Monday, August 18, 2014

Mainstream Tyranny Part 4


"It doesn't matter how bad the entertainment is from the tyrant's point of view.  In fact, the worse the better."

John Atkins, George Orwell, 1954

With this series, we've (hopefully) established a train of logic illustrating the harm that authoritative government does to intellect.  No one illustrated this more clearly than Orwell in 1984.  Except maybe North Korea in real life. Or the Soviets, or Castro's Cuba, or Nazi Germany.  Come to think of it, every instance of government domination leads to the demise of the exercise of intellect in that society.  Orwell knew that orthodoxy was the enemy of creativity. Atkins illustrates this in clearly in his book:

"The literary great of modern times have been almost exclusively free intellects: Proust, Joyce, Lawrence, Hemingway.  How many people during the last three hundred years, asks Orwell, have been at once good novelists and good Catholics?" 

So what does all this have to do with music?  The cultural state (i.e. music, and all other forms of entertainment) of a society reflects its political one, as culture exists under the sphere of politics.  Under a tyrannical rule, free intellect is a threat to power. Creativity is a result of free intellect.  Free intellect must be eliminated if those with authority wish to keep it.  And when free intellect is eliminated, creativity is eliminated with it.

All this is not to say that our mainstream entertainment is truly that of an oppressive government.  Yet.  But mainstream entertainment is made to be as easy to digest as possible, so as to reach as many people, as efficiently as possible.  There is a blatant lack of any attempt at creativity.  Sounds, plots, ideas, themes, generic lyrics, and catchy generic hooks are all recycled again and again in movies, music, books, and television shows with few exceptions.  And this trend is accepted across the vast majority of society.  All this a symptom, I believe, of growing tyranny coupled with what Orwell would describe as the acceptance of efficiency, which opens the door to, and is a sinister and dangerous by product of tyranny.

But as the acceptance of bigger and bigger government becomes the norm, and skepticism and intellectual honesty becomes the exception, we will see our cultural situation continue to suffer.  Eventually, the only accepted, and indeed permitted, entertainment will be that which sings praises to our glorious leaders and their political philosophy, and when that happens, it'll be too late.  

The bright side?  There's still a vast amount of creativity that exists, across the spectrum of creative disciplines, which indicates that it's not too late.  You just have to work a little harder to find it.  But before we indeed forget altogether, let's be reminded what freedom sounds like, along with one last thought from Atkins' book:

"Orwell was perfectly well aware that intellectual liberty did not harmonize very well with social, technical, and political efficiency.  You paid for liberty with a measure of chaos."

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Evan Jones is a painter, drummer, and avid music lover.