Friday, January 26, 2007

Through Western Eyes

I suppose I'm in a very small minority identifying myself culturally as a Westerner first, a Finn second and a European as a fairly distant third. For me the most essential identity is truly the membership of the modern, liberal and post-industrial West. One could no doubt draw crude Huntingdonian conclusions of this in line with the current hubristic atmosphere of the decadent Washington. But that is not my point: religion, history and ethnicity are irrelevant here. I do not feel any affinity with the old, Catholic and aristocratic, rural Europe that gave birth not only (somewhat accidentally) to Enlightenment but much more essentially to aggressive imperialism and all pervasive racism. In this inherent aggression it didn't essentially separate itself from any other agricultural and aristocratic civilization.

Where we do have truly new beginnings is in the Enlightenment, in the fresh, unique formulations of radical, progressive and inclusive philosophies and ideologies - so universal that any specific, local cultural background will surely be buried under the vast, limitless visions of the implied universalism. Of course, so pitifully little of all this has ever been realized, and maybe this is most that will ever be accomplished (in most areas in the modern West we see currently more deteriation than progress). Nevertheless, I would argue quite defiantly: so far all history has been a slow, irrational holocaust anyway - what is the only new thing is this radical attempt to break free of this circle of human aggression and ignorance. For this we should never apologize.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ethics and esthetics

Having freshly read Alan Hollinghurst's excellent "Line of Beauty", I began to thing about this strange, complex connection, perhaps more implicit than explicit in the book itself. Of course, I see art as fusion of these two, but I have not regarded them as directly connected in any essential way. It would seem that might be a too hasty conclusion. There is a certain proportion to our mostly tragic, brief and ephemeral fates and actions here, to our wild, unsafe experience, so quickly forgotten. A sense that too fortright ethical conclusions are lacking depth and understanding. In that way it could be said that esthetics have a deep ethical dimension - and vice versa. There are appropriate endings and valuations in the particular contexts and shapes of our passionate lifes that escape any simple ethical conclusions. This to me is not devaluing ethics but the opposite: giving a deeper, more universal moral significance to our scattered, inpermanent persons and actions.