 3. Those cabals are elsewhere 
and are dangerous; 4. It forces things like a belief in global warming 
upon us; 5. It teaches that slavery was all bad and overlooks the good 
slave-owners; 6. It interferes with producing well-behaved workers; and 7. 
It's going to break up _my_ family. So the result is a war on education 
and teachers, and the further result is an inability of a large number of 
people do understand the complexity of the world geopolitical system and 
its miserable consequences. ISIS becomes and produces spectacle and gains 
thereby, and education in so many areas of the world (not just the U.S., 
but Nigeria for a horrific example) is seen as dangerous, and decadent. If 
we can't even support decent K-12 in our own country, if we can't support 
the arts (which are notoriously underfunded here) or critical dialog, how 
can we act in the world at all? Who even knows where Syria, Iran, Iraq, 
are on the map? The difference between Sunni and Shiite?

This might as well apply to the United States, change the religion: "In 
1928, four years after the abolishment of the caliphate, the Egyptian 
schoolteacher Hasan al-Banna founded the first Islamic fundamentalist 
movement in the Sunni world, the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan 
al-Muslimun). Al-Banna was appalled by"the wave of atheism and lewdness 
[that] engulfed Egypt" following World War I. The victorious Europeans 
had"imported their half-naked women into these regions, together with 
their liquors, their theatres, their dance halls, their amusements, their 
stories, their newspapers, their novels, their whims, their silly games, 
and their vices." Suddenly the very heart of the Islamic world was 
penetrated by European"schools and scientific and cultural institutes" 
that" cast doubt and heresy into the souls of its sons and taught them how 
to demean themselves, disparage their religion and their fatherland, 
divest themselves of their traditions and beliefs, and to regard as sacred 
anything Western." ( http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/934 )

So the usual question: What is to be done?

- Alan

More information about the empyre mailing list