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Control of Cultural Achievements

CRSPRThere is no denying the great cultural achievements of western civilization, its technological brilliance.  Virtually all modern innovation, and most of contemporary science comes from Europe and North America- a handful of countries representing a small fraction of the world’s population.  Not coincidentally, these are the regions of the world where democracy and economic freedom have flourished. The German-American Jewish anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) put it this way:

The poorer in cultural achievements, the greater the number of ingrained rules and proscriptions which work to determine every action.”

The corollary is that we can expect societies with fewer rules, with greater freedom to have greater cultural achievements, whether the steam engine or CRSPR gene editing technology.

Limits and Freedom

Every culture imposes limits on its members. Incest (however defined) or murder are pretty much universal.  In many societies, the social structure tells people their obligations, rather than some authority figures. There is “cultural freedom” to do as you please within the bounds of acceptable behavior.  A free person is in harmony with his culture.

There is also a concept of moral freedom, which is action in accord with the supreme reason (human, not godly reason) which governs the universe.  It’s expressed in the general will of the members of a society.

It’s to the general will that the individual must address himself to know how far he ought to be a man, a citizen, a subject, a father, a child, and when it is suitable to live or die.”

The philosopher Diderot explained that the general will was truth discovered through the power of reason.  Once that truth had been discovered, whoever refused to accept it was “either insane or wicked and morally evil,” an enemy of humanity.

Cultural and moral freedom are not the same.  The former changes over time.  It responds to undirected shifts in circumstance, be they technological, economic or social.  Moral freedom on the other hand presupposes a universal, timeless truth which transcends, or rather over-rides the individual’s ability to choose.

The Cultural Achievements of Political Correctness

Here we have the ideological basis for political correctness, for the moral fascism sweeping contemporary Western societies, condemning their cultural achievements, their science, their progress.  The supreme reason governing the universe does not allow for deviance.  In socialist countries, this reason is embodied in the State.  In democratic nations, the intellectual elite, considering itself trained in advanced reason, considers itself as the personification of that supreme truth.  The elite considers itself the West’s greatest cultural achievement.

In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early part of the twentieth century, the primary concern of Western democratic governments was the

the cultural achievements of the Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror

protection of individual rights.  In the twenty-first century progressives encourage the state to embody the supreme reason which they have discerned.  The concern of liberal governments is collective, rather than individual choice.  Conformity to universal reason is necessary for the sake of humanity.  Dissent can get you fired, or, as some would wish it, jailed.  Language must use contrived jargon reflecting the reasoning of those who express the proper moral order of the universe.  Violence becomes a political right in promoting the general will.

The Cultural Achievements of the Reign of Terror

Portland anti-Trump riot

Riot against democracy

It’s the same ideological foundation as failed Marxist totalitarianism.  It’s the same foundation as the Reign of Terror which followed the French Revolution.  To disagree with unfettered tolerance of aberrant behavior, abortion on demand, social housing, race / gender quotas or even gender-restricted washrooms, is to sin against reason, against morality.

The Cultural Achievements of Twenty-One Thousand Rules

During his years in office, President Obama’s administration imposed twenty-one thousand new rules and regulations upon American consumers and businesses.  The progressives who supported him were just as industrious, attempting to regulate behavior, language, thought, and religion.  The urge to regulate has been pervasive in Western democracies.

Western civilization has a great record of cultural achievement, technological and scientific innovation.  If our societies continue to increase “the number of ingrained rules and proscriptions which work to determine every action,” this record of achievements will be ended, to the detriment of all humanity.  This indeed goes against morality, against reason.

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Attacking Films, Attacking Freedom

Many Americans, including President Obama, are righteously concerned about North Korea’s seemingly blatant attack on freedom in its hacking of Sony Pictures, and the threats of violence against any theater that dares screen the movie ‘The Interview.’ The film’s depiction of the assassination of Kim Jong-Il goes beyond acceptable standards for the North Korean dictatorship. The threats go beyond acceptable standards for attacking films, attacking freedom.

Americans should be more concerned though about subtle assaults on American freedom. Assaults where the attacker’s identity is not known, where it’s not even known that an assault is underway. And as in some forms of computer hacking, the participants in the attack don’t even know that they’re being used in one.

America Attacking Freedom

From the 1920’s the American film industry guarded itself carefully from government regulation by imposing self-censorship. Religious leaders applied constant pressure to ensure that Hollywood upheld their standards of morality, in the dress of the characters and the values they portrayed. By the 60’s, the counter-pressure of the demand for profits began to overwhelm the moral codes, to the point that contemporary actors are often expect to fully expose themselves, as they participate in simulated on-screen sex. Morality, restraint was framed as attacking freedom. Censorship and sex swapped positions, as the former became a dirty concept, in place of the latter. On “The Simpsons,” when Marge starts a campaign against a violent children’s television show, she ends up having to defend a Michelangelo statue against censorship. The lesson is that any restrictions or limits are wrong. A cartoon cat having its head blown off is equated to renaissance art.

The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints.
~Samuel Hendel

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives worked intensely to keep Communist influences out of American cinema. Recognizing the tremendous influence of Hollywood on American culture and beliefs, the Committee members understood that films by people who supported socialist ideology could easily sway the public. The heavy-handed blacklists created by the Committee provided fodder for the progressive self-righteousness of the 60’s and 70’s.North Korea

In the 21st century, flesh and sex are ubiquitous in entertainment. If the House Un-American Activities Committee were to be examine contemporary Hollywood politics, it would blacklist virtually all of its actors, producers and directors. Today entertainment media conservatives have to keep their beliefs to themselves. Repression and censorship is a two-way street.

So free expression is attacked by an enemy state, North Korea. Free expression is attacked by religious American moralists, by secular American moralists. Congress suppressed liberal Hollywood. Now liberal Hollywood suppresses conservative Hollywood, to the point of driving it underground.

Emirates Attacking Freedom?

But there’s more. Although American religious leaders have lost any say about what goes into films, this doesn’t apply to the Arabian Gulf States. The United Arab Emirates, especially Abu Dhabi, is working hard to attract entertainment production, offering tremendous cost advantages, but with certain strings attached, such as not offending religious sensibilities. While there is little profit to be had in being sensitive to the concerns of American religions, there are significant incentives to follow the rulings of the Imams of the Emirates.

johannwolfgangvongoethe134023And the Emirates are not just limiting their cinematic influence to Muslim moral standards. Environmental propaganda, funded in part by Middle Eastern oil producers’ campaigns against Western energy independence. Many Arab nations stand to lose a substantial amount of income if fracking opens up an alternative fuel source inside the United States. The actor Matt Damon seemed sincerely surprised that his anti-fracking movie was funded by Mid-East oil interests. Most of the films Abu Dhabi participates in are innocuous, such as The Hundred-Foot Journey, or Men in Black 3. Some are overtly political.

No one will contest that the ruler of North Korea is a lunatic. No one will contest that a nuclear-armed nation led by a lunatic is a serious threat to America and the free world. It’s harder to accept, and more difficult to respond to threats to freedom from friendly nations- ones we do business with. It’s hard to accept that the entertainers we obsess about are collaborating with foreign governments against our interests.  That they are, however inadvertently, attacking freedom.

The entertainment industry— movies, television— play a large role in shaping the beliefs and aspirations of America, indeed of the world. Who is shaping, who is controlling the entertainment industry? Who is shaping America, and to what end?

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
~Thomas Paine

 

 

Your comments, as always, are welcome.