Feb 25, 2006

How We Look at Things Shows Who We Are (well, mostly...)

Who's up to the challenge?
Art is in the eye of the beholder, much like watching & judging the figure skaters I suppose. Life often imitates art—or is it the other way around? Anyway, I think it’s good to live life creatively and with an open mind. This doesn’t mean that I have to accept everything thrown at me, nor that something which isn’t tasteful to me should be discarded or banned. I’m comfortable with other points of view, even if I totally disagree with them. I believe in individual liberty and I justify the need for freedom not by appealing to Natural Rights but to utility.

Freedom is a good thing because it promotes the “permanent interests of man as a progressive being,” wrote
J.S. Mill. Both individuals and society benefit if people are encouraged to think and act freely! Totalitarian cultures & regimes produce a certain kind of people, who are not very likely to be inquisitive and confident enough to seek change. Some of our practices today we think as normal and rational—like equal rights for all the races and genders—have been considered “abnormal” and against the “natural order of the universe” for much of human history! [Do you know that slavery still exists today? Yes, the selling of human beings!]
What's fragile?
I also subscribe to the Harm Principle, that is, a person can do whatever he wants as long as his actions do not threaten or harm others. Government’s interference with individual liberty in order to protect a person’s “own good” is not “a sufficient warrant,” as Mill noted. Of course there are those who argue that certain speech threatens the fabric of society and therefore should be purged. I simply don’t agree. Making others uncomfortable is no reason to stomp freedom and fee speech. Socrates, Galileo, and Jesus were among those individuals who irritated their societies. Yet, their non-conformist ideas benefited society, even helped transform it!

Being progressive liberals means that we recognize the need to keep the dialogue going and open, even if we don’t accept all that’s being put forward. The marketplace of ideas requires active thinking and constant evaluation, but nevertheless it’s an exciting exercise. Humans are capable of reason—we know this much—but they don’t always act in the light of reason. Obviously when you have to struggle for survival, you don’t have the luxury of a dabbling in philosophy; even serious introspection & reflection is out of reach when you’re dead tired. Modernity has brought leisure time and ..laziness; so, sometimes we’re slower in developing a better understanding of the world, and in building a better, freer, more rational society.


Age of Enlightenment?
Institutions (formal or informal) that propagate uncritical thinking, fear, and superstition have inflicted great harm to humanity. Yet, they too should have the protection of free speech, even if themselves are enemies of free (dissenting) speech!

Recently, I paid a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (
MOMA) in New York City where I spent several hours being challenged. Yes, it was a challenge to understand what the heck those artists were trying to tell me. I don’t know that much about art, and I often wondered whether the artist’s creation was a message to the world or an expression meaningful only to him and couldn’t care less what others thought about it. Anyway, MOMA has some odd-looking pieces that defy explanation and even description! But, that’s OK with me. I wasn’t there to buy artwork, not to adopt any particular artistic style as my favorite. However, I came out of the museum elated. If that art can do this to me, it’s worthwhile in my estimate.



Why do people fear something they don’t understand? It must be a primal reaction. It is, though, a political and cultural reality, and many people operate with such an attitude. I bet you that the reason some of the right wing-nuts who are opposing the port deal today is because they fear all Arabs; while the neo-con view of the world is 95% America, 3% water, and 2% “all other”. Further, we have too many bigots and racists in this country, and anyone who doesn’t realize this lives in a blissful parallel universe. I think I can speak for the liberals I know and for a great number of other progressives when I say that our objection to this deal has nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or temporary insanity! It’s is the past conduct of those involved in the deal—both sides—that we don’t like. What is to like from cronyism, incompetence in handling national security issues, on one side, and helping terrorists move & hide their finances on the other side?

Tools of the Taliban?
I think the conservatives and the Taliban of all stripes are afraid of things they don't understand, that why they destroy other people's temples, art that is different than their brand, and, ultimately, they de-humanize the others. This de-humanization helps to justify all sorts of attrocious behavior. Sadly, even a democratic country like the US has demonstated such
terrible behavior in times of crisis. I believe that it is our duty as citizens to speak up; as a matter of fact it's our patriotic duty to criticize ill-conceived policies and question the rulers when they're wrong. We can't give up our civil rights, our hard-won freedoms in exchange for some unquantifiable security. In the end, those who give up liberty for safety not only deserve neither--as Ben Franklin said--but unfree people aren't safe from their own rulers! Think about it; history is a good teacher.

I become very skeptical when someone employs the politics of fear to try to "convince" me about the need for action, or, for me to give up something. The creation of the Devil has been one of the most ingenious inventions, for it has motivated & scared people into submission. The language used by those in charge (either of our government or our ..salvation) bears this stamp, "the evil empire," "the axis of evil," "the evil doers", etc. Bush has raised the stakes by asking us [when he asks anyway, which isn't always] to give up more than the previous generation during the Cold War, because now the war on terror has no end and is everywhere!

Come on, we have so many means at our disposal for making this life a meaningful one--meaning that every individual decides for him/herself. We can all be Renaissance persons to some extend; it takes an effort, but we don't have a good excuse for being lazy and not use the best tool we have at our disposal. [What's that?!!] We can create our own art and blaze our own trails. Otherwise, we'll spend our lives in perpetual immaturity. That can't be a good thing I reckon.


Pictures by GP from the exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

26 comments:

Geeshus said...

You're lucky the Taliban hasn't taken over this country yet. Otherwise you'd be spending a long time repending and atoning.

Rumbux said...

Ha! Great pix. I too enjoyed the exhibits at the MOMA, even if some of them were completely off the wall....

Samantha said...

Leave it to Andros to make a connection between seemingly unrelated things, like abstract art and politics!

I enjoyed your post and thanks for the pictures. Interesting selection too...

Anonymous said...

I liked the one next to "Tools of the Taliban"... The one with a rope and iron...

Great metaphor

Anonymous said...

Shocking, I tell you, shocking!

Is this where OUR money goes to?

MOMA is a good example why the National Endowment for the Arts should be completely defunded.

SH said...

It's shocking, I tell you too! Don't give them masses art... let them eat cake instead!

The NEA, by the way, doesn't fund MOMA. And, yes, art says a great deal about a society. Not necessarily what it's being produced, but because it is produced.

Art can have many purposes and meanings.

Kelly said...

If something or someone is challenging your way of life you may feel threatened. But, I think the strength of a society isn't measured by the degree of conformity and its military power.

Andros said...

Precisely! It's no accident that the societies which produced great civilizations were open (much more open than their contemporaries).

Even within a country, it's no accident that the cosmopolitan centers are the places where art, science, and modernity flourish.

Truth to power said...

You are relentless when it comes to pushing certain points. I like it. Don't stop.

As for the port deal, I think there's something behind the whole thing.

I too don't agree that it's a racial matter. As a matter of fact "our side" (Kerry) raised the issue of the port vulnerability during the campaign but didn't get much traction then.

The 911 Commission criticized UAE big time. I realize globalism is "in" but the Brits who were operating our ports didn't have the same problems with aiding & abeting terrorists.

JL said...

I read your blog regularly, and although I don't agree with everything (maybe it's my religious upbringing) you propose, you have a nice way of articulating your positions. I live in England, and I'm happy to see voices like yours. I think the United States needs them now more than ever. Good luck.

Icognitius said...

Great, you've pissed off the Taliban, the Arab terrrorists, the American religious fanatics, possibly God, and now you're offending the artistic sensibilities of the anal-retentives (ala Martha Stewart) everywhere your blog is read! Oh, and I don't think Satan is particularly happy with your remarks either!

I hope you write under an alias and are prepared to abscond the country in a moment's notice. I'd love to help you, but I'm afraid... Come to think of it, you've contributed to my paranoia! Your posts about THEM trying to steal our liberties, spying on us, torture & rendition programs, and the Rapture IndeX!!!!

What's next, the Ice-capades? Who's making fun of my aluminum foil helmet? It may not look fashionable but it foils the mind manipulation rays...

Ann Coulter said...

Can you describe what's pictured here? Or, some pictures are indicipherable on purpose?

Andros said...

Can't help you with the meaning, but here are some hints:
The first one has a refrigerator door on the canvas of a painting. The second has thousands of egg shells glued together.

In the third, there are light bulbs connected like xmas lights thrown on the floor. The fourth shows a big cube in a large room.

The fifth is of a rope hanging from the ceiling and an iron grid attached to the wall. I don't think they were part of the same art unit, but I thought they looked cool together.

The sixth is a rendition of the hammer & sickle of communist fame. The last one shows people looking at artwork on the wall...

the tackier the more schick said...

I am a consumer of art and that's how i like it. I use it enjoy it and dispose of it when i'm done.

Did you know that Hitler was an artist and a vegetarian?

Franklin said...

We can't let the "war on terror" change our basic attributes of being a liberal democracy. Bush hadn't been out of the country before he became president and obviously has a very limited perspective on history, and of today's world.

Ryan Adams said...

The biggest threat to our democracy is the fact that more people don't have the same thought you do in that as long as you don't threaten other people in your activity, you should be able to do pretty much whatever you want. Instead, we have South Dakota banning abortions, despite the fact that it's clearly unconstitutional.

Good posts. I'll have to read through some of your older ones too.

elizabeth said...

You made a quick mention of slavery... very important for people to understand. Slavery exists today IN THE U.S. Legal, no, but it certainly exists, and rarely gets attention. Thank you for pointing it out. Human Trafficking is too often overlooked.

Andros said...

The question of legality and actual practice can be two very different things. This country's first "original" and "legal" documents talked about equality and other noble ideas, though in reality that wasn't the case--at least universaly. Human trafficing is a form of slavery as human beings are held captive and made to perform certain labors without their consent.

The case of the Mariana Islands--a United States territory--is very shameful for any society that prides itself as democratic and enlightened.

"Moved by the sworn testimony of U.S. officials and human-rights advocates that the 91 percent of the workforce who were immigrants -- from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- were being paid barely half the U.S. minimum hourly wage and were forced to live behind barbed wire in squalid shacks minus plumbing, work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, without any of the legal protections U.S. workers are guaranteed"....Congressional leaders wrote a bill "to extend the protection of U.S. labor and minimum-wage laws to the workers in the U.S. territory of the Northern Marianas....

So compelling was the case for change the Alaska Republican marshaled that in early 2000, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Murkowski (R-AK) worker reform bill..."

BUT, but..."But one man primarily stopped the U.S. House from even considering that worker-reform bill: then-House Republican Whip Tom DeLay.

According to law firm records recently made public, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, paid millions to stop reform and keep the status quo, met personally at least two dozen times with DeLay on the subject in one two-year period. The DeLay staff was often in daily contact with Abramoff".....

Shocking! something to think about when buying products labeled "Made in the USA"

vangogh said...

Some art is junk, but I don't care. If someone gets off by making or seeing a totally black "painting" then good for them!

Art should be free and every great civilization produced art--the freer to more creative. Tightly controlled societies either created little art or, like in the Soviet Union, art was crude and used for propaganda.... Yikes

Anonymous said...

This is obviously some French IDIOTS,as you post are inane and make no sense whtsoever.

All you Driberals do is make NOISE,and stupid arguments of third graders,aside form all the crap you steal and "post as your own"

Just wait the next Dubo that will sell us out like Billary (we voted for twice too many times),

That you actively endorse a PROVEN TWO TIME TRAITOR,admitted murderer,COWARD AND FRAUD that STILL refuses his form 180,says everthing we need to know,along with the other Coward, Murder, criminal Kennedy, both whom should have ben in jail long ago!

I could go on will tear apart your Yellow Propaganda you, the Dumbos and media thrive on and use for character assissinations,without acknowledging Reid is as big or bigger crook than Abrahanson as is Billary and the Black Tax Cheat Fraud "Reverands" preaching Anti-semitism like you all are,and will be the cause of greater wars,as YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY BALLS OR ETHICS and no foreign war will ever be "legal" to you assholes!

Mange Le Merd,tout les persones de France et tout les Euro-Peons mange Merde et son Feux FOOLS!

Anonymous said...

You idiots cannot figure out the economic of your own house,nor the fact that the Mariana Islands pay probably is more than doouble what they normally make.

That is why there is outsourcing and it HEKPS the world,providing jobs to remote areas. I see! raisng their wage completely address' all the other issues and is why we do not have the endless cash everyone assumes and creates disharmoney and cause unrealistice expectations. It is like ART, you pay the price you like for it, you both agree,yet some idiot steps in and demands you refund, as he saw one cheaper? I say So what now, they were "forced" to sign these areements by the U.S Government.....get some common sense and realize someone somewhere can and will do YOUR job for a bowl of rice per day! And shut the F up until you know better! England, France, Italy, Germany and Euro-Peons need to get their heads out of their asses,and deal in reality as wel,and are finally seeing the truth as is America about you so called "Liberals", that are all noise and no substance as you always have been and will not for much longer.

slightly amused said...

I wonder why the conservatives are such angry, raving lunatics... It must be because their brains have atrophied and their disturbed emotions are the only way they can relate to the world!

I'd say it'd be good to see Neaderthals visit progressive blogs, but they only come here not to learn anything or think (God forbid), but to make fools of themselves. It would be more entertaining to us if they weren't such bores and trite. Maybe they should stick to their child's play. Tsk.

fly swatter said...

they can't deal with reason and aren't able to maintain a dialogue...

they're misbehavin' children, used to the bullies like O'Reily, Hanity, and the rest of the emotion-button pushers...

What a bunch of pavlovian dogs...

Rush Lintbrush said...

The cons, like any other bully, have nothing else to show for except their anger. They have failed to convince, they've supported failure, corruption and incompetence, and like anyone who doesn't have the real guts to face reality they shout obsenities and threats as their only way to show that they're relevant...

Anyway, O'Reilly is a good example of those morons. Did you notice that the other day, during his call-in show, a caller mentioned Keith Olberman and he was cut off just for saying K.O's name! Ha! And, O'Reilly said he was going to have Fox security go after that person!! hahaha. It's insanely funny.

Billy Krystal said...

Today on Fox News Sunday, Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol said that conservatives have come to believe the Bush administration is incompetent:

BILL KRISTOL: I think it’s become in people’s minds an emblem of the administration that just isn’t as serious about the competent execution of the functions of government as it should be. And even — I’m struck talking to conservatives and Republicans — they agree with the president on basic political philosophy, the they agree with his basic policy agenda, but they are worried that they just don’t seem to be able to execute as well as they should be.

link to Kristol's comments

a bigot knows no bigotry said...

we're going to beat up some liberals, duh, and show them that they don't love this country, duh, and if they don't like it they should leave, duh, and teach creationism, and, duh, intimidate the homos, and,ahh, show that Jesus votes republican, argh..