Leave Me Alone

This column bugged me:  Lisa De Pasquale: Conservatives’ Culture Bubble

Here’s a ground breaking conservative article from a seasoned conservative commentator exposing, for the first time ever, the uniquely conservative disease of culture-hating.  Symptoms include preferring movies that, let’s face it, Don’t Measure Up, not watching some of the sophisticated TV programs allegedly enjoyed by all un-conservative peoples of the world and an inability to “join in” and discuss said programs at the water cooler because, because you know what?  If you did watch those programs you could find the inescapable conservative messages that even liberal Hollywood can’t really hide and you could direct your water cooler friends to those messages which they would then have to think about due to the irresistible influence of art and media and instead of being a Philistine snob in your revolting little Ozzie and Harriet culture bubble you could be an effective culture warrior!  Then we would win.

I had a bad reaction.

First of all we don’t have water coolers in the office where I work and frankly I’m sick of the stereotype.  While I hope that comment made you smile I think it actually may speak to the cluelessness of insulated commentators whose deadline-focused tunnel vision gives them license to take all kinds of short cuts and resort to all kinds of assumptions.  I’ve had a broad range of jobs.  Few have included water coolers but all have included culturally aware conservatives in the real-life mix of personnel.  Most have mastered the elementary social skills necessary for co-existence with dissimilar beings.  Nothing good comes of self-identifying as some freakish group of hopelessly outnumbered outsiders and then castigating some of us for not mixing well.   Isn’t that exactly the kind of balkanization we love to hang around the left’s neck?  Just cut it out and be a regular person, ok?

Second of all shaming people into adopting the appropriate personal taste strikes me as kind of, oh, I don’t know the exact opposite of everything conservatism stands for.  If you like Kirk Cameron and/or persist in your obstinate refusal to appreciate Breaking Bad you’re failing the revolution, comrade.  If that logic makes sense to you you’re on the wrong side.  Guess what?  I watch what I like.  I don’t watch what I don’t like.  It’s a pretty simple formula.  Here’s another hint.  I personally know a number of liberal people with viewing preferences similar to my own.  I’m not sure but I think one’s personal political outlook might not be the controlling force over all preferences, decisions and actions.  I’m still working on this theory.  I’ll keep you posted.

And another thing.  Politicizing art makes me nuts.  Put down Orwell’s essay about all literature being propaganda, please, at least until you understand it properly.  Art is an organic production which cannot help but display the characteristics of the soil from which it springs.  In that sense it always gives itself away.  It could be that a good “liberal” artist who deals compellingly with themes of morality, ethics, personal integrity, etc. isn’t “better at conveying our message.”  (Our message.  Wow.)  Maybe he, she or it just has a craftsman’s grasp of elements and themes which have been moving human spirits since before Euripides.  Maybe it’s the story that’s intriguing rather than the oblique influence on demographics and voting patterns.  Maybe there isn’t one single thought in the artist’s head about influencing opinions, “planting seeds” or changing the world.

Art is only effective when it moves people.  It loses all potency when it seeks to manipulate.  If reducing artistic expression to a means of persuasion isn’t the definition of manipulation then I guess I’d better go back to school.

Now if you want to criticize the artistry of various “conservative” productions I’m right there with you.  Let’s spend a week’s salary on fair trade lattes and pass a pleasant afternoon deconstructing repetitive formulas, predictable catharsis and chiseled-in-stone conclusions.  Fish in a barrel.  I don’t know how people sit through some of these things.

But they do.  Sometimes they’re moved by them.  Sometimes they hear a language that never gets spoken anywhere else, least of all in the sophisticated, “seed planting” depths of the finest productions slick old Hollywood has to offer.  Sometimes the “church basement” productions and “heavy handed” movies are honest expressions of genuine conviction. “Measuring up,” while nice, isn’t the paramount consideration.  They’re generally not the water I choose to swim in but it’s wrong for me to chase people out of the pool.  It’s wrong to look down on people, which is exactly what we do every time we tell them to get out of their comfort zone or their culture bubble or whatever else we’re sticking our noses into.

There is a market that keeps us supplied with options.  There are artists of every ideological persuasion streaming their work into that market through Hollywood, network television, independent outlets and loads of internet access.  Maybe habit drives most culture consumers to relatively few high profile sources and maybe conservative artists could target those sources and push a little harder to be a more effective presence.  Maybe if some of us ventured into unfamiliar cultural territory we’d find unsuspected riches.   Fine and dandy.

But enough with the cultural training wheels already.  We’re all adults here.  We really can make our own decisions.  Don’t tell us what we have to like.  It’s not polite.  It’s not respectful.

It’s not conservative.

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