On Philistinism

"I am so, so glad to know that my loathing for Ulysses is not because I am uncultured Philistine. I, perhaps, made it slightly farther than you, searching for the brilliance I was told lay inside, but if I did, it was not by much."

Philistine? The problem is that I am a philistine, and proud of it. I read an enjoy Pulp rubbish like THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE and children’s books like HARRY POTTER and THE HOBBIT, not to mention comics by Alexander Raymond and Jack ‘King’ Kirby. I enjoy popular action-adventure garbage like Homer’s ODYSSEY and patriotic pro-Roman propaganda like Virgil’ AENEID, and horrific Jack Chick godbotherer Xtian tracks like Milton’ PARADISE LOST. I am impressed with pagan filth like HYPERION by Keats and historically inaccurate drivel like IDYLLS OF THE KING by Tennyson. I also great the classics of great literature like Asimov’s FOUNDATION series and Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS.

However, all these trashy penny dreadful books I read, popular both my highbrow and lowbrow alike, have one thing in common. They have plot, character, drama, and moral purpose, and some even brush the heights of beauty with outstretched wing.

After Nietzsche killed God in an under-reported Deicide somewhere in the mid-1800’s, however, the intellectuals and thinkers of the West turned away from everything wholesome, normal and good, and erected new and shocking idols to whatever was tasteless, meaningless, anti-heroic, and antinomian. ULYSSES by James Joyce is their paramount written work, even as NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE is their paramount work in the visual arts. The point of their art is what that eminent modern thinker, Dr. Frost of the National Institute of Controlled Experimentation, would call ‘Objectification’. The point of their art is to replace the natural human passions and appetites, which we have because we live on earth and yearn for heaven, for those which would obtain if we lived in hell and yearned for deeper hell: in poetry, clamor; in music, cacophony; in painting, smears; in novels, neurosis; in philosophy, unreason; and in all things, vice.

The real philistines took over the holy land, ejected the chosen people, and declared their worthless garbage to be wonders of wonders, and declared all the good and normal and wholesome works of art and literature to be populist trash unfit for their rarefied consumption: and they call us philistines and cowards, for not adoring their crude ugliness.

The reality is that we common folk with common tastes, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The literati of the elite world of literature, they are Pharisees, and no doubt when on the Judgment Day comes to the world of art, the Nine Muses of the Hippocrene will cast them into Tartarus, where there will be wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

The secret of the modern age, and the key to understanding the modern intellectual clime, is merely to realize that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

These works of modern so called art are called art because and precisely because they are the opposite of art: they are insolent trash. They are deliberately ugly, deliberately untruthful, deliberately vicious. They are philistines at their most philistine, because they, not us, they, cannot appreciate what is beautiful, true, and virtuous in art …. or in life.