The erosion of our values needs challenged at every level

The erosion of our values needs challenged at every level

by Charles Harris
article from Wednesday 29, March, 2017

I should like to mention a tribute to those who unfairly suffered in the extremist tragedy at Westminster, and I hope our prayers are heard for those who are still suffering, or lost in grief. 

Thankfully it is clear, in the light of that horrendous attack, that there is still a strength of common aim and a need to reject everything that threatens to alter the long pattern of our lives. For our values do exist based upon our traditions and culture, as they do with our politics, democracy and compassion. So in sadness, I am also proud to see and compliment everything that helps to support our history, customs and beliefs, as we could observe that very grey morning.

THIS WEEK our editor suggested I combine my tribute above, penned last week, with a feature that hopefully extends the sentiments we have all felt. So, I would like to consider more beyond this cowardly miserable act, with some of the questions that arise today as a result. For this despicable outrage, after the terrible loss, misery, suffering, for innocent people, with cruelty, and contempt for all things decent, sadly shocked the beliefs we all proudly hold, with regard to our nation and its beliefs.

Thus I hope, without losing sight of that cruelty of this senseless, wicked, evil act, all unfairly brought for others, that we might also consider this tragedy now, in a useful social context for the future. And I also I hope, with respect for the traditions and loyal service this outrage produced, that it is possible to ask questions about how someone claiming to be British, could sink so low.

For this too, was something I rightly believe was felt by all of us that day, when learning about, viewing and considering the terrifying event. For I expect we were all challenged afterwards by why such a cowardly act could arise.

So I also hope it is acceptable to consider those rotten misguided ideas that may have led to this outrage. For in following this ugly spectacle, an idea arose that in some way this vile act was in response to some strange belief of selfish promotion and a distorted individualism. So while hoping this was not a reality, I wondered was this in a part due to any current fashion for selfish individualism. 

Thus, in considering a common collective view, I wonder if there is a philosophy and culture in Britain that supports that position, and sadly the answer must be Yes. For these ideas of extreme individualism, without regard for tradition and convention, is also a stance of ‘Anything is okay modernism,’ which does exist in our society today and in context with the field I operate in its flagship is that of modern art.

While I am not for one moment suggesting its advocates are terrorists, nor am I suggesting they are encouraging those criminal ideas or actions for that would be grossly unfair and nonsense, instead in a smaller way I am considering how today’s fashions and notions of modernism, have in practicalities, perhaps directly or indirectly, been involved in an ongoing denial of our traditional values and conventional culture, and wonder what effect this actually has on people too?

This is not a new idea, for this imbalanced current obsession has certainly brought harm to many previously established views. And while this is a policy assumed to have the support of us all in our media today, what may be the long-term consequences, and where is the balance?

Where for example is any art encouraged today, which represents, supports, and symbolises all we have experienced in Britain over the centuries?

Where today are our long traditions considered and truly shown objectively for culture?

Where is the language of Shakespeare, the beautiful words of Byron, Keats and Shelley?

Are they senselessly lost in a new fashion culture, without any need for literary genius? Certainly lost, is the great art of Turner and Constable, all lost in a panoply of our new modernist culture, and hopelessly lost in the endless wordplay of cheap conceptualisation and jingo jargon that it requires to explain it – and all used to support those failed claims for modernism in art and education.

Today we do see extremist architecture and ugly cold lifeless conceptual art in our towns and cities, all proclaiming to be valuable, and apparently representing us. While in the least appropriate places, we see tubular, or sharp steel in needless decorative railings and metal objects, rather than beautiful art. Yes, it's all new cutting edge this, and cutting edge that, and it’s all cutting indeed into that conventional art and lifestyle we all understand. 

Those are the images of our lives still held in traditional museums, which we know intimately from our experiences of life. Those are ideas we immediately acknowledge, the ideas we grew up with, which we can all still understand and cherish.

And what say you, of the language of this vile replacement of our culture? We hear lots of pro-modernist words telling us how there is an apparent need to shock, to confront, to abstract, to reduce, to expose, and ‘To defy the rules of convention,’ as the television advert goes. 

All very well if this were true, yet whose convention does this describe? Whose traditions and culture is being dissembled in this cynical, cold, heartless, modernist fashion? Unfortunately those are our traditions, and our convention this refers too.

And what has been the price of this contempt for all things normal, this despising of our convention and long held decent beliefs? In the smallest possible way, we may see it’s effect with lost manners in every high street in the United Kingdom, in the contempt and bad manners displayed, in that barging and pushing, in not opening doors for people, not considering the aged or the weak, there are so many examples everyday. A behaviour that makes us now marvel and comment when people do show kindness, good manners and genuine helpfulness.

And it is certainly fair to suggest those new values of “Anything is okay,” modernism, have been helping to erode our society unchallenged for some time. And for a quick example, fifteen years ago in that heyday of extreme modernist conceptual art in our society, modernists were also saying that Scots should just abandon the tartans and the kilt, as being outdated in a modern world. Fortunately, that stupidity was ignored, but other more insidious issues were brought forward, which did not reflect our lives despite receiving publicity and mass promotion in a new apparently desirable fashion.

So if the example of the abandoning of tradition in art and culture, which has occurred, has undermined our values then perhaps we may expect to see violent attacks and disregard for human life, by people being desensitised as human beings through an obsession for promoting and selling failed and valueless modern life? 

Is it really that far to suggest, that those careless ideas of a modernist inhuman ideology, should eventually lead to chaos?  I sincerely hope this is not the case. Yet I wonder, is this new modernist ideology one we should be presenting to other nations?

Where should we look today for a human and real convincing expression of the decent values we all associate with belonging to Britain, simply offering genuine examples of our thoughts, our private standards, those shared ideals and our national belief?

Do others not see with disbelieve and doubt, the degrading of our national monuments with irrelevant modernism, as disgracefully occurs regularly in Trafalgar Square? Yet this is a monument to one of our greatest heroes that is constantly degraded by a rotation of ugly conceptual modernist objects set on stone plinths alongside his statue? Does his sacrifice mean nothing to us now?  I happily think, it still means a great deal.

However, supporting this substitute culture, we see extremist architecture and ugly cold lifeless conceptual art in our towns and cities, proclaiming to be modern yet apparently still representing our long-held traditional values and natures. In the least appropriate places, we find needless decorative railings, or sharp metal objects, rather than seeing beautiful art. 

Instead we are told it’s all cutting edge this, or cutting edge that, and all cutting indeed into that conventional lifestyle we all know. This is knowledge that we know, things we are proud to understand, which we grew up with, and still cherish.

And indeed, what is the language of this vile replacement of our culture? We hear fanatic pro modernists telling us how there is an apparent need to shock, to confront, to abstract, to reduce, to expose, ‘To defy the rules of convention,’ as the television advert goes. All very well if that were true, and whose convention is this? Whose traditions and culture is being dissembled in this cynical, cold, heartless, modernist fashion?

So we should ask - do we need this cynicism of modernist theories, those questionable ideas and ugly pointless art to succeed as a nation?

And another question which always baffles - why are there no speakers apparently standing up for our traditions in this regard? Where are our academics, our university professors, why do they not speak out against an ongoing cultural outrage? What has happened to the media?

And finally where are our politicians, for this cowardly rotten attack was directed at one of our oldest traditions, the birthplace of democracy. So I hope that politicians will finally decide to take the proper steps needed to reform this nightmare. For it is not as if the poor effects of this corruption cannot be seen. The evidence of this cheap, careless, selfish, self-indulgent cynicism, is everywhere today, promoting the very opposite to everything our nations have stood for in every way through the past.

So in closing, I have also enclosed some live life pastels images to just show something of that great variety and richness of our traditions and culture. For our culture is just full of so many treasures and joys. 

And finally, a friend has repeatedly said, “Unfortunately, people are too busy living their lives to worry about effects of modern art upon our culture.”  Nevertheless, I do hope this observation will prove wrong. For while I cannot say this corruption in any way was actually a cause of our recent sad and terrible tragedy, equally I do not wish to be in any way prophetic in the future.

Small Live pastel images include: Donkey Rides, The funfare, The Beach, The Concert, Snow in the Suburbs, The rugby Dugout and Fishing on the Tay. (Copyright Charles Harris 2017 – Trust Your Heart.)

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