VITAL SIGNSrneOTMMONWEALrnThe Third Side inrnthe Culture Warrnby Frederick TurnerrnIwant to talk to people who have beenrnshaken out of themselves by art, whornhave heard a piece of Mozart’s MagicrnFlute reach out and grab them by thernheart, who have seen the grave look onrnFlora’s face as she steps out of Botticelli’srnPrimavera the way the gods alwaysrndo, lit by a light too powerful to be quiternshown, to those who have heard a line ofrnShakespeare so that it rang again andrnagain in their ears—”Not mine ownrnfears, nor the prophetic soul / Of thernwide world dreaming on things torncome.”rnAll great art leads beyond anythingrnwe have ever known, and this is as truernnow as it has ever been. It is culturerncommuning with itself and generating arnnew spring, just like the flowers of Botticelli’srnpainting pouring out of the mouthrnof April; it’s the prophetic soul of thernwide world. It’s like great religious rituals,rnor like the awful majesty of the state,rnbut in a playful, conditional, subjunctivernmood; it’s not authoritarian but infinitelyrnvulnerable; all you have to do isrnto stop listening or watching or readingrnand it goes away, not like the authoritiesrnof the church or the state, who will comernand clamp your head and stick matchsticksrnbetween your eyelids to make surernyou are properly reeducated.rnThe heroic modernists—Picasso,rnJoyce, Stravinsky—all knew this; butrntheir successors today—and alas, thosernwho oppose them, too—have forgotten.rnI want to talk about the two sides in thernart wars and propose a third side, whichrnisn’t a side at all but the real opening tornthe future. Real art cannot be politicallyrncorrect, whether the correction comesrnfrom the right or the left. Art is the continuingrnrevelation of the divine plan, butrnit is a divine plan that is making it up asrnit goes along, the divine plan of a live,rnnot a dead, god; and it is a revelation thatrndribbles out in the uncertain fits andrnstarts of human inspiration.rnThe disgusting Whitney show recentlyrnin New York is disgusting not becausernit is obscene but because it is boring;rnit is immoral not because it showsrnthings normally hidden—everybody alreadyrnknows what genitals look like—rnbut because it is an expression of a ruthlessrnlinear authority as cruel, stupid, andrnrepressive as any totalitarian governmentrncensor. Botticelli painted naked ladiesrnand gents, and Shakespeare has hisrnCornwall gouge out the eyes of Gloucesterrnon stage and step on them, andrnSophocles makes a tragic hero of a manrnwho goes to bed with his mother; thesernscenes are not obscene, because they arernheld within a greater conception of thernmeaning of human life. Modernism hasrnlost its noble and idealistic vision of thatrnmeaning; and postmodernism makes arnvirtue of not having such a conception atrnall, which is very convenient for the tribernof venal and unintellectual mediocritiesrnwho now infest the arts and for whom arnreally artistic view of the wodd wouldrnbe so cognitively dissonant, so tragic, andrnso full of feeling that it would destroyrntheir wodd. In other words, I attack thernpostmodern arts scene not for its excessrnof intellectuality, but for its wretchedrnfailure of intellect; I blame it not for beingrnshocking, but for not being shockingrnenough.rnWe see now a postmodernist artisticrnestablishment that is really at heart a villagernatheist’s tract. It is a naive rejectionrnof moralitv as authoritarian that fails tornreckon with the brutal authority of allrnthe human addictions, to power, to sex,rnto our various civilized drugs, to the seductionsrnof victimhood and self-excuse.rnto the violence and automatism andrnbestial appetite of the human body thatrngo along with its divine sensitivity andrnpower and capacity for joy. It is a credulousrnand unthinking commitment to therntheory of the social construction of reality,rnthat is, that human beings, and thernwodd itself, are simply artifacts of therntexts that include them, texts written byrndead white European males—and thatrnthe solution to the problem is simply tornreplace those texts with texts written byrnalive colored Third World females orrngays—both types of texts being underwrittenrnby the coercive power of thernstate. It is an ignorant rejection of scientificrntruth and of the objective pursuitrnof knowledge through inquiry and experiment.rnIt is a throwing aside of all thernancient human crafts and genres of art,rnthose marvelous techniques of melodyrnand drawing and meter and storytellingrnthat are the same all over the wodd fromrnone culture to another, on the givenrngrounds that they are Western or patriarchalrnimpositions—when really it is becausernthe new so-called artists are toornlazy and untalented and incurious andrnjustifiablv insecure to learn them. It isrnthe expression of a social theory—that ofrnStalin, to be precise—that has been asrnthoroughly discredited by historicalrnatrocity as the ideas of Hitler and thatrnthe rest of the wodd has rejected againstrngreat odds. It is the expression of a physicalrntheory of the universe as linear, deterministic,rnrunning down into greaterrnand greater disorder, in which value cannotrnbe created but only appropriatedrnfrom others and at best shared out by thernenlightened brahmins of bureaucraticrngovernment.rnBut we must pay attention to how werngot to this place. The ideas of Marx,rnNietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein,rnwhich have been recycled endlessly byrntheir epigones Foucault, Derrida, andrnLacan and then by still less original artisticrnfollowers of the followers, were originallyrngrand and bold intellectual achievements.rnEven if they were wrong in theirrnanswers, they asked marvelous questions.rnWhat is the relationship between economicrnvalue and other kinds of value,rnlike truth, beauty, goodness? Howrnshould one choose between different coherentrnmoral systems, and is there a warrantrnfor living a moral life without beingrn44/CHRONICLESrnrnrn