Redeeming Classical Beauty To Restore The American Mind And Spirit

Florence duomo Shutterstock/ronnybas

Meg Hansen Executive director of VHFC, a nonprofit promoting free-market healthcare reform
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Two recent high-profile self-hangings — and a new Centers for Disease Control report showing a 25 percent leap in the suicide rate since 1999 — occasioned a slew of think pieces accusing the lonely, fragmented nature of modernity, and American proclivities in particular, for the epidemic of despair deaths. No doubt our society’s bourgeois-bohemian influencers, ensconced in ivory towers or posh gated-communities and nourished by postmodern psychobabble, should blame capitalism, individualism, and even “hegemonic masculinity.” They despise merit and manhood.

Late twentieth century Continental pseudo-philosophy, described by British philosopher Roger Scruton as “métamerde” or self-referential bullshit, has metastasized from academia to our culture, jettisoning American meritocracy for a sexuo-racial quota system. Straight, white men are the archenemy in the new order. The Federal Aviation Administration under President Barack Obama, for example, prioritized race-based hiring over science proficiency to correct its “too white” workforce.

Systematically vilifying Americans who have what we define as white skin as unfairly privileged and oppressive alienates 77 percent of the population. Together with deconstructing masculinity and societal traditions (like marriage, fatherhood and the sovereign nation), this project of sabotage erases the foundation on which men build meaning. The ensuing emotional and spiritual wasteland breeds profound, pervasive and persistent dolor — in the cities and the rugged expanse — and lies at the heart of self-destruction. In 2016, white men accounted for seven out of 10 suicides.

The Geppettos, pulling the strings of identity politics, specifically target the arts and humanities – the soul of civilization. Consequently, the Western canon has been relegated to the dustbin of history because white, heterosexual males authored its literature, philosophy, music and fine arts. And because the lure of beauty leads to meaning, those interested in obliterating the latter from our society promote the cult of ugliness.

Beauty inhabits the pinnacle of creativity and craft, as in the works of the Old Masters, where it rescues man from the great tyranny of the mundane and mediocre. To transcend one’s trivial self and experience the divine represents a universal yet seldom fulfilled need. I would define beauty as the serenity and song that suffuses my core when contemplating the lush green of the sylvan hills on the horizon or Bach’s Chaconne from Partita No. 2 in D Minor; or in that moment when walking down an unfamiliar cobblestone alley, the thirteenth-century Florence Cathedral appeared out of the darkness to receive me in all its marble majesty.

Its immediate and sensuous appeal notwithstanding, beauty must follow carefully defined standards. A work does not qualify as beautiful simply because one so decides. But politically correct relativism and gratuitous transgression reign today. Anyone that dares exercise aesthetic discretion will thus encounter useful idiots screeching, “Whose standards apply?” Such knee-jerk reactions reveal how the ascendant order reduces all sociocultural interactions and institutions to power games between the villainous white American man and rest of humanity. The Shape of Water (2017) won this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture on account of honoring the resistance of our moment.

It is small wonder then that artistic endeavors no longer elevate. What passes as art now humiliates, confuses, disgusts, and benumbs Americans. Elite galleries and everyday avenues, e.g. airports and college campuses, exhibit tedious or hideous regurgitations such as petals of human excrement strewn about on brick slabs. The cult of ugliness apotheosizes banal and sadomasochistic impulses, which serve no other purpose than to act like frissons around which the narcissism of our thought leaders constellates.

Keats related beauty to truth and declared the equation of the two as the sum of all knowledge. It follows that the habitual desecration of beauty (to borrow another term from Scruton) impoverishes American life by depriving access to truth, meaning, and the sacred. The existential desolation left in its wake is driving our brothers, fathers, husbands, and sons to kill themselves. Suffering lies in every man’s fate but it need not become his destiny. Only the redemptive touch of beauty will restore the American man to wholeness.

Meg Hansen is the executive director of VHFC, a Vermont-based nonprofit committed to free-market reforms in American health care.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.