Arcadia, Accademia dell’

“Italian literary academy founded in Rome in 1690 to ‘to exterminate bad taste and to see to it that it shall not rise again.'”  The academy was directed at Marinism, a poetic style dominant in 17th century Italy.

America is filled to the throat with bad taste.  The landscape shrubs around our homes are all-but-impossible-to-kill; practical, but ugly; invariably placed with exact symmetry; and trimmed into tedious repetitions of cones, cubes, and globes.  Even the word “shrub” conveys the ugliness.  Likewise, our music and television programs are usually of poor taste: neither conceived nor performed skillfully.

Why is there no cultural arbiter in America today?  Why is there no one to exterminate bad taste and see that it never rises again?

I can think of several reasons.  Perhaps America is simply too large.  Politically, we Americans often feel that our national government is too far away to be under our control.  A cultural “police” would have an easier time in a country the size of Italy.  Furthermore, being a republic rather than a monarchy, we do not have a history of listening to voices claiming to be authoritative.

Perhaps another problem is the huge volume of entertainment that capitalism produces for a large, relatively prosperous population that expects to be entertained 24 hours per day.  It is simply too much, and we throw up (our hands, that is).

Our education system certainly has its share of blame.  If the esthetic part of education were taken seriously, there would be no need to condemn the worst cultural rot on moral or any other grounds.  Children trained to play Bach, Beethoven and jazz would simply be too bored to listen to most rap.  Children who have experimented with writing short stories would never sit still for “reality” television shows.

Our schools create minds that are simple, not minds with a complexity worthy of human beings.  Our children are capable of understanding only those ideas small enough to fit on a “smart” phone.  Consequently, students have no appreciation of art that is complex enough to be enjoyed repeatedly in one lifetime and, in fact, over generations of lifetimes.  The other great sin of our schools is that students create very little art.  Those few who have tried to create art, who have struggled with the conflicting choices every artist faces and the technical skills that are required, have less tolerance for bad art.

And, of course, the biggest problem is post-modernism, which has exchanged standards of truth, beauty and justice for the clamorous nonsense of Subjectivity.  Is it any wonder that we feel as though we are living in a madhouse?



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