Monday, July 21, 2008

The importance (and threat) of culture

I've talked a few times recently about how important culture and the arts are to society, as both a passive reflection of that society and a means of developing and changing it. This is something Nietzsche understood. 'The goal of culture,' he said 'is to promote the production of true human beings.'

And Aldous Huxley recognised its dangers. A couple of quotes from Brave New World demonstate this. The first shows that he knew what the arts were capable of, for which reason totalitarian states would repress them. Remember, this was written in 1932, the year before Hitler came to power:

‘Then came the famous British Museum Massacre. Two thousand culture fans gassed with dicholorethyl sulphide.’ p. 43

And, again, he indicates the hateful path trodden by so many regimes, from Hitler to the Taleban:

‘Accompanied by a campaign against the Past; by the closing of museums, the blowing up of historical monuments (luckily most of them had already been destroyed during the Nine Years’ War; by the suppression of all books published efore A.F. 150.’ p. 43-44

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