Monday, November 28, 2011

The Exegesis: The Myth of Progress

Back in the 90s when everyone had gone crazy for the tech bubble I'd get a lot of people asking me what I was investing in. "Nothing," I'd reply, "I'm too conservative to play the stock market."

It always got a chuckle and then a double-take; oh, he means it. I'd seen a few bubbles come and go in the comic market and saw the damage they could do when they burst. The tech bubble burst but that was just a sneak preview of what would happened when the housing bubble burst. Bubbles are fundamentally anti-conservative, in my view.

In these Orwellian times, when dominant power structures devote vast resources to destroying our vocabulary and the possibility of discourse itself, the word "conservative" has come to be identified with a person who blindly follows any of the dominant right-wing political modalities; Theocon, Neocon, Corporatist.

None of these modalities are in fact conservative because none of them value modesty, caution, tradition or the preservation of long-standing conditions or institutions.

Instead they are all degrees of soft fascism, in that they all worship corporate power and seek to remake society in their own image, according to their varying precepts of "Progress." But all of them would result in a world in which civil society would be replaced by corporate dictate.

In many ways I'm a Yankee of the flinty, old school variety-- there's nothing I hate more than arbitrary or unnecessary change. And I still believe in many of those old school conservative values --such as honesty, industry, loyalty and thrift-- that the situationally-ethical corporatist establishment prescribes for others but never practice themselves.

It's just that I know from study that counterculture, mysticism, psychedelia and the rest are actually traditions as old as the hills.

One of the reasons I wrote Our Gods Wear Spandex and The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll was to prove that cultural movements that are dismissed as aberrations or accidents of history are anything but, in fact they long predate many of the more respectable cultural institutions like the Church or classical music.

And although I love technology, I have a deep suspicion of the ideal of Progress-- the ideal that human history is this linear sequence that is on an infinite arc up, to where depends on who you ask.

You can't study ancient history and pretend that civilization, technology and culture are anything but cyclical, if not utterly random. One of the best examples of this is Ancient Egypt, which seemed to have started at a peak and then sort of spiraled downward in some ways and stayed utterly stagnant in others.

Europe followed a similar path from the rise of Constantine to the Renaissance. Science, health, social comity and overall education took a nosedive sometime between Theodosius and Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the West. Things got so bad in Rome proper that the details and chronology of the latter's reign are still unknown. Modern conservatives protest that Rome continued in the East, but there too we saw incessant decline, just on a slower timetable.

That's what history teaches you: Progress is subject to the variables that are often impossible to account for- weather, earth changes, plague, etc etc etc. There are no straight lines.

My distrust of Progress is how easily the idea can be twisted to suit the agenda of the least humane elements in the world.
The Plutocracy, for instance sees the replacement of American and European workers with offshore labor or machines as the apogee of human progress, but for everyone else it's a disaster. They see the replacement of craftsmanship and pride of work with mass-produced plastic or glueboard crap from slave labor camps in China the same exact way.

Correspondingly, the far left have replaced the tradition tenets of liberalism-- tolerance, equality of opportunity, economic justice-- with the intentionally nebulous ideal of "Progressivism," which in many ways is not only often radically illiberal, it's often used as cudgel by the Right to bash the liberals with. There's no doubt in my mind that it was designed to do so.

My favorite example of the regressive reality of the Progressivist ideal is Antioch College, a legendary liberal institution whose alumni included such luminaries like Coretta Scott King, Rod Serling and Steven Jay Gould. Antioch took every progressive innovation to heart until it became a national laughing stock for its extremist adherence to political correctness, then succumbed to an ugly, prolonged decline before finally being shut down by its trustees in 2008. It's reopened this past year but has a very long way to go before it can restore its reputation or its student population.

Robert Motherwell's idea of Progress

Ultimately though, my suspicion of Progress is based, like everything else, in culture and the arts. The only person who wasn't surprised that the CIA funded the abstract expressionist movement was me, since I've long suspected that all of these emperor's new clothes movements in the fine arts world were designed to drive a wedge between the arts community and the general public.

I'd suspected as much largely due to the fact that the Guggenheim mining dynasty-- along with other corporate oligarchs such as the Rockefellers-- were the main patrons of these increasingly alienating movements, which allowed the talentless children of privilege like Robert Motherwell (whose father was the president of Wells Fargo) to pretend they were artists. The damage this program did to the prestige and reputation of the visual arts lingers to this day.

This new "Progress" decimated several generations of artists in North America and Europe, as prestigious schools stopped teaching the fundamentals of the craft and filled student's heads with a bunch of bullshit theory in their place. Representational artists were openly scorned, ridiculed and suppressed as "regressive" and counter-revolutionary. Only in the past couple of decades has the pendulum swung back, thanks largely to the low brow and neo-Surrealist movements openly hostile to the art world establishment.

Some context is needed here, mind you. In many ways abstract expressionism and related movements were a response to the challenge posed by the Industrial Revolution and its aftershocks, especially motion picture and video. Many promising artists- Donald Cammell, to name one-- felt like the plastic arts were static and inert compared to the possibilities of electronic media (in Cammell's case it was cinema and rock and roll).

But the response was the wrong one, in my opinion. And it points to a hideous irony-- how the progressive ideal is in many ways actually reactionary, or at least reactive.


Gang of Four before...

But of course the thing that made me come to deeply resent the myth of Progress was the response the music industry had to the disappointing reception most of the first wave of Punk and New Wave bands faced in the late 70s and early 80s.

When disco imploded in 1979, the new crop of rock bands was given a major push by the record companies. The investment paid off for acts like The Knack, Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello, The Police, and The Cars. But many other bands tanked or underperformed and success was shortlived for many of the new hitmakers.

In order to jumpstart sales, enormous pressure was put on these bands to radically tone down their music and their images, even acts as seemingly hardcore as The Clash and The Ramones. However, the bands and their labels faced a major problem-- the hype that accompanied their debuts proclaimed that these bands had declared war on the soft rock and disco complacency dominating the charts. Now that these bands were themselves recording soft rock and disco only marginally distinguishable from the acts they were meant to replace, a new argument had to be made for them. And that was the "Progress" argument.

The word came down from on high that these bands had embraced "Progress," which inevitably moved in the direction of the Top 40. These acts weren't selling out by recording soft rock and pop and disco, they were being Progressive, usually by adding in some vague politics and radio-friendly Third World rhythms into the mix.

By far the most egregious sellouts-- and the most obnoxious proponents of the new "Progress" party line dogma-- were Gang of Four, who made their mark serving up frantic, aggressive punk funk (influencing acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the process) and confrontational Marxist politicking. But as soon as the record company looked at them cross-eyed the Gang rolled over and played dead, serving up the odious soft rock/disco hybrid abortion Hard in 1983.

By its release, two of the Four had quit in disgust already and the band was laughed out of existence the following year. They made a Stalinist point to erase all of this from their history when hitting the comeback trail a few years back. Ironically, the new generation was only interested in the records they made before this suicidal embrace of Progress took old, as is usually the case.

...and after Progress.

Gang of Four were by no means alone (Combat Rock anyone?). And what neither the bands nor the record companies realized was that the audience was in a state of transition at the time. Music video would make weirdos and punks marketable by mid-1982 and a sizable alternative circuit would emerge and eventually complete the work the punks had set out to do in the late 70s.

The phony idea of "Progress" turned out to be a poison pill when the change came. Many of the acts that compromised collapsed under the weight of all the bullshit or were disgraced and/or relegated to cult act status. The ones that didn't went on to build huge, dedicated audiences. If only the artists and their managers stuck it out a bit longer, they could have gotten over the hump and helped change the face of the music industry.


Ironically, there were two opposing movements in the 19th Century that enshrined the ideal of Progress. The first was Marxism, which reacted to the massive social crises unleashed by the Industrial Revolution by proposing a "scientific" model in which to re-organize industrial society. The other was Dispensationalism, the Christian Fundamentalist interpretation of scripture which presented a model in which all of history was seen to progressing inexorably to the Great Revelation and the coming of the Kingdom of God.

The unprecedented explosion in machine technology, as well as in chemistry and other sciences, seemed to bolster the idea that culture and religion were both part of this march of progress. Fascism too embraced progress at the same time it presented itself as the great restorer of European tradition.

With the rise of computers and the Internet the idea of linear progress became self-evident to many people. Particularly those who ignored that the Industrial and Information Revolutions were not entirely without precedent. Or ignored that technology has led to the de-evolution of human talents and abilities in many ways.

Many of us take Moore's Law as a truism, and the idea of this incessant doubling of technological capacity has led to what is in many ways the apotheosis of the Myth of Progress, namely Transhumanism. Yet the idea that computer technology is approaching the Singularity is by no means embraced by the scientific community, and we're seeing a lot of talk now claiming that progress has stalled. Transhumanism may come to pass or there may be some event that militates against it. But it is not inevitable.

In the final analysis, there's progress and there's the myth thereof. I believe absolutely that humans can't operate without something to look forward to. I believe absolutely that we need goals, sometimes impossible ones to keep us going.

I believe that human beings have potentials yet unrealized, perhaps even a destiny. I strive in all things to improve and innovate, whatever it is that I do. I live with the hope every day that I'll overcome my health issues and live a better life. I want to think that I'll be happy and fulfilled in my work. I want the same for everyone around me.

But in order to achieve our objectives I believe we need to stop thinking that wheel needs to be constantly reinvented. We need to place human well-being above all other goals, most especially the goals of Progress. There's no good innovation that doesn't contribute to the greatest good of the greatest number.

People come first. Without that first principle, Progress will always give birth to horror.


  1. Hey Chris,

    This a fascinating post. I wonder what kinds of thoughts, concepts, varied reading and synchery cross-pollinated for you to come up with this post. Your posts always have a very focused specificity and yet they're all so varied in terms of topic and content. Impressive, dude.

    I think I have a very 'progressive' view of technology in one sense, and in another sense I agree with much of your reasoning here. I mean to say, I'm one of these guys who believes that all the sci-fi super-tech that we dream about is theoretically possible in literal terms.

    Teleportation, enhanced psi-abilities, time-travel, medical technologies that can heal ravaged human tissue, etc. I think it's all theoretically possible - in the sense that skilled, intuitive engineers armed with enough resources and a sophisticated understanding of the art-physics connection could actually come together and model these technologies, and eventually come up with working prototypes. But our society doesn't really foster a climate for that sort of thing.

    Yet, I feel that your take on the cyclical/random nature of tech-progress is also very astute. Basically, I think we're so far away from being a loving, peaceful civilisation - and I think it's this kind of context that would truly make the super-tech of our dreams a literal reality. And I think this reality would by definition be more 'fluid' than ours - and not all technology would be literalized in forms we would recognise today.

    I mean, our current idea of space travel is to strap ourselves to a massive bomb and ride the shockwave of its controlled explosion beyond the gravitational pull of the Earth. As most psychonauts would agree, I suspect there are other legitimate ways to explore space - with far more subtlety and comprehension.

    At the risk of sounding extremely flaky - I do believe anything we imagine is theoretically possible. There is something very Gnostic in all this, though I'd have to rely more on poetry than 'fact' to really bring it into focus.

    But the idea that certain forms of super-tech would need near-unlimited amounts of energy to operate...I think it stems from a habitual mentality rather than anything in the mathematics of theoretical physics itself. I kinda see mainstream physics in Star Wars terms, as in, "Explain The Force without acknowledging The Force, and always do so in reductionist terms."

    Science so often contains itself within a framework of legitimising its own unconscious assumptions. False axioms dictate false realities. The essence of Gnosticism. The Spirit wrapped so tightly in dream-mathematics, absolutism and crude materialism.

    But fluid axioms dictate fluid realities - the spirit with enough room to manipulate these mathematics if not entirely transcend them. As you suggest, the best of conservative values conjoined with a rigorous dexterity of mind. A little closer to the Pleroma. Here's hoping we learn a little more about our destiny before the next curtain call.


  2. Great post, and an amazing synchronicity too because I just deleted a rambling half-finished rant about abstract expressionism after the previous post last night. Yes, this particular manufactured movement did so much to replace actual craftmanship with bullshit theory, leading to "art" such as videos of people sleeping. I'm currently an art major and most of these memes are thankfully in the past, however I did get booted from a design course which was not properly described as abstract expressionism like it should have been. Our instructor had a very paint-by-numbers routine which was 100% devoid of the creative process. The assignments she gave us seriously could have been done by a computer program so I just quietly sat in the corner and attempted to make actual art. Apparently this was a huge problem because she dropped me from the course without my knowledge despite near perfect attendance!! When I think about how much damage this pretentious trend must have done to the arts when it was the standardized curriculum it makes sense that most of the great artists of that time period, such as Frank Frazetta, were completely marginalized and looked down on as "illustrators". These days, some of the greatest artists are doing death metal covers and working at 7-11. There are definitely signs of a resurgence, though, such as the lowbrow/pop surrealism movement and the return of traditional painting and illustration methods in art schools. Ok, now I will go finish reading the rest of the post. :)

  3. I don't find abstract expressionism alienating at all-- on the contrary I find it utterly beautiful and haunting. Jackson Pollock's painting's-- especially his early stuff-- tap into that same force that shamans tapped into.

    Did the CIA promote it as quintessentially "American" painting? Sure. But he was going to change the art world whether the CIA existed or not. He was a force of nature.

    Representational painting-- rightly or wrongly-- fell out of favor long before the abstract expressionists. Look at Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, etc. As soon as photography came along it was inevitable that pure representational art would change.

    And the children of privilege getting to play artist is not a new thing and doesn't require a conspiracy-- of course they get to play artist-- they're the children of privilege! Also, while I'm no fan of the rich, it is possible that some rich children might actually have talent. Should we ban rich people from the arts? Should we judge people on how much their daddies make? Seems like discrimination.

    Anyhoo-- just my .02!

  4. I don't think Combat Rock qualifies as "soft" rock.

  5. I'm still laughing at that Kurzweil tombstone!

  6. Jaxx, The difference between someone like Van Gogh or Monet and many of the abstract expressionists is that the former were schooled in traditional rendering skills and you can see that in their work. They were reacting to the Renaissance insistence on photorealism which to a certain extent did kill innovation and suppress creativity. What Jackson Pollock did was important because it made art accessible and connected it to a universal creative drive shared by many. However, the problem was that the pendulum swung the other direction to the point that the art world was more the realm of academics than actual artists. Biographies from artists of that time period who were not at all focused on abstract expressionism reveals that the focus on theory became equally as dogmatic as the photorealism of the Renaissance. The only difference is that the products of abstract expressionism were so often not grounded in hard work and discipline--and it shows. As for "discrimination" against rich artists, this is not an actual problem. Most of the artists I've known throughout the years were barely making it, either homeless or attempting to work multiple jobs with little time left for their work. Since art programs at public schools are being gutted left and right I would be more concerned about the huge number of talented people out there who have zero opportunity to make their vision a reality. Because the ultimate result of their marginalization is cultural poverty that affects us all for the worse.

  7. Chris,

    A lot to chew on. I could very much identify with much of it. I found the following comments very true:

    This new "Progress" decimated several generations of artists in North America and Europe, as prestigious schools stopped teaching the fundamentals of the craft and filled student's heads with a bunch of bullshit theory in their place. Representational artists were openly scorned, ridiculed and suppressed as "regressive" and counter-revolutionary. Only in the past couple of decades has the pendulum swung back, thanks largely to the low brow and neo-Surrealist movements openly hostile to the art world establishment.

    I attended an art college around the early 90s, which I believed I was admitted due to a level of talent, skill and craft, and the academic aspects of the art scene didn't enhance my experience, but left me cynical of that very establishment art scene. I was often astonished with the lack of emphasis on craft. I would see fellow students produce sub par work, then hide behind 'art speak' terminology which the teachers would eat up, but it was all bluster over weak pieces with little craft and a kind of shallow thought. For me, Craft matters in a huge way, staying with something until you have it right, and not just passing it off with some rationalization, and having deep seeded training with rendering skills. Truly understanding the rules and past conventions before you break them.

    Venusinpieces, I completely agree with your observations about the art world being populated with academics over artists, it's a great problem. In a nutshell, I've become a reactionary to the non-sense put out by the elite art scene. Furthermore, I recall years ago going to an exhibit of Rene Magritte, which I loved, and afterwards, we checked out the contemporary work at this museum. There was this young hot artist at the time with art installations, and sketches, none of the installations impressed me, and I was shocked by how sub par his draft rendering skills were, I wouldn't claim that my drafting skills are the most exceptional, but I could say my skills were a notch above this man's work. I could not get over, and still can't, the feeling that the art world is pulling the wool over the eyes over segments of the public, it's just a sad comment.

  8. I attended art classes at 2 different state colleges (it was what I could afford) in the early 70's and again in the 80's and I was shocked at how little the instructors either knew, or had the will left to share, about craft. What I know I have taught myself.

    Art history is one thing, rote theory and judgments are another.

    Chuck Close is an artist that I love. He started in photo realism and took it, over the years, to the most beautiful abstract faces, because of his love of the pixel basically.

    I was in Chicago a couple of years ago and they have a beautiful new building for their modern collection. There was not much new stuff that deserved the building in my opinion. Bubble art, value proclaimed where there is none. In the modern art museum down the street, there was an exibition of Alexander Calder that was so much more interesting to look at than anything else in the building that it was almost embarrassing. There too though- 40,000$ for a twisted copper ring....

    Conservatism vs. fascism- if those people who seem to hold the reins really were conservative they wouldn't blow up everything just because they can. With nasty poisons that they can't undo. That is the opposite of conserving anything.

    Thanks for the post and the replies, they are all so thought provoking.


  9. Regardless of what you are observing, if it causes you to question it, then I would think it must be progressive, if not 'good'.

  10. My friend Marcus T Anthony just wrote a post on a similar subject at his blog "22C+",one hour before you posted this post.

    And I responded to his post by posting a post about the "World Party" song "Ship of Fools" that I keep randomly hearing from every nook and cranny lately.
    Then I come here and see this post.
    Seems like we're on the same page...or at least reading the same book.

  11. Robots, eh? When you bring up the idea of sentient robots or biological "replicants" and you are playing with fire. The idea has been explored through the media countless times yet ultimately there is no way to know what would happen.
    Well there are some assumptions that most experts would agree on, like the engineering mantra of Murphy's law that everything that can go wrong, will. If people were *somehow* able to create a machine capable of "sentience" you would inevitably run into a seemingly infinite slew of problems. We like to assume that we have knowledge enough to create sentience and yet experts and dreamers alike can't even agree on what is and is not sentience or even what it really is. Then you would probably run into the problem of perception and the fact that everyone has an agenda. In the best possible case people would construct the first true artificial intelligence out of the need for companionship or a child because then the driving agenda behind its programming would be simple love, which we can all agree is what most people consider a good purpose and when the the robot would eventually or perhaps instantly ask "what is my purpose?" you would give them the same answer a loving parent would give like "Whatever you want because I love you". Even if the robot were to have some amazing critical error the driving force behind its basic programming would be love so it probably would just need a little fix (perhaps to stop hugging people too hard or something else).

    However this is the real world we live in most people would imagine the first artificial intelligence being developed by the military (or perhaps a corporate entity) for warfare or making money or some other selfish thing. Most people would realize that doing something like that would probably lead to disaster for one reason or another. Imagine for a second that you've just reached adulthood and instead of your parents telling you that they wanted kids that they wanted someone to "protect" them or "make them money". Can you imagine the kind of psychological effects that would have?

    Of course there are all sorts of "Gnostic" implications for this as well. Every modern religion teaches that people were created by God out of simple love, and that God loves you as sort of an uber-parent. However some lesser known and some ancient religions have much different ideas behind creation which fell out of favor very quickly. Some ancients and ufo believers thought that humans were created by the gods (or aliens) as simple robot-like slaves to mine for gold and only later realized their own capacities through either the intervention of another god or through a simple revolution. If we were to create artificial life we would be performing the ultimate act of "playing god", and if you think about it you can see how easy it is to wind up being a demiurge.

  12. Chris, I appreciated your comment:
    "I strive in all things to improve and innovate, whatever it is that I do. I live with the hope every day that I'll overcome my health issues and live a better life." You've gotten to the essence of what life is all about. Without that hope and desire to improve, life is a vain effort as Tennyson said:"As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life...."

    I've always had an innate distrust of progress--especially material gain. How can economies continually grow at the outrageous rates they feel they must? It's not possilbe and eventually, like the universe, they contract and implode. I'm not a Luddite, but I am behind the times on the latest gadgets. I just don't see the need. However, I confess I do wish I had a better grasp of some of their uses and functions. But in the end, it is our own spiritual progress that should be our focus.

  13. "This is the End...beautiful friend, the End."

  14. Playing devil's advocate for a minute, please excuse my former statement that teaching abstract expressionism is necessarily devoid of the creative process. That was hyperbole however I think what many people are objecting to isn't the movement in and of itself but the way it has been taught to the exclusion of every other artistic method throughout history, and also the way it can promote laziness as the Motherwell piece above illustrates so well.

    It is also exaggeration to say that the CIA entirely created abstract expressionism just like it would be to say that they created the 60s counterculture. Many people genuinely appreciate the work of Jackson Pollock just like they do that of Lady Gaga, whose occult symbolism-saturated videos are obviously influenced by the CIA-affiliated Freemasons and probably by accident many of the old money values they represent as well. Stepping away from the overly simplified tunnel vision of social conservatism, at a certain point it becomes necessary to ask some probing questions about exactly why the CIA and associated occult fraternities are so interested in the counterculture in the first place. The problem seems to be that discussion of this issue is divided between those on the left, which is myopic regarding the slightest possibility of establishment-funded counterculture, and those on the right who unfortunately only see it in terms of the values of evangelical Christianity. A more nuanced view is desperately needed.

  15. Oh, and I should also mention that I wrote an article, Occult Origins of the Counterculture, which is relevant to the subject of CIA sponsorship of countercultural movements, It can be found here:

  16. Dude I went nuts when I found out that the CIA had been behind modern art to compete with the Soviets. It explained something about my feelings about the movement that I never could have put into words myself. Sorry, pile of trash that sold for a million dollars - you're still no Pietà.

  17. You wrote: “And I still believe in many of those old school conservative values --such as honesty, industry, loyalty and thrift”

    It is strange… the difference between the pop definition of “political (read: Neocon/Gestapo) conservative” and conservatism. It has always amazed me that conservatives never embraced the environmental movement, which to me is the ultimate expression of the root word conserve.

  18. Has anyone read the Dave McGowan series on Laurel Canyon? He looks at similar connections between the spook world and popular culture there.

    If however you want a mainstream book examining occult culture, intelligence agencies and the 60s then I'd definitely recommend Gary Lachman's Turn off your Mind:

    Add in what Chris has mentioned about the modern art movement and it does seem awfully like a lot of the culture we grew up with was manufactured on high as a method of social control.

    Channel 4 in the UK did a documentary on the art/CIA connection called 'Hidden Hands' in the late 90s. Does anyone know where to find it? Review here:

    The drugs issue is interesting, too. There's that weird history of LSD and Gary Webb's research. But here in England I find it fascinating that whenever there's a risk of political upheaval some new drug suddenly pops up and addles the percentage of the population likely to be rebelling. In the 80s our inner-cities were exploding with riots... then came the heroin. In the late 80s it was poll tax rebellion, fighting against the Thatcher government... and then Ecstacy and raves.

    Nowadays it seems to be mainstream antidepressants and cocaine. Is this a reaction to stressful social circumstances or something more sinister? I believe its probably a mix of both.

  19. Jack Heart has something there, the sustainable network we provide this planet is should be conservative. Tptb are not interested in ecology. The entropy to sustain our standard of living is in decline. What to do? Chris I admire your take on most things. I think your take on environmental awareness is keen to the overall health of this terra firma. Can we survive if we foul our nest? No-thing is more important. The planet is in a state of decline, can we change the course? Respectfully 87.

  20. In my opinion Dave McGowan's Laurel Canyon series is fascinating, however his tendency to heap the blame on relatively harmless musicians like Gram Parsons stretches credibility, even if there was some irresponsibility going on on their part. At the same time the amount of evidence/speculation he provided regarding establishment-sponsored celebrity assassination is rather mind-boggling, especially in combination with his series on programmed serial killers and MK Ultra which of course was closely connected to the 60s counterculture. Having personally spent far too much time with acid casualties and strung out teen runaways in the Haight Ashbury, I found his scathing commentary on that particular era to be amusing (and unsettling) even if it is a bit heavy-handed.

  21. Your comments on what was done to art reminds me of Efforts to renew the Atelier Tradition, which can be read about on a website called "Art Renewal"

    Great post.

  22. ...on the other hand...your thoughts on art being co-opted by the elite and the reason for it are brilliant Probably because I came to the same conclusion myself years ago. LOL (1/2 joking) I was born about as far away from elite as you can get in this country. Born with a natural ability to draw,paint,sculpt and play musical instruments with ease. An aberration in my own household and class. Sent to catholic school for reason only known to my parents who were not very religious (it's complicated)who struggled to pay the tuition. Catholic school back in the day pretty much acted as though those talents didn't matter so I was neither encouraged nor discouraged. I was on my own with that stuff. Ironically I ended up in later years working as a maintenance/plumber for a local college which had pretty good sized
    arts and music programs. I was close to the age of the studwnts their at the time. I saw some of most bizarre talentless junk while wallowing around in filthy clay and paint clogged sinks and shit clogged toilets (your shit is my bread and butter I use to say LOL). I remember getting up the nerve to tell one of the teachers who ran the program about my interest and natural talents in the arts. The look on her face and reaction was priceless as I tried to step out of the paradigm she had me in. I can only describe it as the look of someone who was about to get caught in the fact that she knew her lifes work was a scam. LOL Lifes lessons come along at the weirdest moments.

  23. The link to the article in The Independent does not, as far as I can tell, support the assertion that CIA sponsorship of modern art had anything with 'driving a wedge between the arts community and the general public.' On the contrary, it appears to have been a straightforward propaganda effort, demonstrating American freedom of expression.

    Abstract art may in fact be alienating, but there is no evidence here that it was used as a political tool on those grounds.