Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More random West

Since picking a page at random from Dr. West's writings worked so well yesterday, I thought I'd try it again. In this section, he's talking about Du Bois' idea of a 'talented tenth'.

Regarding the intellectual defects of Du Bois' noble endeavor: First, he assumes that highbrow culture is inherently humanizing, and that exposure and immersion in great works produce good people. Yet, we have little reason to believe that people who delight in the works of geniuses like Mozart and Beethoven or Goethe or Wordsworth are any more or less humane than those who dance in the barnyards to the banjo plucking of nameless rural folk in Tennessee.

Well, this writer started off dancing to banjo picking in Tennessee. And in fact, when I lived back east, my favorite way to spend a weekend was to go back up to the mountains and find a bluegrass festival. And I did it not only for the fine music, which was very fine indeed, especially if one accepts American improvisational concepts that come from jazz and blues as being as fine an art form as the prepared playing of the classics by an orchestra.

But mostly, I went for the people. Go to a bluegrass festival, especially the ones the hippy kids hang out at, and you are likely to meet the kindest, gentlest and most peaceful people you'll ever meet. You could pick a random spot to plop a tent down for the weekend, and almost always be camping near kind people who would become great friends before the weekend was done.

If the people dancing to banjo plucking at these music festivals ran the world, we'd have no wars, and we'd all live in a much kinder and just world.

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