Sunday, October 1, 2023

In Continuation...

 ... on culture. Timely, Jackson Hinkle travels in Russia currently and he got himself to Peterhof. 

I want to reiterate--high art, high culture--from beautiful architecture, to literature, to music--while ARE NOT in and of themselves panacea against brutality, criminality or corruption--they are absolutely essential in bringing young generations into the world of proper aesthetics, beauty and taste. This, obviously, doesn't preclude people from becoming criminals or psychopaths, but it REDUCES the number of such incidents, when the culture is built around such aesthetics. 

Simplest comparison, Peterhof and some Russian shithole like this:

A decaying village in Saratov Region. Every country has its own shitholes and drab places. But for average Russian the notion of magnificent Russian cities with incredible aesthetics and culture is a part of a psyche, a national one. Even lowest of lives in some Russian shithole knows that Moscow is the capital of Russia, that it is magnificent, it has an amazing art scene, and that St. Petersburg means Hermitage and stunning architecture. He, this bum, also knows that all those things are not just the world-class, but arguably the best in the world. This bum may die next day from liver failure because of alcohol, but he will die still knowing those basic facts about Russian culture. 

How many American kids are taught those basic facts about Russia, which is bad, the evil and wants to take over the world? Very little. The maximum these kids may hope for is to visit some local gallery--not necessarily a bad one--or have a field trip to Washington D.C. with Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art, or Guggenheim in NYC. That's it. Yes, it is still important to do that, but they still will not know how inferior high art and high aesthetics America's offering is, especially when one talks about Hermitage, Russian Museum or Pushkin Museum in Moscow, not to mention Tretyakov's Gallery. 

Even today, America can offer a lot of things which are enchanting, truly beautiful or generally attractive, but what forms true elites and provides necessary cultural environment for their intellectual and aesthetic nurturing which is fully rooted in classics, is not here, America simply doesn't have it. The average student from any public school, university or military academy in Moscow or St.Petersburg has access to cultural treasures which are not available to any American student of even the most prestigious and exclusive educational institutions whose horizons are mostly limited to some nice looking architecturally universities and some cultural artifact here and there. 

New York skyline nowadays impresses no one in the economically developed  world--it has skylines which rival and are often better than that of NYC. 

Moscow's skyline is simply breathtaking as well as the breadth of her arteries which NYC can only dream about. Moscow is a city of skyscrapers, and all of them are immersed into the city with almost 900-years history and it is considered almost young by Russian standards. St. Petersburg/Leningrad is almost a child, a child of Enlightenment and Russia's turn to the West. Shanghai's skyline can give NYC a run for its money:

And bar some Broadway and true cultural treasures such as great jazz venues and Metropolitan Opera, NYC--the premier American city--looks culturally poor when it comes to the foundation of any modern civilization--classics. 

Any student of any educational institution in Moscow or St.Petersburg can literally, any day, if he (or she) so desires, come and experience Andrei Rublev's icons, such as Trinity in Tretyakov Gallery:

Or see Leonardo's masterpieces in Hermitage in St. Petersburg, to see Madonna and Child. 

Among the rest of a treasure trove of human culture. And here is this main issue: every single top politician in Russia, especially Leningrader Vladimir Putin, all of them, without exception, they grew up and formed as people subjected to this immense treasure first hand. And this treasure both forms and changes one. No American "elite" political figure has any comparable access to this cultural treasure, even the graduates of the most super-pooper elite institutions. They can see it, they can "study" it, but until one enters Hermitage or Kremlin and experiences all that first hand all previous cultural and even spiritual experiences are not completed. 

American "elite" travels, but when I write and talk about persistent complex of inferiority--yes, what is paraded by them as superiority is, in fact, sublimation of a deep seated inferiority--it becomes patently clear: Condolezza Rice, Anthony Blinken or Jake Sullivan can, if they wish, go and visit Peterhof, Hermitage, Kremlin, Historical Museum, Tretyakov's Gallery or see Giselle or Swan Lake in Bolshoi or Mariinsky. But the weight of experiencing the finest in human culture weighs on them because all that IS NOT American and it is not owned by the United States and by American "elite". Moreover, there is nothing comparable in the US, zilch, zero, in its sheer overwhelming volume and power of classics. For some New Yorker or Chicagoan, visiting major Russian cities could be a cultural shock and cognitive dissonance. Both NYC and Chicago look like shitholes compared to major Russian cities. 

And here is the trick--Russian true elite understood what makes American "elite" class click. Ah yes, this proverbial OODA Loop, this "getting into one's head", playing mental games. You do this when you understand the underlying cause of one's actions and part of it, a very major part of it, is in the cultural level of elites. While Russia's true elite (no, not "oligarchs"--most of those are low lives) was nurtured culturally with equivalent of eating the finest steak, American (and Western) elite, those proverbial morons per Dmitry Medvedev, was primarily eating from a dumpster. In the end, erasing what made America great, from banning globally beloved Mark Twain, to rewriting history, is just the part of utter lack of culture by America's political class. They are simply uncultured and when seeing the grandeur of human artistic and aesthetic achievement prior to America--Bolshoi Theater is the same age as the US, Russian General Staff is older than the US--one begins to behave exactly as was noted by Alexis de Tocqueville. He saw all that in the American "elite" two centuries ago. 

All free nations are vainglorious, but national pride is not displayed by all in the same manner. The Americans in their intercourse with strangers appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise. The most slender eulogium is acceptable to them; the most exalted seldom contents them; they unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes. Their vanity is not only greedy, but restless and jealous; it will grant nothing, whilst it demands everything, but is ready to beg and to quarrel at the same time. If I say to an American that the country he lives in is a fine one, "Ay," he replies, "there is not its fellow in the world." If I applaud the freedom which its inhabitants enjoy, he answers, "Freedom is a fine thing, but few nations are worthy to enjoy it." If I remark the purity of morals which distinguishes the United States, "I can imagine," says he, "that a stranger, who has been struck by the corruption of all other nations, is astonished at the difference." At length I leave him to the contemplation of himself; but he returns to the charge, and does not desist till he has got me to repeat all I had just been saying. It is impossible to conceive a more troublesome or more garrulous patriotism; it wearies even those who are disposed to respect it.    

What he describes here is the lack of culture in a broader sense which served and continues to serve as a remedy for sensing or understanding of a very tenuous connection of the American "elite" to a much more complex and culturally dense reality of the outside world which formed and developed unique cultures long before the United States was even in plans. 

This in no way diminishes America's contribution to humanity's culture. In general, contribution was positive be that a vibrant American literature, blues, jazz or great realist painters, architects and others. But it is no surprise that even here for a girl from Birmingham, Alabama of 1950s:

The existence of the cities of a highest culture where every citizen of not just those cities but country had and used access to the greatest cultural treasures of the world, and, in fact, was educated on them seemed inconceivable--neither Birmingham, nor even NYC could compete with that, nor could anything in the United States. Nowadays, what happens in good ol' US goes completely counter to everything what human civilization achieved culturally. In the end, how could this renegade Leonardo portray Madonna with a child. That should have been a man. But Condi doesn't understand all that, same as most modern American "elites" they have no tool kit to perceive a multi-dimensional aesthetics and profundity of a classic culture, without which there would have been not only Western Civilization, but civilization as such. And that explains what Russia is fighting for today--true culture and beauty.

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