Why Does Beauty Matter? By Mrs Vera West
The Left postmodern view of beauty is just like their position on morality, that it is a social construction, is not objective, and in art, even a jug of urine can classify as art; anything goes, so long as it is politically correct. In fact, my son went by a small modern art centre, with weird structures out the front. A woman was assembling some monstrosity. Trolling her, he said that he was a postmodern artist working with rusty corrugated iron, which he used to symbolise Western racist culture. She was immediately interested.
The conservative position on beauty sees beauty as intrinsically connected with the good, just and the true, with that which is noble and holy, and thus having a religious aspect, which is why in ages now gone, fine art was a product of religious sentiment and expressed religious themes.
Conservative philosophy Roger Scruton, who has suffered his share of arrows from the Left, has discussed why beauty matters, for a BBC TV show, and made some comments in a piece, “On Defending Beauty,” about the undermining of traditional moral and aesthetic values in Britain as a product of the multicultural, relativist Left.
“In the '50s and '60s, when my generation was growing up, British people were actively recruited by the educational system and the worlds of art and religion to an aspirational culture. Those were the days of Henry Moore and Benjamin Britten, of Graham Sutherland and Michael Tippett. W. H. Auden was an important voice, as was the ex-American T. S. Eliot. Britain was a place of deep historical and religious significance. You were privileged to belong on its soil, and all around you the national history had left the signs and portents of a higher way of life. At the risk of exaggeration, it could be said that my country, in those years when the baby boom generation was advancing toward its lifelong immaturity, was an experiment in redemption. Its art, culture, and religion were devoted to the ideal of a community in which decency, puzzlement, and self-denial held sway. And there remained, as a kind of leftover from wartime propaganda, the belief in the gentleman, who faces life in a posture of self-sacrificing devotion to nonsensical ideals — nonsensical, that is, from the point of view of the cynical observer, but not nonsensical at all, given the spirit in which they were accepted.
The American visitor to Britain today, and especially the visitor who retains a memory of that extraordinary world in which decency, self-deprecation, and the stiff upper lip were the ruling principles, often recoils in shock at what he finds. The public culture is one of appetite and satire, and the whole country seems to be "in your face," as though sticking out a collective tongue. Many American friends tell me this, and speak sorrowfully of the change from the Britain that they used to visit with a sense of coming home, to the Britain that they visit today, which is a land of strangers. The interesting thing, however, and the response to my film seems to confirm this, is that many of the British people agree with them. The British people too are in a land of strangers, and the culture that rules over them is one to which many of my countrymen cannot in their hearts belong.
The official ethos, which prevails in schools and universities, and also in the Labour Party, is one of scorn and repudiation toward the old ideals. Official British culture is accurately portrayed by Tracey Emin's bed. It is a culture of emotional chaos and random affections, in which traditional loyalties play no part. Emin herself is the illegitimate daughter of a Turkish Cypriot, and her situation is typical of her generation. Unable to identify with a country or a way of life, educated by a curriculum of multicultural fairy tales, and learning in art school that you find your place in the world through transgression, and through putting the self on display, she has had the good sense to be a publicly visible and authentic mess.
Her works may not be works of art, in the sense that my generation was brought up to understand this honorific label, but they show a world that the official culture of Britain has chosen to endorse.
The circumstantial evidence of the response to my film proves nothing. All I know is that a lot of people out there feel as I do. They agree with me that beauty matters, that desecration and nihilism are crimes, and that we should find the way to exalt our world and to endow it with a more than worldly significance. But perhaps just as many or more believe the official "multicultural" story, which tells us that there is nothing special about Britain, that the old ideals and dignities are mere illusions, and that the purpose of art is to pour scorn on the values of antiquated people. And if the impression of American visitors is right, it is not the official culture only, but also the rising generation of New Brits, which has settled for facetiousness against dignity and transgression against the norms of social life. If this is so, then at least one part of the message of my film has been vindicated: namely that beauty matters, and that you cannot pour scorn on beauty without losing sight of the meaning of life.”