Friday, February 27, 2015

Fundmentalism and art

     A news item today (27 February 2015) reports on ISIS attacking Assyrian Christians, and destroying ancient artworks. Al Qaeda destroyed ancient art in Afghanistan. The Puritans defaced and destroyed religious art during the English Civil War. In Europe, Protestants defaced Catholic churches during the Counterreformation. The Nazis attacked what they called Degenerate Art. Maoists and Stalinists imprisoned artists who produced unofficial art. All kinds of fundamentalists have attacked literature and poetry and drama that they didn't like, often murdering the authors.
     And so on.
     Why do fundamentalists, secular and religious, destroy and deface artworks? Why are they so enraged by literature? One could write a lot of analysis about each case, pointing to doctrines, beliefs, attitudes and values. But it boils down to a very simple fact: Art records and expresses how someone knows the world.
     We understand an artwork to the extent that we are able to imagine being someone else. More than that, the artwork makes it possible to do that. Through art we can imagine different values, attitudes, feelings.
     And that's why fundamentalists hate art. Art is proof that it's not only possible to be different from you, but that it's inevitable.
     Fundamentalism is the inability to tolerate the diversity of humankind.

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