SUPERVERSIVE: The Art of Courage

Blow the trumpets and sound the gong, ignite the skyrockets and release the kraken! The first essay of the Superversive Literary Movement is here.


The Art of Courage

by Tom Simon

Behold the Underminer! I am always beneath you, but nothing is beneath me!

The Incredibles

For about a hundred years now, ever since the First World War broke the confidence of Western civilization, it has been fashionable to praise subversion. Art, music, and literature, as many of the critics tell us, are not supposed to go chasing after obsolete values like truth or beauty; they are supposed to shock, to wound, to épater les bourgeois – to subvert the values of society. Here is a fairly typical example, from the literary critic, John Grant:

It must meddle with our thinking, it must delight in being controversial, it must hope to be condemned by authority (whatever authority one chooses to identify), it must be at the cutting edge of the imagination, it must flirt with madness, it must surprise.

Grant is prescribing goals for fantasy, but the same demand has been heard in every genre and every art form, much to the harm of the arts. Most people don’t share Grant’s ideological preoccupations; they see the arts not as vehicles of propaganda, but as entertainment. Trying to get yourself condemned by authority may be good sophomoric fun while you are doing it, but it makes a dull spectator sport. Considered as entertainment, it has no virtue except novelty; and it has not been novel since about the 1920s. This is one reason why the ‘serious’ arts see their audiences shrinking year after year, until they are only maintained in precarious existence by public subsidy.

Part of the trouble comes from that apparently blank cheque, ‘whatever authority one chooses to identify’. In practice, this always means the same authority: the ghost of Mrs. Grundy, the narrow-minded, puritanical, bourgeois authority that lost most of its power in 1914, and does not exist at all anymore. If you rebel against a different authority – the Chinese Communist Party, or the rulers of militant Islam – you will not find the critics so approving. They will call you reactionary or even neocon, and the hand of Buzzfeed will be raised against you.

For the world of art and literature is largely dominated by the Left, and the Left is dominated by people whose world-view is inherited from their great-grandfathers. In this view, we need labour unions to defend us against the peril of child labour, Big Government to defend us against Standard Oil. America is one false move away from theocracy and Jim Crow; Europe is one false move away from another World War. Nothing can save us except a wonderful new panacea called Socialism, which has never been tried before, and with which nothing can possibly go wrong. These, in the main, are the ideas of the Left even today; and the people who believe these things have the nerve to call themselves Progressives. They call for progress; but they are still trying to progress from 1914 into 1915. They call for subversion; but the thing they are trying to subvert no longer exists.

By all means, read the whole thing.

My comment: This essay is destined, in times to come, to be the banner and ensign of the Superversive movement. It is fated to be studied by generations to come as the Declaration of Laughter against the cold and rainy autumnal souls of the perverse purveyors of cynicism, gloom and tyranny both spiritual and political. It is doomed to be inspected by the lamplike clustered eyes of the paleontologists of the Coleopterous Race who will rule the earth in AD Two Hundred Million as they pick carefully through the fragmentary ruins of the Homo Sapiens civilizations; those sages will conclude this essay, and none other, was the seed leading eventually to the highest levels of human (and, later, Martian) artistic ambition, and inspiring the decisions of a generation yet unborn to carve the Himalayan mountains into the busts and monuments of heroes, emperors, and saints; which in turn was the proximate cause of wars renewed with sorcerer-kings of a loathsome, blind and wormlike peoples dwelling nigh an undead star in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, that hateful hybrid of a red supergiant and neutron star spoken by scientists only in whispers as the Thorne-Żytkow Object — but known of old among solemn mystics as Alchphthsckh the Unspeakable, and known of not so old among less solemn mystics at Alchphthsckh the Somewhat Difficult to Speak After Three Stiff Drinks.

And even the Grace Race who eventually will possess and occupy the bodies of the ruling caste of the remote aeon beyond AD Two Hundred Million will elevate their brachial forelimbs in grave yet exultant agreement with the wisdom and power of the words of this first and farthest famed of Superversive columns, and ignite with eerie blue fires their sixfold of ventral asseveration lamps!