The other day (having nothing else to do) I watched an interesting video on the Glenn Beck YouTube channel. In a ten-minute presentation, the flame-haired libertarian mourned the tendency of popular culture to emphasise and celebrate the negative. Where, he asked, is the art celebrating existence as opposed to devaluing it? I really share Beck’s exasperation on this issue and would identify one artistic trend above all as having led to the contemporary state.
Few attitudes have been more corrosive to British (and Western) potential as that we call ‘irony’. Married to the postmodern, irony (a mirage of depth) has deeply wounded, if not retarded Britain for over three decades. The famed British sense of humour now deals in little else. Nothing is said seriously. Sincerity and positivity are frowned upon, deemed to be infantile or unevolved. Those who celebrate openly positive concepts are dismissed as not being in on the joke of the age.
According to this position, life is a burden, a death-sentence. One may as well smoke or inject heroin as go out and exercise. The end result will always be the same; the endless grave. Hope for an afterlife or for a final, lasting justice is suited to childhood. People should be dark, philosophical and counter to all natural principles. Nature is ugly. Humanity overrated.
This poisonous attitude; the taking of life and nature as a joke we have worked out and transcended, must surely be the greatest burden of our history.
I am not wholly immune to its charm. For many years, I idolised the Kurt Cobain approach to living. The introverted poet, prone to self-harm, addicted to cheap pleasure, destined for self-destruction. I thought the painted smiles of White America were corporate illusions, and that when the camera faced another way, the smiles would surely drop. Never did I consider that those Americans were actually living more in tune with the rhythm of the universe than I or Cobain.
What is so wrong with health? What is so wrong with hope for the future, sincerity in emotion, politeness, hatred of death, celebration of life and vitality?
In England, we often associate smiles with stupidity and frowns with depth. Our musicians – even those with great talent like Radiohead – lean towards the dark margins around life, avoiding moments of integrity like spores of anthrax. We mock the happy and exalt the ironic. We are too intelligent to be happy.
Isn’t it time someone launched a cultural movement to counter this?
To be sure, there are some who claim to be making a start, but this is usually not in the way we ought to welcome. The ‘New Sincerity Movement’ in music for example, seeks to degrade the power of irony with the creation of unapologetically sentimental artworks. But sentimentalism is or can be just as corrosive as irony.
What we need is a positivity movement; a trend across the creative disciplines (but especially in literature and music) which resurrects natural principles. The rock band Sportfreunde Stiller are a good example of the way ahead. Stiller, a German three-piece, are known for their simple and positive song-writing as well their celebration of sport (sport and athleticism being far removed from the traditional lyrical themes of rock).
More broadly, culture must be revaluated from top to bottom, and the barometer of worth must be positivity. If self-help books, religious belief, vitamin tablets, Christian rock or therapy increase your feeling of life, pursue them.
Positivity is what the world exists for, lest we ever forget. The anti-natural are foreign to it. They are unnatural. In any other system of life, the rotten parts drop away, rejected by the elements that still have the will to flourish. Perhaps this is how it should be. To be alive at all is a state of indescribable luxury. To waste life is a crime against being.