Monday, 1 December 2014

Why are modern conditions so hostile to genius? Because those in power are zealously protecting the web of lies

*
Western Modernity is hostile to genius, in a way that contrasts strongly with the history of the West.

This is not a matter of merely failing to reward geniuses. That is true, but does not really matter; since genius is (and must be) internally motivated; so genius does what genius does (unless it is actively prevented from doing it).

*

So modern geniuses do what they do - but whereas Western societies of the past eagerly seized-upon the products of genius and exploited them (with or without the geniuses consent - and often while denying the genius any reward or even credit for their discovery) nowadays the West not merely fails to benefit from the activities of genius; it actively attacks the breakthroughs of genius.

*

This seems hard to understand - because in principle there is power and money to be made from the breakthroughs of genius; but this is in fact why attack is necessary - so as to prevent people spontaneously exploiting the insights of genius.

In general, the breakthroughs of a genius are paradigm-busting; they tend to break-down and re-make structures of knowledge. In the past this was not usually resisted because there was an implicit aim of basing our lives upon truth, beauty and virtue.

But 'reality' as perceived by modernity is NOW a vast and interlocking web of selective facts, distortions and outright lies - sustained by a powerful, enveloping, pervasive and addictive mass media.

Any insight or breakthrough in understanding of any kind threatens the entire edifice of the web of lies; whether that breakthrough is in ethics (virtue), science and technology (truth) or the arts (beauty).

*

Those in power at the highest levels know that their position depends on sustaining this web of lies - they know because this is the main everyday activity - the manufacture and 'management' of the tissue of dishonesty; and the web of lies is the only world they know.

Therefore, for modern leaders, the most dangerous people in the world are those who threaten the web of lies - the geniuses; therefore genius will be fought, and their insights denied and suppressed, by whatever means are most effective: denigration, mockery, misrepresentation, demonization... whatever works.

*

Thus, Western Modernity has become more actively and comprehensively and systematically hostile to genius, and the insights and discoveries of genius, than perhaps any previous society; and no matter how much they are needed, the breakthroughs of genus cannot (and will not) be used - for fear of triggering a meltdown in social order; a domino-effect in which one truth leads to another, one beauty or virtuous act leads to another, and another... until the universal web of lies suddenly snaps, and gives way... and then what?

*  

2 comments:

Nicholas Fulford said...

Your observation reminds me of the dream sequence at the end of Shaw's "St. Joan", where having been canonized, all those who participated - after offering great praise to the new saint - withdraw one by one when she says that she may resurrect herself as her first miracle. You see, real geniuses - or real saints - are far too disquieting and difficult. They raise too many issues, are terribly disruptive, and hence they are best praised from an unbridgeable distance. When they offer to come near, their fire is just too hot, and their minds too sharp for those with lesser gifts.

And so, like Shaw's St.Joan, or Alan Turing, it is best to redeem both saint and genius from a safe distance. It costs nothing, and threatens no one; and as the dead cannot speak for themselves no one has to deal with the difficulty they would cause were they made live again. The bureaucrats get to erect their monuments and make their eulogies without fear that they will actually have to live in close proximity to one who is so much their better that they would be as fireflies to a burning stake.

Syahidah and Valentine said...

You often opine that there are no major modern geniuses left. I would agree that there may be few or none known...but I believe that they exist: it is the hostility that you speak of, to them, that keeps them unknown, unsuccessful and uninfluential. It is very interesting to weigh our experiences with our son, a creative omnibus prodigy, against your statements about the nature of the West. The coverage of Ainan's achievements (across diverse areas such as Science, writing, film-making, directing, composing among others), has been strong in Asia, but interestingly non-existent in the USA (apart from one article in the Wall Street Journal, front page), and relatively minor in the UK (a couple of articles). In Asia there have been hundreds of articles. To my mind, this indicates a very cultural stance towards creative giftedness, underway. I rather think that the West is in for a surprise, in the next few decades, once these differential attitudes have had time to play themselves out. Valentine Cawley.