As I’ve mentioned before I’ve been learning classical guitar and working on a repertoire of Brazilian music. I’m currently at the point of doing various performances in street malls and cafe type venues. But it’s quite shocking to discover how divided the responses to my music are. It’s either love or hate. There’s no middle ground. And it’s very clear who loves my performance, its shortcomings notwithstanding, and who seems to utterly hate it. It’s not about my competence. I’m not a professional but clearly the responses are really to the type of music and not to my lack of expertise, because the response to my performance seems correlated with interest in mainstream pop, rock, hip hop, etc. vs. jazz and classical. This is the fundamental divide and it’s clearly along social class divisions, ie., it’s the egalitarian anti-elitists vs. those who prefer music that is, let’s say, tasteful. It’s precisely the same type of thing as when Danny Richie tries to educate so-called audiophiles on room acoustics (see Some Listening Education) only to be mobbed in the Youtube comments section for being elitist. Egalitarianism is the accepted creed not just in the People’s Republic were I live but also in the US and the other Anglophone countries.
It’s interesting how closely Anglophone countries resemble the People’s Republic. Giving up on state ownership of all means of production, private property is allowed to go with plenty of regulation and taxation. The problem is that as, thanks to private enterprise, people become wealthier they tend to leave their proletarian tastes behind. This is what the technocratic state wants to resist, namely, the emergence of a strong upper middle class cultural identity.* In Australia it’s common to hear that they’re more egalitarian than the UK, and if you make the mistake of using difficult words you’ll be attacked for having a big head. What is not allowed is any exhibition of elitism. This is the same here in the People’s Republic. The move to urbanise has meant packing the rural population with their rural modes of conduct into city high rises. You have cities without city culture. The poorly dressed and poorly behaved rural folk sit around, roam the streets, spit, talk loudly and look lost in the concrete jungle like a horde of post-apocalyptic zombies. But how is that different from the car-bound rednecks stuck in traffic in the sprawling burbs on the way to the box shopping mall where they’ll roam mindlessly around K-mart? They’re mirror images of each other, essentially the human counterpart to laboratory mice in a maze, meandering along prescribed pathways toward some meagre reward.
The logic of egalitarian capitalism is that you must keep seeking, working and consuming in an endless cycle. Non-productive satisfactions like religion or high culture contradict the logic of egalitarian consumerism. The destination must involve either producing or purchasing more meaningless stuff. There can be no higher value because the system tolerates no alternatives. The bourgeoisie challenged traditional value systems in order to free up and mobilise the economic forces of capitalism but, as Herbert Marcuse noticed, it then sought to replace those with the values of high bourgeois culture which replaced the prior aristocratic culture. In the 1930s Marcuse himself viewed this trickle down culture as a ploy to keep the proletariat under bourgeois domination (“Negations”) but by the 1970s he seems to have relented and come to recognise the necessity of bourgeois high culture for the liberation that he desired (“The Aesthetic Dimension”). Alas it was too late. Having indoctrinated the American youth into hatred of bourgeois culture he unleashed the unrelenting attack upon it to the point where now the charge of elitism is but a knee-jerk reaction among the university credentialed mob.
Now the problem is that these people do instinctively want to be middle class and together with the indoctrination into egalitarianism this creates cognitive dissonance (see also my video: Leftist Aesthetics and Cognitive Dissonance). Years of government schooling in hating bourgeois culture leads them to try to destroy the very thing that they want. They like music but can’t accept anything prior to 1960. It’s very difficult to learn to play (or for that matter to understand) music without first going through some training in classical music theory and technique. It’s pretty clear to see even among rock guitarists like Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple or Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin that at some point they received training in classical guitar. “Stairway to Heaven” remains the only classical guitar music that most rock guitar students receive today, which is better than nothing I guess. But as Jimmy Page himself admits it’s basically a poor man’s J.S. Bach Bourrée in E minor. But going to J.S. Bach himself would be elitist! So we live in a culture of self-enforced ignorance and de-culturation. Egalitarianism is the cultural cancer of contemporary society and it’s the basic reason behind the degeneration of tango into vacuous cliches: the people who do it hate it at the same time. We’re dealing with mass formation cognitive dissonance thanks to the mandatory programming in 1960’s hippie egalitarianism.
*I use the term middle class in the European sense to refer to the bourgeoisie and the upper middle class, not the American or Australian sense which refers to the working class and educated lower middle class. In European history the bourgeoisie emerged as the class of wealthy merchants and educated professionals who lacked political power until the emergence of democracy in the 19th century when they replaced the aristocratic ruling class as the politically dominant class. They subsequently became identified as the enemy by the communist left. Their political ideology is classical liberalism and they created much of the culture of the 19th century in art, music and literature. National socialists and fascists view bourgeois culture as decadent. Communists view it as maintaining the bourgeois cultural values and the reason the working class aspire to become upper middle class and why it needs to be eradicated and replaced. Today the moves to “decolonise” everything is the culmination of this effort. In this sense the fascists and the communists are on the same side in hating high bourgeois culture, although for somewhat different reasons.