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The Arts Won’t Save Us

The Arts Won’t Save Us

I have lately noticed an uptick across conservative platforms regarding the importance of fine arts in traditional society. Most of it I agree with, especially considering its influence on education and wonder. But the trend often emphasizes that fine arts will play a major role in winning the modern culture war.

Is this really true? What importance do the fine arts have for traditionalism? Can the arts really save our infected modern society?

Before getting to these big questions, I’d like to set forth a few basic points.

1. The fine arts are important to traditionalism, but not to modern progressivism. It’s a grave error to think something we value holds equal sway with others. If anything, far left liberalism hates the fine arts, as evidenced by many left-wing academic articles and the left’s ongoing teardown of the Western tradition.

2. The fine arts cannot tangibly protect us. Right now, there are riots in the streets and physical attacks. What are we going to do when a BLM mob comes down our street? Read aloud from The Odyssey? Of course not! We will be taking practical steps to protect our families and get our children out of danger.

3. From these two points, we can logically conclude a third: Instilling classic fine arts onto a deeply progressive society is like trying to put lipstick on a pig. Modern culture has already rejected traditional morality. Reading classic literature in libraries will not magically oust the LGBTQ books. Playing Mozart on the radio will not deter pedophilia. The issues of our society run far, far deeper than this.

Of course, we know all these things. They’re glaringly obvious, and frankly, they are a depressing reminder of what we’re up against. But they must be said, if only to keep a proper perspective on the role of fine arts in the culture war.

Now, let’s get back to those big questions: What importance do the fine arts have, and can they save our society? In true fine arts form, let’s answer these questions in narrative.

Let’s say, for a moment, that Western civilization was a beautiful apple orchard. Traditional Christian Europe was a whole field of fruit trees, a thriving orchard under the care of wise gardeners who carefully tended the field. The orchard was curated, protected, and cared for, in order that it might produce the finest fruits anyone had ever seen. Thus, a host of wonderful apple trees were developed.

Fast forward to today. American culture has just one of those wonderful apple trees, standing alone in a wild forest. It still can produce fruit, and the apples are still delicious and amazing. But now, the tree is untended and threatened at every side. It has to compete for the sunlight, resist strangling vines, avoid bug infestations, and struggle for a chance at pollination. Without a dedicated gardener to tend the tree, this wonderful apple tree will be overcome by threats, wither, and die.

The tree is traditional Western society, and the apples are the fruit of this tree: the fine arts. The wise gardeners are those who uphold the traditional moral values of an upright society. The wild forest is the innumerable threats progressivism uses to overcome our tree.

Now, let’s put the question: How do we save the tree?

We could say, “Well, it’s still producing fruit. We could enjoy the apples, store them, and remember how this beautiful tree used to be part of an entire orchard.” This is equivalent to thinking if we save the arts, the arts will somehow save our society. But the tree itself—solid traditionalist society—will still wither and die for lack of care. All we would have in the end is the memory of a great orchard.

A wise gardener would instead say, “Let’s take care of the tree itself, so it can continue to produce wonderful apples.” He would strip the killing vines from the tree, kill the insect infestations, and ensure the tree had adequate light and water. Maybe, one day, he could clear some of the forest and plant other apple trees from the original seeds. This will not only save the tree, but it will also reinvent the original orchard which produced it in the first place.

Saving the arts is just storing the apples in a basket. We must do far more than savor the fruits of Western society if we want to return to its values. We are the gardeners, and we have work to do! The wild forest will fight back, throwing new threats and trying to strangle our tree. We must protect all of it: the roots of traditional morals, the trunk of natural law, the limbs of family, and the leaves of truth. The arts are just the apples, which exist because all the other parts are healthy and functioning.

The key to saving our society, then, is not saving the apples but keeping the tree strong and well. Even though the fine arts can hold the ideals that we cherish—much like an apple holds its seeds—they will wither apart from our efforts to sustain the tree.

So, what should we traditionalists be doing with our love for fine arts today? I’d suggest we cherish and enjoy them as the fruits of our labor, not the labor itself. Let’s turn to the arts in our moments of leisure and entertainment. We can watch recorded Shakespeare plays instead of television. We can listen to Beethoven instead of the latest radio hits. We can page through classic mythology instead of scrolling social media. Replacing modern leisure this way will help us to truly cherish and value classical arts with the proper perspective.

We simply must remember that the arts cannot save us in return. Classical arts cannot overhaul a society which has already rejected the traditional culture from which they sprang. The apple tree cannot pollinate the pine tree, after all. The arts in themselves cannot change the minds and hearts of others.

We, the gardeners, must do that. We must live by example in order to tend the tree. We must be strong in our morals, upright in our lives, and unafraid to stand boldly for our cause. We as a people must strive to live our values and be people of character and strength. Yes, we will have battles. But in the end, it is not beautiful music that wins wars. Brave men do. Incredible paintings don’t raise a moral generation. Strong families do. We, as a people, by our actions and lives, must be the civilization we wish existed.

We can do it.

Image credit: Public domain


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  • Avatar
    February 21, 2024, 4:20 pm

    Time to clear-cut and harvest the "wild forest." A controlled burn would also be approrpiate.

  • Avatar
    Mark Tapson
    February 23, 2024, 9:32 pm

    "We, as a people, by our actions and lives, must be the civilization we wish existed. We can do it." Amen, and brava. Very good piece which reminds me of the saying, "Tradition is not about worshiping the ashes, but preserving the fire."

  • Avatar
    February 28, 2024, 11:57 am

    Wonderful and apt analogy! And I appreciate the inspiring last words.
    Thank you for this hopeful commentary.


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