Monday, August 07, 2017

Russia's Positive Influence On Western Culture

Whenever I speak in favor of beauty – any kind of beauty – someone often counters by telling me that I am shallow. Quite obviously these people have not seen enough good architecture and good art. There is nothing shallow about the Sistine Chapel. There is nothing shallow about Burmese stupas. There is nothing shallow about Machu Picchu. There is nothing shallow about the works of Keats or Akhmatova. True beauty takes talent and effort to produce and deserves respect.

Nor is there anything shallow about beauty in nature. Whether through God's craftsmanship or evolution, nature has produced magnificent masterpieces that far exceed anything made by man. Can any human being create anything like the snow leopard? So what right does he have to hold such a thing in contempt?

The confusion we see many make is the one between the value and the misuses of the value. Anything that has any kind of appeal to people will see someone wanting to use it for wrong things. That does not make it a bad thing in itself. We see this not only with beauty. We see this with money; with intelligence; with moral values such as patriotism and altruism. That Hitler appealed to patriotism, and Stalin appealed to altruism, to do wrong things, damns neither patriotism nor altruism. It damns Hitler and Stalin.

Similarly the fact that stupid teenagers and bad parents attack girls they consider unattractive, and the fact that unscrupulous plastic surgeons exploit women's insecurities to get already attractive women to keep coming back for unnecessary and disfiguring treatments, does not begin to damn beauty. It damns the stupid and unscrupulous people who use it for wrong. Michelangelo, Bethoven, Gaudi, Keats and Akhmatova are not responsible for the actions of these people. They are responsible for these actions themselves.

Beauty – and love of beauty – are therefore not shallow at all. Even with women's beauty, we see exceptional strength and intelligence in say Russian women, who are generally regarded as some of the most beautiful women in the world. The Western feminists think that they are strong, but I doubt that they are stronger than Russian women. I doubt many such feminists would be able to live through the Second World War while living under Stalin and being of Jewish ethnicity. Yet there have been women in my family who did just that.

Are some beautiful women shallow? Of course. Are some men who are attracted to beautiful women shallow? Of course. But in neither case is that a given. The woman for whom I wrote my first poetry book had lived through hideous things and remained both very beautiful and a first-rate artist. And she also was far more genuinely spiritual than the women who were attacking her. They were being malicious and hateful; whereas she bore them no ill will and in some cases advocated on their behalf and even helped them to work through their personal problems.

Now maybe spirituality does not discriminate for physical beauty. But neither does it discriminate against it. According to spiritual values, it is about what you are inside. I see no reason at all why this would correlate positively or negatively with physical beauty. Some women will have both forms of goodness; some will have one or the other; and some will have neither.

Once again, Russian women are hardly non-spiritual. Nor are they stupid or shallow or weak. Yet they generally like to look good, and many of them become very attractive, both physically and personally. Now there are many things that the English-speaking world has to offer Russia. They include better political and economic practices. But on this matter Russia has much to offer the English-speaking world.

Wrongful beliefs that get inbred in closed systems are best refuted through introduction of things from abroad. Thus, when some women in the West decide that the Western civilization is the root of oppression of women, the far more patriarchial and far more violent men from the Middle East infiltrate into the Western cities and gang-rape girls and teach young men in disadvantaged communities to be even worse to women than they have been before. Similarly, when some women in the West decide that all beautiful women are shallow or weak or stupid, a sizable influx of Russian women stands to correct that wrongful perception.

A man who had been a high figure in the Reagan administration once told me that Russia has much to teach America about culture. He said that what they had to teach America was how to have stronger families. In my case, I think that Russian people have to teach America just how wrong the beliefs of which I have spoken are. Once again, Russian women are strong, smart and spiritual as well as they are physically beautiful. This stands to refute the wrong perceptions that many in feminism have on this matter.

For my part, I do not consider myself to be beautiful, although some people do. My contributions to beauty in the world are not my looks but my poetry and translations. On this matter, once again, Russians have much to offer the English-speaking world. American poetry has degenerated into cold cynical wordsmanship and manipulation. Russian poets stand to teach the English-speaking world what real poetry is.

Now there are many voices in the poetry and art scene for political correctness; and this is another place that stands to benefit from a healthy dose of Russian influence. Russian passion and Russian profundity stand to create genuine culture in such places. I have been thanked by a number of people in the poetry scene for the passion which I express in my poetry. My poetry is rarely about political issues, and it is never about the politically correct party line. About half of it is love poetry, and another half of it is poetry on philosophical themes.

Toward the end of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan made an effort to welcome an influx of Russian Jewish refugees. It was not only the right thing to do; it was also something that benefited his political agenda. The Russian Jews being mostly moderate to conservative, they were likely to go into American Jewish communities, which were mostly liberal, and influence them toward the Right or at least toward the center. I do not know his thinking on this matter. I do know however that, whether or not deliberately, this worked in his favor.

Similarly the Russian cultural-minded people stand to go into the art and poetry scene in the English-speaking world and influence it toward better practices. Instead of spouting the tired party line of political correctness, they will create art and poetry that is worthy of the name. And this will do much to improve the cultural scene in English-speaking countries, in the same way as a large influx of Russian women stands to correct false perceptions that any number of Western feminists have developed and show the world that there is nothing weak or shallow about actual beauty.


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