Saturday, July 27, 2019

Artists and their Art.

A man who wrote some of the most beautiful melodies in history was a rabid anti-Semite. A revered woman whom the Catholic Church deems a saint both passively and actively encouraged the poor to suffer as it would bring them "closer to God".  The man who wrote the closest thing I have to a spiritual bible, whose words about expressing my highest self I endeavour to live by every day, didn't and probably doesn't always walk that talk. A beloved TV doctor turns out to be a monster. And on and on and on.

People are complicated. Very few are wholly evil or wholly good. That's because "good" and "evil" are, in almost all cases,  value statements.

That's a very controversial stance, I know. I've actually spent a good deal of time thinking on this topic through my lifetime, and certain "evils" (rape, child abuse) I have yet to be able to justify in any context. I therefore deem those absolute evils (with the caveat that, just perhaps, what's called child abuse may not be seen that way in all cases --warning, that blog is the most contentious thing I have written in 15 years of the Breadbin and I fully expect people to disagree violently with parts of it).

Murder? I can justify murder in this culture without resorting to the Aztecs, where ritual sacrifice (i.e., mass murder) was something both perpetrators AND VICTIMS aspired to.  But self-defense is a legal justification for murder and I'll tell you right now, I'm not afraid to extend "self" out to encompass people I love.

Theft? Suppose you're poor and starving and you steal some bread. Is that a crime? Some would say yes. (Who Am I? 24601!)  I say withholding bread from a starving man is a far graver crime. I think, in fact, that metaphorically our society is being withheld bread on a massive scale and the repercussions of this will assert themselves before too much longer.

You get the point. Everyone sets their own moral course. I'm not going to dispute yours if you dispute mine. I will observe that most of us are varying degrees of shortsighted, thinking only of ourselves, or of our families and friends, rarely thinking in wider terms than that, which limits the good we do (and potentially magnifies the evil: when you think only of yourself, the evil you can do is for all purposes and intents limitless).

So most of us are a mix of altruistic and self-centred. It might be worth bearing that in mind when we ponder the subject of this blog: whether it's possible to separate artists from their art.

I'll come right out and say it: in most cases I can do this...and choose not to. It's highly context-dependent for me, though, and I freely admit my own irrational biases do come into play. Before I start name-dropping, I want you to know that I understand in ALMOST all cases how someone can have views on this that widely diverge from mine. Almost all cases.

RICHARD WAGNER. Even if you're not into classical music at all, you've definitely heard his Ride of the Valkyries. Trust me: Wagner was one of the best operatic composers who ever lived. Everything about Wagner is outsized: his operas last for hours, his melodic lines go on forever, and his presence is still felt in theatre, in movies, and in philosophy. He was also rather influential in politics....Nazi politics.

Adolf Hitler adored Wagner, indeed was rather obsessed with him. Not just his music, but his ideas on racial purity and his hatred of Jews. There's still some debate how much of that Jew-hatred was opportunistic on Wagner's part. He had Jewish friends (actual Jewish friends) and supporters...many of them. It's known that Cosima, Wagner's wife, was more virulently anti-Semitic than he was. And Wagner toned his bigotry down considerably near the end of his life, when he got a scare he might be part Jewish himself (he wasn't). But the fact remains that Wagner did write some horrid things about Jews, and Hitler latched on to that.

I deliberately chose the Furtwängler recording of the dozen or so on YouTube. Wilhelm Furtwängler was almost as harsh a critic of the Nazi regime as one could be in the middle of it and stay alive. He never joined the Nazi Party, he never conducted the Horst Wessel Lied, he never signed a single letter 'Heil Hitler", as Germans (particularly prominent ones such as the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic) were, ahem, encouraged to. He aided Jews whenever he could and whenever he conducted Wagner in his concerts outside Germany, he cast Jews and opponents of Hitler in all the roles.

If Furtwängler could conduct Wagner, and he did, many times...I can appreciate Wagner's music. Certainly nobody ever blames Beethoven for being the other composer the Third Reich appropriated.  Do I lament Wagner's anti-Semitism? I do. But I also know that Jew-hatred was in the air and the water in 1850, just as it was in 1940 and is now in many places. This cannot be overstated: what you learn, you live. You can scoff, but I guarantee you: if you grow up hearing at every turn how evil Jews're going to believe Jews are evil. If that's drilled into you in school, at home, at religious services, and all around doesn't occur to very many people to question something that pervasive. I'm not excusing--this is repugnant--but explaining why I don't hold people throughout history to today's standards.

MOTHER TERESA. It's merely one more mark against the world's largest pedophile ring that they beatified this woman. And yes, that's mildly stating my opinion on the Catholic Church, which I grew up in. I held this current Pope in high esteem until he refused to do anything significant to deal with the scourge of child molestation in his Church.
But Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, who became in due time Mother Teresa, was no saint. Not by my lights. I consider her much closer to a monster.

Christopher Hitchens wrote of her in 2003,

"This returns us to the medieval corruption of the church, which sold indulgences to the rich while preaching hellfire and continence to the poor. [Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."

Her Missionaries for Charity reused syringes until they were too blunt to puncture skin. Her patients never received adequate treatment, especially for pain, but she thought this was a feature, not a bug:

"There is something beautiful in seeing the poor accept their lot, to suffer it like Christ’s Passion,” Mother Teresa said. “The world gains much from their suffering.”
--Mother Teresa

But for some reason when her own heart was failing, she sought treatment in a modern American hospital, the hypocrite. Very little of the millions of dollars donated to her causes was actually used towards charitable works. And I will call this out every chance I get.

BILL COSBY. As a child, I was compelled to watch all the wholesome family fare: Highway to Heaven, Touched By An Uncle AngelLittle House On The Prairie...and The Cosby Show, which was in my mind the best of them. I also thought Bill Cosby's Best Of was the funniest "clean" album ever made. I thought these things. I no longer think them.
Do you remember the uproar when the first allegations came out? I do. "That's Cliff Huxtable you're impugning! DOCTOR Cliff Huxtable, no less."
I couldn't believe the idiocy. It put me in mind of the hundreds of letters the United States Coast Guard received in 1966 alone beseeching them to go find and rescue a man named Gilligan on an island somewhere. We're not any smarter today, witness the ubiquitous "fake news" charge, where real news is dismissed as fake and fake news is claimed to be real depending on your political persuasion. But come on, people, this man didn't just say some questionable things. He is a convicted rapist and since many of the charges fall outside the statute of limitations, he has been  the defendant in more than a few civil suits. The persona is most certainly NOT the person, and I for one can not watch that man capering around my television screen without feeling ill. That's one artist whose art is forever ruined for me.

ROSEANNE BARR is another actor I liked, once, mostly because she didn't have to act. She played herself, and that kind of authenticity has always resonated with me. She was the stereotypical Donald Trump supporter well before Donald Trump. But when she said of an Obama White House aide that she'd be what happened if "the Muslim Brotherhood and the Planet of the Apes had a baby", well, that was the end of any respect I had for Roseanne Barr. Her 'apology', in which she said her tweet was "a "joke" (it wasn't) "in bad taste" (it most certainly was) put her beyond the pale for me.

And finally, FRANKLIN VEAUX.

This is not a name you're likely to know unless you're polyamorous, but in polyamorous circles he is both famous and infamous. He co-wrote the book MORE THAN TWO, which has been regarded as "the poly bible"...and now, as it turns out, us polytypes are searching for a new Scripture. I'm wondering if I have enough life experience to write it yet.

MORE THAN TWO is full of very good advice and wisdom nuggets for people in all relationship styles, not just polyamorous. But one of his principles combines with one of his concepts in a way that is extremely problematic...and moreover, it seems he wrote the book with this in mind, and lived that problematic life without care or concern for the hearts he broke.

PRINCIPLE; "OWN YOUR EMOTIONS". This is good advice, since each emotion is ultimately a choice, and one should never say, for instance, "you made me jealous". More often that not, jealousy isn't warranted, and is something you need to work through (admittedly with the help of your partner(s)).

CONCEPT: "THE GAME CHANGER". Veaux actually wrote a follow-up book with that title. Pretty self-explanatory: a game changer comes along and redefines love for you, opening up worlds of possibility you never suspected existed, disrupting your life to a greater degree than mere new relationship energy does.

Can you perhaps see how these two things might interact in some very unpalatable ways? Apparently so could Veaux. No fewer than six of his former partners have come forward alleging gaslighting and abuse. No, you have no right to be jealous of my "game changer". Own your emotions! and he supposedly gallivanted off into the sunset.

Now it might or might not surprise you to learn that I have been called abusive and manipulative in just these ways.  It has been intimated that I'm stringing somebody along, that I can't possibly really love more than one person, and that I'm just taking advantage and will dump a partner the instant the next shiny partner comes along. As I implied in my last blog...believe what you want, you will anyway. I'll say this much: that belief is in defiance of a few facts. Eva didn't leave me when Mark came along. I didn't leave Eva when Kathy did. I haven't left EITHER Eva OR Kathy because of Nikki. And I'm polysaturated at three: there will be no others. Commitment is just that, commitment. But again, believe what you want. The people who matter know the truth.

Oh, and as for "game changer"? I have decided I don't like the term. Love isn't a game to me--and I have had two of these transformative loves enter my life. They're both still here, so how much change was there really?

I'll be removing More Than Two from my sidebar in favour of some other resources and ensuring I don't give Veaux another penny.

Because while I can separate the artist from his art, in this case I choose not to.

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