Friday, September 30, 2005

How right are great artists?

I came upon this interesting debate via Instapundit yesterday.
I think that Ann Althouse's point is well taken. To be a great artist -- or a great scientist, for that matter, and probably a great anything else -- requires a strongly individual outlook and an outstanding measure of self-confidence and self-reliance.
So why, when it comes to politics, do so many artists adopt what amounts to support for a paternalistic, collectivist, ultimately authoritarian outlook? I think it's because they think that society can be shaped in much the same way that they shape their work -- and they know that what is required for that is a strong-willed shaper. The artist in relation to his own work is a despot. Artists, moreover, are very much influenced by appearances. Augusto Pinochet is obviously a general and nothing but a general. Fidel Castro, on the other hand, maintains the appearance of a guerilla fighter (better battle fatigues than parade dress)and mouths all sorts of egalitarian and revolutionary platitudes (and bravely stands up to the bully that is the United States). This seems to be enough to render him appealing to a good many artists. It worked for Mao, too, believed by many to be the all-time champion of Twentieth Century Hemoclysm.

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