Is art the new opiate of the Amerikan bourgeois intellectuals?

Yesterday, I saw a bulletin board art exhibit that said to be a great artist one must not be stuck on reality. The exhibit covered much of the space where political posters could be up, but are not. Thanks to a well-stated exhibit, a revelation crystallized where before I had only a nagging discontent.

When I went hunting for a college around 1979, one of the things I learned was that students put up posters everywhere–on telephone poles, bulletin boards, buildings etc. I stopped to read each one, because I had not seen anything like that in high school.

My nagging complaint has been that now we see theater posters and exhibit posters everywhere, but little independent political activism. Politics has been corporatized to the extent that it is the “job” of the Kennedy School or international organizations to put on political events. Students do not run their own movements, especially not on a consistent basis. One exception is for local labor issues. SLAM is an organization that seems to show up in one form or another the last several years, but MIM would say that even that one is working for the bourgeoisie.

Harvard has some dormitories with their own theaters in addition to the professional Harvard-wide theater attracting important artists from around the world. Then there are the art complexes for theater and opera in downtown Boston. In other words, there is a surfeit of artistic organizations competing for student attention, thanks to the economic exploitation of the Third World that makes art seem a way of life for a wide swath of the imperialist countries.

My perception is that there must have been a steady downward slide in the proportion of independent political posters relative to art posters since the 1960s. I link this to questions of economic surplus. As activists took over universities they squelched the movements they came from, sometimes directly, sometimes with resources they took to co-opt movements in corporatist-bureaucratic form, and posters changed in their substance, at the same time that post-modernism came to dominate.

Contrary to Patrick Buchanan, the United $tates is not a Christian nation. Aside from the diversity within Christianity that would make such an assertion meaningless, it is not a good idea to stress Christianity in the midst of the War on Terror, as if Jews and warmongering atheists had no responsibility. Nonetheless, perhaps it is true that in exploiter nations like the united $tates where there is a Liberalism and a history of diverging immigration cultures, there is no common denominator in religious terms or in terms of any moral code. Into such a vacuum, Buchanan suggests Christianity as the glue for Amerikkka.

At the corporations where we find the real bourgeois intellectuals, places like Harvard, we have the “Vagina Monologues.” Perhaps we have an occasional political superstar make a speech. Independent political movements of students we do not have.

Religion being out in the ivory tower, what we have in its place is art, the new opiate of the intellectual. What art does not suck up, the career-related departments mop up for the production of future intelligence agency professionals.

The larger portion of intellectuals avoids reality and here we have a connection between the academy and journalism. Whereas I rave at restaurant reviewers and theater critics being in charge of questions of national security at the “New York Times” –thus producing the weapons of mass destruction articles and lap-dog subordination to the Republican and Democratic parties in their sabotaging of the Annapolis peace process for example–the “New York Times” argues back in code that art is itself politics, not an indirect influence, but a direct substitute for reality-based politics.

So Dick Cheney and the “New York Times” eschew reality-based politics for different reasons. However, a media that can paper over a lynching to back a war and elect a president could do anything. Calling art part of the solution is acceptable to politics as it is here and also the larger part of bourgeois intellectuals. Call me old-fashioned, but if I were another country, I would not want to close important political deals where the habit of just making things up is so deeply ingrained.


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