by Fergus Downie
I’m glad it was posted but an august journal having the good manners to air a discordant viewpoint doesn’t mean you’re entitled to have your views treated with breathless seriousness. A couple of points on ‘consciousness raising’ and and ‘Western appropriation of foreign cultures’. The Elgin marbles was an unfortunate example and I really shouldn’t have to point out the fatal flaw in that inelegant cliche. Classical Greece is the source of western civilisation and as for its appropriation, it has never had a more loving guardian than the British Museum which saved it from mournful Ottoman obscurity. There’s no cultural imperialism there - it’s stayed where it belongs the better to show off its glories, and the West is not a place it’s a spirit.
Civilisation always has universal worth because it’s the highest summit any man can reach. It is not multicultural but it manifestly is cosmopolitan (look at the way the Bible describes the great cities of the Old Testament) . Further as Toynbee noted ‘ civilisation is deracination’ it shouldn’t be confused with hoary vapourings on culture which come from well known Teutonic dead ends. The Greeks are eternal and universal precisely because they displayed an intense curiousity of mind so abjectly missing in that pan Africanist blood and soil eulogy painted by Mr Curtis (Sir, please listen to yourself when you moralise about ‘ black art’ - do we paint and sculpt with our blood?)
Were his points treated with too much politeness we would never get to the bottom of ‘cultural appropriation ‘, a weasel word with weasel intent. Civilisation needs to be shared and borrowed- if it can’t be it isn’t civilisation- it’s ‘kultur’ and we know where that led.
And sorry we don’t need to ‘accept’ or ‘ reflect ‘ anything. We need to think. Not a lot of it about - when I hear a cogent one from the androgynous American brats vandalising working class neighbourhoods and screeching profanities I’ll stop dismissing them. They don’t need museums - a book they couldn’t burn would be a start.
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