The long shadow of dwarfs (Part 1)

Your Utopia, My Dystopia

A moderate form of debility is normal.

– Guenter Moebius, German pathologist and forensic medical doctor

To speak about freedom and responsibility – about rights and duties – is to speak about culture. Acting in liberty, we are embedded by culture in a system which in its original Latin meaning of the word encompasses all fields of higher human activities. Our own culture, and cultures we get acquainted to by additional learning and further traditions in language, art and all kind of constructive activities, form the space within which we may act.

Rational, logical thinking and acting, and recognizing liberty and serfdom, is therefore nurtured by all forms of high culture. We should not believe that political and economic freedom is possible without the liberal arts – artes liberales – and an elitist approach to life.

The term liberty derives from the Latin word libertas, meaning to be a free person or a liberated person; a person with a liberated mind as to posses political freedom and independence. It is related to the word liberalitas, which means possessing a noble mind, to be kind, good-natured, friendly, and magnanimous. Liberalis is the adjective for something worthy of a free man; to be noble, decent, mild-mannered, and friendly. But some meanings of liber, -era, -erum also have a meaning like unrestraint, unbridled, and without bounds and limits, which could (if misunderstood) lead to dangerous consequences.

We can recognize that a free attitude is an ethical attitude demanding a certain behaviour and mind. Liberty possesses elegance and style. Rolling in the gutter leads to serfdom – not to freedom. As the great Austrian critic Karl Kraus remarked: even dwarfs cast long shadows when the sun of culture is standing low. And with that, yours truly turns now to  Ariana Grande.

As an introductory note I may say that I have got nothing against Ms Grande personally or against her private person; she may be an amiable and nice personality. I do not have an issue with her personally. My remarks are about her public appearance; about the construction of a very public mass media figure – an ‘it’. And I have an issue with the ones who are constructing such a figure and managing it in a certain way.

As her name is telling us she – if this word is admissible in gender-fluid times – is a great artist and singer. Yours truly must confess complete innocence. Before the terrorist massacre of the 22nd of May (which of course has nothing to do with Islam), that figure was completely unknown to me.

Its life, career, and artistic emanations are meticulously using 272 footnotes reported by Wikipedia. I may convey to the benign reader some information tit-bits.

We are told that it was already acting as a child (they mean obviously acting on stage). At the age of 10, it founded its first charity, and at 13 became serious – that cum gustibus should mean ending all the nonsense it was doing but, no, it means it being serious in pursuing a musical career. So in German we could call it a “frueh Vollendete” – an early completed one. We are told that its voice encompasses four octaves and a note (meaning 33 notes altogether) and it dwells in the vocal soprano range.

What say the experts on Wikipedia?

The discipline of voice classification developed within European classical music and is not generally applicable to other forms of singing. Voice classification is often used within opera to associate possible roles with potential voices.”

Seems to be a sham. Well, let us see: a soprano voice ranges from the middle C to the high C. The great Maria Callas, who possessed a tremendous voice, was covering only nearly three octaves. This pompous proclamation about its voice seems to be like the title of one of its films (dated 2013), “Swindle”. I checked one music video of it called “Break free ft. Zedd” and tried to listen to its voice. Such a thin twittering with the use of a micro, I have never experienced. You may call its noise a prodigious purring, as it is a prodigy that the masses believe this noise is a voice and that murmur is singing.

I bet a box of my favourite South African champagne (Villiera Brut rose) that this hummingbird does not cover four octaves and that this high octane claim may be easily falsified by an investigation done by professors from a faculty for musical arts. Please challenge me.

It is an actor, a singer with a romantic entanglement to a rapper. It was Catholic, but only under Pope Benedict XVI. It turned away due to the Churches’ position on homosexuality and it is now following the Cabbala as another it (called ‘Madonna’) did many years ago. Its first single, “Problem”, sold over four million copies in the US alone, without any problem. It is showered with awards and accolades, as this is fitting to it. Until June this year, its music videos had been globally viewed over eight billion times. The videos are professionally done and full of film citations – in the quoted one, “Barbarella” is cited, for example. But Jane Fonda doing a strip tease in space with zero gravity was fun and witty in the sixties, now it is just a pale copycat making some uncoordinated physical movements.

Its music is influenced by pop, R&B, funk, dance, hip-hop, Madonna , Amy Winehouse – who lived up to her name until dying young and is therefore perfectly suited as an example – and whatever sounds good on paper.  It said verbatim that “Maria Carey is literally my favourite human being on the planet.” That is an interesting choice, as she could also have mentioned the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, Angela Merkel, or whoever or whatever is just ‘in’ with the celebrity crowd.

Even its ponytail is aesthetically relevant. As one Celia Almenda opinionated, it is a feminist hero and “she saves the celebration of the joys of liberated sexual exploration for her lyrics”. That sentence surely has a de-constructivist and post-structuralist meaning. So I indulged my reactionary self in reading its lyrics. According to definition, “Lyrics are words that make up a song usually consisting of verses and choruses”. That is a very careful definition, avoiding any hint to linguistic or verbal quality. In that sense, it sings lyrics which are in many cases about love. As we know, ‘love’ has philosophically and ethically the meaning of eros, philia and agape, but with her it is about sex and carnal intercourse only, or what insecure boys and girls in puberty (or before puberty) believe sex is. That is the opposite to real erotic, which you may discover in great works of art (especially music) – even in many cases being the essential part of musical drama; just listen to Richard Wagner’s  1st act of Valkyrie with the erotic tension building up between Sigmund and Siglinde, not to mention the musical climaxes of the 2nd act of Tristan and Isolde. Compared with that, the sexual emanations of it are just a kind of handmade self-satisfaction on public expenses within a public health system.

On Twitter, it has 47 million followers who are served with twits like “I love you from the bottom of my heart to the farthest galaxy and back.” What a twit!

As an act of solidarity with the victims of the terrorist massacre – I do not mean what her usual presentations do to music but the tragic mass murder in Manchester – she tattooed herself with little bees. Well, it is not Pietro da Cordona’s opulent ceiling painting in the Palazzo Barberini, and certainly it is not a triumph of divine providence, but surely a triumph of perfect reputation management.

As I observed after the 22nd of May, its name was not longer mentioned in the media reports but only came back when the concept of the “One love Manchester” charity concert was ready to go. It was perfect public relation and reputation management. Really first class. And it is said that US$13 million had been raised for the victims and their families. We will see if we will ever see a precise and CA-supervised balance of this event and how much money will really go to the victims. In any way, its profit and the profit of her concert machinery will not in the least be reduced but in the name of charity and love enhanced.

The whole thing is synthetic and nothing else. Everything is carefully planned and managed. It is the systematic commercial organisation of the mindless, clueless, and tasteless by the unscrupulous; the victory of strategic art management over authentic creative doing; the systematic harvesting from the large fields of pocket money of minor minds of minors, who all seem to receive too much pocket money and too little education and standards. As one German newspaper (“Die Welt” on the 23rd of May) wrote, it is a symbol of the western culture and way of life. They could be right. Of course, all its activities and considerations rate highly on the P.C. scale, as it supports victims of HIV/AIDS, LGBT youths, Black Lives Matter, turned to vegan food, and so on. I sincerely doubt if any original idea ever started to grow in her head but bet that any kind of statement, engagement, opinion, or charity is systematically planned and checked as to how much money it may bring to its machinery.

Machinery – yes, a machinery. It is the industrial harvesting of people who can easily be separated from their money. A fool and his money are soon departed. Well, this is not my business and if one makes money with the bad or insecure tastes of others it must not be worth mentioning. Some will say that yours truly is making much ado about nothing. If it serves the needs of its followers and fans – being children and minors – can we say “so be it”?

No, we cannot. Because these insecure minors of today will be the minions of the machinery of vulgarity tomorrow.

Privileged by the good schooling I received in Vienna from home and school in music and arts, I know what is of classic quality and what is not, what is beautiful, full of grace, and what is just ugly and vulgar. About eighty years ago the lowest gutter boy in Vienna did know about Maria Jeritza and did know that her singing was high art and she, as one most prominent opera singer, was to be revered and adored.

It is not that I recognise only classic music. Pop music was and can be full of quality. The Beatles had been the best song writers since Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann; Jazz and Tango started as classic popular forms of art of common people, and wonderful pieces of music had been created in these fields; Pink Floyd, Procul Harum , Emerson, Lake and Palmer have written masterpieces.

But the present day minors do not know that. They obviously believe that ‘it’ is really art, style, aesthetic and real high class music, and they do not even know otherwise. So a wild horde, masses of vulgarity and ugliness, are let loose, possessing the critical mass to destroy culture. And if that is accepted “then we have” – to quote the great American Jazz and classic trumpet player Wynton Marsalis – “a big problem.” We will not only have an aesthetic problem or challenge, but a political one, as brains of minors corrupted with that noisy nonsense can much easily be manipulated for totalitarian abuse, turned to accept serfdom voluntarily –as long as some kind of sex is admitted – and walk away from the sometimes difficult but in the end promising and challenging and rewarding path of liberty. Delenda est vulgaritas!

Sources for my deliberations have been Wikipedia articles on Ariana Grande, Maria Callas and related subjects; various videos on Youtube;; Horst Geyer “Ueber die Dummheit” (On stupidity), Andre Comte-Sponville, Encouragement for a non modern life and “Stowasser” (Latin-German Dictionary) as personal music especially Opera recollections; Walkuere, 1.Akt special performance in Vienna 1963 with Hans Knappertsbusch conducting and Claire Watson, Fritz Uhl and Josef Greindl  performing.