What percentage of the population today do you think actually cares about the high culture you say is universally accessible? And how many people who walk through the door of an art gallery or museum actually appreciate or understand what they are looking at?
My point is not solely on the negative aspects of modern culture which tends to rely more on appearance then substance, as I’m sure you will agree. Consider that contemporary society is not only more fragmented today – the nuclear family is undermined by recent governments in the UK – but in contrast with medieval times the family was almost a sacred institution. No one took the pill and few had abortions and the old were more often than not cared for within the family set-up rather than being shoved off to an old people’s home. The poor or destitute often found care and attention by living close to monasteries. I think this preferable to the options of many today no matter how wealthy they are or how often they are able to visit an art gallery or museum. You touch on some examples of music and rightly parade their worth, but with what should they be compared since medieval instruments were of a different kind?
My point was not to say that human creativity ended in 1789. It persists today in a variety of forms but this is despite contemporary culture not because of it. I suspect that there was an attitude of mind which was more harmonious and less fragmented in times prior to what I describe as “the Endarkenment”. It was possible until recently to be a polymath, for example. How is that possible in a world of one million words in English which now includes a substantial amount for science and technological terms? Is a person better educated for having seen the whole world compared with someone who has not? It all depends on the quality of mind receiving it. It is said that Napoleon’s donkey followed him on all his travels over Europe, but learnt nothing.
Are people any happier today? Are people’s lives more meaningful in contemporary Britain than they were prior to 1789?
Well, the residue from times before 1789 lived on for many years and it has been said that we stand on the shoulder’s of giants. But my point is, there are few giants today. Look at the puny intellect and questionable leadership of contemporary world leaders and politicians. As a culture and society are we adrift or sailing a well-kept ship with an insightful captain? Do we even know where we are heading? I suspect not. Part of the reason for this is the increasing marginalization of Christianity in the UK and America – but this will take us further into this debate and there is no more time for me to do so right now.
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