Smashing Culture, by Linh Dinh - The Unz Review (Text only)
At the start of French Revolution, Bertrand Barère declared, “The
revolutions of a barbarous people destroy all monuments, and the very trace of
the arts seems to be effaced. The revolutions of an enlightened people conserve
the fine arts, and embellish them […]”
Soon after, though, thousands of French statues were wrecked, and
many heads tumbled into baskets. Barère, “The tree of liberty grows only when
watered by the blood of tyrants.” The Anacreon of the Guillotine was lucky to
escape with his own noggin.
Again, the defeated must watch impotently as their heroes are
decapitated or come crashing down. At least they still have their own necks,
for the moment, at least.
Washington, Jefferson, Grant and Francis Scott Key have been
toppled, and even a likeness of Cervantes had red paint splashed on its eyes.
“BASTARD” was scrawled on its pedestal. The woke vandal didn’t know that here
was no conquistador or slave owner, but a slave of five years, not to mention a
seminal writer in the Western canon.
Ah, but “seminal,” “Western” and “canon” are evil words now, you
see, so maybe he did know, for this is, at bottom, an assault on every pillar,
brick, cornice and baseboard of Western civilization. Burn it all down, for it
is uniquely racist, sexist, genocidal and transphobic. I mean, for thousands of
years, evil whites absolutely resisted the installation of all-gender shit
Shut up already, and listen to Susan Sontag, “If America is the
culmination of Western white civilization, as everyone from the Left to the
Right declares, then there must be something terribly wrong with Western white
civilization. This is a painful truth; few of us want to go that far…. The
truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary
government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx,
Balanchine ballets, et al, don’t redeem what this particular civilization has
wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is
the white race and it alone—its ideologies and inventions—which eradicates
autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological
balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.”
Later, Sontag regretted offending cancer patients with her poor
choice of metaphor.
It’s essential that we be exorcised from “dead white men.” I
remember when this idiotic term started to circulate. I had just dropped out of
art school. While drinking Rolling Rock in smoky McGlinchey’s in
Philadelphia, I told another art fag that he should know his art history, for
how can you do anything if you have no idea what’s been achieved? Leering, this
cipher smugly growled, “They’re just dead white men, man!”
In 2015, I taught for a semester at Leipzig University, so nearly
each day, I’d walk by a hideous building that crudely approximated the
destroyed Paulinerkirche. Built in 1231, this church survived all the
vicissitudes, upheavals and wars down the centuries, only to be dynamited by
Communists in 1968. So what if Martin Luther had officiated there, and Bach was
a musical director? Of course, its rich history only made it more delicious to
blow up, for iconoclasm is the orgasm of “progressives,” and that’s why I’ve
never identified as one.
There’s one Leipzig neighborhood, Connewitz, that’s famous across
Germany as the center of progressive politics, most notably the antifa
movement, and guess what? It is thoroughly defaced with graffiti that
are often anti-cop or anti-Germany.
During clashes with police that Connewitzers instigate, shop windows are
gleefully broken not just at multinationals, but mom-and-pops, because, you
know, once you go berserk, it’s hard to stop. Reflecting on this in 2015, I
knew it would only escalate and spread beyond Germany, and it has. Seeing
photos of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, I immediately thought
When I wrote recently about the need for liberated zones, I meant,
first of, the defense of your own communities, as happened in Philadelphia’s
Fishtown and Italian Market, where locals banded together to block an invasion
of vandals and looters.
Here in South Korea, local monuments and mores are safe. Here in
Busan, there’s a huge statue honoring General Jeong Bal, who was killed by
Japanese invaders in 1592. Losing with dignity is worthy of remembrance, though
some contend he actually ran away. Historical debates are healthy.
More interesting to me are five sculptures of war refugees by Lee
Hyun-woo, near the 40-Step Stairway. It was a shanty town during the Korean
War, when Busan was a temporary capital after Seoul was overrun by Chinese and
North Korean troops.
Depicted without hokiness, these are admirably realistic figures
of a mother breastfeeding her
baby while her naked son stood by, crying; two girls carrying water,
one with a shoulder pole and the other with a jar on her head; two boys
covering their ears as a man makes popcorn with a bomb-likecontraption;
a fedora-wearing accordionist,
sitting on a bench; and two exhausted porters at rest. As
public sculptures, they’re perfect, for they’re gracefully inserted into the
environment as they dignify local history. Informative and fortifying, these
bronze ghosts mingle with contemporary Koreans.
Across a Japanese-built bridge not far away, there’s a statue
of Hyeon In.
You can sit on a stone bench next to the smiling, suited singer, and hear his
songs eternally broadcast from a bible-sized speaker.
In 1949, he made every man, woman, child and dog sob with his
rendition of “Seoul’s Night Music.” “Walking through Chungmuro under a spring
rain / Tears flowing down the window panes.” Oh, stop, stop! You’re murdering
me! I can’t take it! A true legend.
As a refugee in Busan, Hyeon In wrote “Be Strong, Guem-soon.” It’s
a message to his sister to stay strong until they meet again.
There is a streetdedicated to
the painter Lee Jung-soeb.
He’s known for gestural paintings of bulls, and playful drawings of boys
hugging fish and
crabs pinching penises.
Educated in Tokyo, his brief career started just after World War II and lasted
through the Korean War.
Living all over, he starved, suffered from schizophrenia, drank
too much and died in 1956 of hepatitis, at age 40 and alone, in a Red Cross
Hospital. His wife and kids had been sent to Tokyo to escape the fighting.
Although peripheral to art history, Jung-soeb matters to Koreans, and that’s
enough. Meaning is local, above
Honoring their own culture and history, South Koreans also
appreciate the finest from elsewhere. There are upcoming concerts of Saint Saen,
Brahms, Beethoven and Vaughan Williams.
Rather bizarrely, Jin Ramen has a Joan Miro edition, and this made
no sense to me until I noticed the Miroesque zigzags, wiggly lines and goofy
shapes floating on its bright yellow packaging.
The objective is not to present convincing facsimiles of great
paintings, but merely to pique interest for further investigation. It’s similar
to a street being named after a writer, painter, composer or scientist, as
happens quite routinely in Paris, for example, but almost never seen in
America, a country with a long, aggressive streak of anti-intellectualism.
We’re no longer talking about
joe sixpacks sneering at pretentious bullshit, however. Thanks to Howard Stern,
Jerry Springer, Rush Limbaugh, Honey Boo Boo, gangsta rap and antifa, etc.,
there is now a pandemic of cocksure loutishness, with frequent eruptions into
violent barbarism. Ironically, the most militant driver of American
anti-intellectualism is the academy, for nowhere else has thinking ceased more
If we’re in a revolution, it’s one of enlightened barbarism, or
woke savagery, carefully engineered down the decades. Yo massas enjoy the
spectacle of y’all clawing at each other.
At Unz, there is a recent
article by the Nation of Islam Research Group, “How Farrakhan Solved the Crime
and Drug Problem… And How the Jews Attacked Him.”
Whatever its flaws or biases, it is a fascinating expose of how Jews sabotaged
an effort of blacks to help themselves. Immediately, I thought of the Jewish
campaign against Craig Nelse n,
who, against all odds, is desperately trying to save the most troubled, and
even suicidal, white youths.