Bettering Mankind, or Nothing
… an accomplice on ello.co posted the photo below …
What ensued were frantic attempts on the part of the oh-so artworthy users of ello to salvage their reputations of as philanthropists.
(Some thoughts of my own further down.)
It is my strong impression, that that part of Western atrocity which causes the most damage is, and for the past easily 1000 years has been, the millenaristic tendency that permeate the Abrahamitic belief systems. These manifest themselves particularly in Christianity and Islam as missionary zeal, and the will to “save” the “world”, and have found their way into the Western popular mind-set far beyond their theological origins.
It would seem to me that this particular (to my mind) misconception that it is our duty, our place, or even possible and desirable to “better” the “world”, is at the heart of much of the violence and repression we have seen since at least the late European Middle-Ages, throughout the Colonial Era, into the Modern Era, and up to what ever we wish to call the contemporary era which seems none of the aforementioned. The concept of “bettering mankind” has provided and continues to provide justification and rationalization for some of the most mind-numbing horrors perpetrated by the West against the rest of the world. It lies at the heart of everything from the children’s crusades too present day “humanitarian interventionism”.
As a result i can see no similarity between active community service providing for basic human needs, and the will, to if you will, edify and up-lift humanity through art (by what ever definition one may choose) or by means of anything else for that matter. Art is the expression of an idea or a sentiment, and by virtue there of, legitimate and fascinating should art need any justification at all, which i for one sincerely doubt. What art does not do, and will never do is provide people with what they need to live to see another day. Nor do i believe that the “world” will ever be “changed” in the sense high-minded Westerners often use the words. What i see this poster pointing to in a somewhat facetious manner, is that many use their preoccupation with art as a justification for inaction. By doing nothing at all, we are in danger of making ourselves guilty of a crime of omission. This is why the poster calls for concrete community service like volunteering in soup kitchen in lieu of “art” (or perhaps in addition to it).
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