November 23rd 2013

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Articles from this issue:

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Foreign takeover bid for Australia's GrainCorp..
ADM'S murky history

EDITORIAL: Foreign investment or foreign takeovers?

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Abbott government still cool towards the media

LIFE ISSUES: Dr Nitschke promises death facility for Adelaide

HISTORY: Horatio Nelson, Arthur Phillip and the birth of Australia

UNITED STATES: Obama testing the limits of American culture

LIFE ISSUES: The abominable industry of human trafficking

SOCIETY: How radical feminists have betrayed women

OPINION: Let the people decide on gay 'marriage'

TAIWAN: Taiwan high-tech giant sees clean future

SCHOOLS: Cultural left rules education

CULTURE: The Quixotic pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness

BOOK REVIEW: Stabbing us in the back

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The Quixotic pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, November 23, 2013

It’s a tricksy business, being a swashbuckler in the culture wars. Apart from duelling against the Other Side, one is constantly having to choose where best to engage the opposition in the competing planes of ideas and activities.

This can be seen in my most recent articles.

On the one hand, I stand by my claim, that I’ve made again and again since I’ve been writing for News Weekly, that great art and culture are inherently humane and beautiful and true, and that their popularity is bound to endure.

On the other hand, I argue that the reason we’ve more dross than art at present is because the economics of creative enterprise is virtually non-existent and, as a result, the chance to produce great art is almost completely gone. With its absence, the Other Side gains control over public opinion, as the art-house better suits a progressive agenda. Thereupon the brain-rot that is reality TV sets in and withers creativity.

There is a solution to the economic problem — restore patronage. Patronage means that those with money provide for those who have potential, be it artistic, scholarly or scientific, to hone their craft and pursue their projects. It differs from the grant-based approach in that it is not about providing money for a single project, but in providing a living wage for a person to work in a field that is not easily profitable.

Such a person becomes an employee of their patron, but most of their time is spent on their own projects. The patron can, and will, request certain things be done, which the person will then do; but still, their main focus is on their particular vocation.

In the past, a leading patron has been the Catholic Church, which cheerfully invested in umpteen unproven persons, some of whom ended up being the ones who built civilisation as we know it. The Church’s support gave artists, scholars and scientists structures within which to work, that provided security, but did not confine.

It is thanks to patronage that we have the likes of the Sistine Chapel, King Lear, Newtonian physics and Swan Lake. The patronage of the artist, based solely on their potential, allowed them to grow and hone their craft and become shapers of culture.

Sadly, patronage has pretty much disappeared, along with seemingly all forms of sustainable creative and scholarly economic output. The government is now the arbiter of what is and is not to be done — and we all know how wonderful “art by committee” is...

Imagine what might happen if patronage were restored. Imagine what could be achieved if, one day, News Weekly could be a bridge between patrons and creatives.... Just imagine.

This reflection of mine is concerned ultimately with the practical question of how we might get things done. At present, things look pretty bleak. However, the purpose of human existence is not solely about getting things done, otherwise there wouldn’t be any art in the first place.

So, without forgetting about practicalities, let us nonetheless trust that a solution will present itself in due course, and let us focus on deriving joy from what is available. If we can gain joy from wholesome things, then we will be in far better shape to face the challenges of tomorrow.

To this end I offer a list of activities and amusements that might be of some help, including:

– Ballroom dancing: it encourages healthy socialisation, interaction and fitness. And it’s fun.

– Old-time radio drama: the theatre of the imagination, freely available to download from heaps of place online. Relive the Martian invasion, as narrated by Orson Welles in his radio version of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

– Old TV shows on DVD: Why not join John Steed and Mrs Emma Peel as they fight for justice against bizarre adversaries in The Avengers?

– Old-time cartoons: Meep meep. Will the Coyote ever catch the Roadrunner? Loony Tunes are a source of much hilarity.

– Lying back on the grass and identifying clouds, not as cirrus or cumulonimbus, but as animals and plants.

– Watching sunsets and sunrises: there’s something about a sky that’s gold and pink that restores one’s wonder at the world.

– Writing poetry, even if it’s not good.

– Painting or drawing: same again.

Above all things, we must retain our humanity, in the face of everything. There’s no point if we compromise on things that ought not be compromised.

We cannot lie to ourselves about the world and how it operates. To do so is to delude ourselves.

At the same time, we oughtn’t be depressed about it. Some comfort might be had in that the Beautiful will always be Beautiful, the True always True, and the Good always Good. This is a difficult balancing act, particularly for a younger generation seeking to make a start in the world; but it’s worth the effort.

It’s rather like being Don Quixote; but instead of the giants being a fantasy, they’re the reality — but everyone else thinks they’re just windmills.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA). 

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