Book review: Culture Wars by David Hamilton
Those who seek new ideas and new arguments can do no better than read this new book of essays on art. It is a major attack on the degenerate cultural elites who are destroying art and culture from within.
If any think that is exaggerated consider the contents of this book. Those who love traditional Britain and are today forced to look on helplessly as they witness the rapid, deliberate and ruthless destruction of the art and culture of their nation and feel pushed out, David Hamilton’s Culture Wars will serve as solace, moral support and encouragement.
This is not a systematic work but a loose, discursive collection of essays on art, architecture, drama, animals and the environment, and English churches with the history, legends and stories attached. The author told me that tradition means re-linking with our common ancestors and our common roots. The author records the various art objects, buildings and theatrical plays that are ruining the landscape and minds of the inhabitants of post-war Britain, and he does so in far greater detail than Conservative journalist Peter Hitchens (who conducted a critique of modern Britain in The Abolition of Britain ). As Hamilton warns us:
Incidentally, Hamilton notes Hitchens’ failure to investigate the causes of the social evil that he is describing. Instead Hitchens declares rather naively, that
Hamilton, on the other hand, rightly begins the opening section of his book — on the degeneracy of the modern visual arts — with the revolution of the 1960s which forced art to become vulgar “mass culture”, stopped the sacred fount of artistic creativity and substituted sterile shock techniques in its place. The examples Hamilton provides of the increasing use of pornography in modern art are especially disturbing, since they reveal that these, often literally excremental productions are in fact vigorously promoted by “art”-collectors.
He also uses examples from ordinary art to show that art produces many affects, not only shock. Examples are a mural of Dickens characters in the Peter Kavanagh (a bar in Liverpool), and a mural that John Lennon had a hand in, titled “The Jacaranda,” also in a pub in Liverpool. In these cases, emotions are produced because we know something of the story behind the art—for example, the fascination and joy we feel at the thought of someone so famous as Lennon was involved in the mural.
I really like Hamilton’s new definition of what art is as opposed to Progressives’ unfathomable abstract definitions. He explains the difference between technique (which produces form) and artistic talent (which produces content or meaning, is inborn, and cannot be taught). Then, using a very enlightening explanation of how the two interact— the partnership of The Beatles and their producer George Martin— he shows how form brings out content and content leads to the appropriate form.
I applaud how he demonstrates that contemporary anti-artists are spreading a far greater evil than just destroying art and culture. For example, he cites the starving dog in an art gallery in Nicaragua and states that we are on the way back to human sacrifices as art. He also exposes how paedophilia is promoted by contemporary anti-artists and gives copious examples. As evidence of how the anti-artists not only encourage paedophilia but encourage the murder of children, he quotes artist Jake Chapman saying that the boys who murdered Liverpool toddler James Bulger performed “a good social service”.
Hamilton shows that contemporary architecture pushes people out of their communities by its ugliness instead of drawing them in as traditional architecture does. He shows how the estates people are being forced into have a very detrimental effect, causing the people to lose fellow-feeling and even rob, mug, burgle and terrorise their neighbours. He also compares the state-sponsored degeneracy of the working-classes with what the Canadian government did to the Canadian plains Indians. Who were moved by government into specially built estates. The Innu were effectively, forcibly transformed into Canadians, just as Britons are being forcibly transformed into ‘citizens of the world’. Like us, the Innu are having their past erased and are being offered nothing for the future – despair has set in, as it is setting in on Britain’s sink estates. One important difference is that the Innu have been dispossessed by a different ethnic group, whereas we are being dispossessed by our own elected representatives. In many young Innu, their deculturation manifests in drug and alcohol abuse and petty crime. More and more of Britain’s young people are similarly aimless, lacking in self-respect, without tradition or a sense of being part of something. Many of them have likewise started to prey on their own people. There have always been people at the bottom of the pile, but they used to develop within a cultural tradition to which they belonged, albeit peripherally. Most Young people do not misbehave out of endemic wickedness, but because they have been decultured.
Destructive assaults on town and city landscapes (which he calls Urbiscapes), such as the London “Shard”, designed by Renzo Piano, are extolled by art critics like Tim Abrahams (who edited the leading architecture and design magazine, Blueprint). Spiked Online refused to publish an alternative view from Hamilton but said he should cut the essay down and send as a letter! This anti-art is sanctioned and funded by the national Arts Council with public monies from the government and the National Lottery.Whereas pseudo-Traditionalists of the so-called “Right” distract their audience with tirades against social welfare and puff themselves up with vain appeals to nineteenth-century Germanic doctrines of “inequality”, Hamilton concentrates on the source of the decay that has been imposed on Britain from the top —the unrelenting subversion of the Christian faith that was the original source of the great art of Britain from the Middle Ages until the early twentieth century. As he reminds us, “Traditional culture grows from religion” (p. 81); the real source of art is the “numinous” since it “is the basis of the yearning for beauty, awe, grandeur in public buildings” (p.67). He accuses the clergy of closing the church to the public and gives examples.
I tried to get information on concerts of The Linnaeus Ensemble who were playing at two churches in Birmingham but neither church replied to me. I mentioned this to one of the musicians and she explained: “Churches are like that!” and his helpers wrote to several religious and secular venues to make a comparison. “We never received a reply from Great St. Mary, Cambridge, Norwich Cathedral, or Gloucester Cathedral. The Director of Music at Gloucester Cathedral said he would look at my email when he had some spare time: I heard no more.” However,they received helpful replies from secular venues like The Three Choirs Festival and The Baltic art gallery in Gateshead.
When Salvador Dali became a Christian he found an artistic subject and the inherent spirtuality of the subject gave him a fuller, more elevated vision, and he painted the masterpieces of the twentieth century. He was a draftsman who developed his skills of realisation by studying Renaissance masters. Much criticism of Dali was because he supported General Franco rather than the fashionable armchair Marxism of the orthodox Surrealists and art critics. Leader of the movement Andre Breton banned Dali from The Surrealist movement in 1941 and tried to ban his Sistine Madonna from the International Surrealism Exhibition in New York in 1960.
Dali’s Corpus Hypercubus changes the traditional form of the Crucifixion but it is recognisable and we know what it represents. His Last Supper and The Christ of St.John of the Cross are the masterpieces of the twentieth century.
Saint Alkmunds church in Shrewsbury has a beautiful and moving stained glass in the east window. This is The Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Francis Egington.
Hamilton believes that the loss of the religious worldview is at the root of the present cultural morass —whether it be the substitution of pornography for art, ugly functionalism for architecture.
Hamilton follows an essay on the subversion of drama by Cultural Marxists with an analysis of several prominent Elizabethan tragedies from both Revenger and Overreacher genres. The most famous Revenge tragedy is Hamlet and the most famous Overreacher is Macbeth. Hamilton analyses the origins of these genres in Thomas Kidd’s Revenge drama The Spanish Tragedy(1592) and the Overreacher dramas of Christopher Marlowe like Tamburlaine(1590) who nearly conquered the known world until himself conquered by death, and Doctor Faustus(1604) who signed a pact with the devil in his own blood and forfeit his soul. These figures over stepped themselves in Hybris.
Hamilton shows the opposite tendencies of these two periods of drama. Twentieth-century drama is nihilistic and subversive and the underlying spirit moves from order to chaos; Elizabethan drama, was bloody and gory, but the underlying spirit of the dramas moved from barbarism to civilisation. These exciting plays have a positive sense of things coming together not being dislocated .
Indeed, instead of the proper artistic purpose of the spiritual elevation of man through works of art, there has entered today, through the various academic channels employed by pseudo-art-theorists, a new diabolical purpose —that of the essential corruption of man. Hamilton takes care to highlight to the reader the essence of artistic creation, the importance of tradition in artistic activity and the religious wellsprings of all art. He then gently exhorts his readers to adopt “traditional forms developed for the current time to express emotions and feelings like awe, reverence, the sacred, the holy, the transcendental —positive human feelings.” (p. 94).
This is practical thinking and he suggests the revival of the sixteenth-century office of Lord Lieutenant to be appointed by the Crown and endowed with the task of protecting the local communities of Britain from the ideological and commercial aims of financial and political elites (p. 46).
His piece on the environment is entitled “Another Vindication of Natural Society, similar to Edmund Burke’s essay “A Vindication of Natural Society” to show that this is practical, particular reasoning like Burke’s (and David Hume’s) not universal abstractions as in the contemporary style of thinking that derives from the French Revolution.
He argues against genetically modified crops and for natural ways of growing our food. He calls for greater legal protection from cruelty for domestic pets as they are part of our families.
The final essay is on English churches. It shows the continuity they hold for indigenous people, running like spines from the roots of the community to the community today, holding people together. He shows what meaning churches hold for us, and that learning what the symbols and legends mean would bind us to our communities and give our lives greater meaning. Churches embody collective history and unite the community in a recognition of a common ancestry.
This is a somewhat “edited” version of my review of Hamilton’s book. The original that I wrote is to be found at http://westerndestiny.com/?p=1209 - Dr. Alexander Jacob’
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