September 06, 2004

The Left and the Right, and I Don't Mean Politically

Now this is something I can figuratively sink my teeth into:

. . . almost everyone involved in the arts is liberal. Perhaps that's because the left, with all its hemming and nuancing, is more willing to accept imperfection and failure, which are inherent in art. Conservatives, with their definitive solutions and visions of Utopia and impeccable memories, are better at philosophy and political talk shows.
Via Tim Blair, who takes this apart in typically-destructive right-wing fashion, partly as follows:
(A couple of points: conservatives are perfectly willing to accept failure. Unlike the left, however, weíre unwilling to accept it two, three, or four times in a row. Socialism didnít work out? Letís try it again! The UN is a ruinous mess that only causes problems to become worse? More power to them! Castro still killing people? Give him another chance! And as for conservative visions of Utopia ... has Stein ever inspected the bumper-sticker dreams of the modern leftist?)
I don't get the "visions of Utopia" bit either, but it does tell me I probably read more conservative writing than Stein does. The closest thing I can find to a Republican getting optimistic about the human condition is this quote from P.J. O'Rourke:
Life is sweet. But you could spend a long time reading, going to the movies, and watching TV and not hear this mentioned. . . . History is on a roll, a toot, a bender.
And even P.J. doesn't stay optimistic for long; witness the very next sentence, and what follows to close out the above paragraph:
No doubt it will all come crashing down around our ears one day when a comet hits the earth or Sally Jessy Raphael becomes Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But, in the meantime, we should be enjoying ourselves, and we are not. Gloom enfolds the earth. Tales of woe reach us from every corner of the globe. Moans of "unfair," "unjust," and "poor me" are heard around the planet and are nowhere louder than in my own backyard.
Some Utopian, that P.J.

Now if Stein had described conservatives as having visions of "same shit, different day," he might have had a point. There is no shortage of grumpy old bastards on the right, and I note that as a good thing. Like it or not, the world needs grumpy old bastards. The world needs cantankerous old coots to grumble, "It'll never work," "We tried that already," "You gonna think this thang through logically or just keep talking out yer ass, son?" and that simple, perennial favorite, "NO."

Yet for all that I can see where Stein's trying to go with his observation, however flawed. Tim Blair puts it this way:

. . . [Stein] references a serious leftoid notion: all this hemming and nuancing proves that we are the intelligent ones! Where dull-minded conservatives simply demand solutions, the left calls for discussions on the etymology of "solution" and how that may relate to Engels, Foucault, the concept of objectivity, and the present conflict between reactionary religious forces on one side and brave anti-Bush dissenters on the other.
One nitpick: The left wants nothing to do with the concept of objectivity. That's a left-brain/right-hand dominant thing, objectivity. There's not a lot of room for nuance in objectivity--or as David Byrne once complained:
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Yeah, the nerve of those facts.

Anyway, where'd this notion that one hemisphere of the brain is superior to the other come about? Because I think Blair is right, and I think, underlying both the Stein piece and this hatchet job from the head shrinkers at Berkeley, is the notion that it's better to be right-brained/left-hand dominant.

Bullshit. We have both halves of the brain because we need both halves of the brain to get along in the world. We need the holistic, visionary guy to dream of building the Golden Gate bridge, and then we need the analytical, linear-thinking guy to put the damn thing together. I've been pleased to know some very right-brained, creative, artsy people in my life, and I dig them--but I don't ever want them performing neurosurgery on me. Conversely, I don't want to attend an art exhibition of works by accountants.

The irony is, there's nothing (to crib from the cheat-sheet website linked above) "synthetic," "holistic," or "analogic" about lauding the right brain over the left. The very traits commonly ascribed to right-brain thinkers suddenly vanish when it's time to consider the usefulness to society of the traits of the left-brain hemisphere. You know, that "abstract," "analytic," "rational" guy might dress badly and be a real downer sometimes, but I bet he'd be of some help to you balancing your checkbook, fixing your plumbing, overhauling your engine.

I doubt conservatives will ever boast many sculptors, actors, poets, or performance artists. We're probably stuck with an artist's lineup that includes Ted Nugent and Bo Derek. Yes and so what? When's the last time a Frieda Kahlo gave us lasers, flight, air conditioning*--hell, hearts?

See: Two can play at the which-side-is-better game. But it's a damned stupid game.

*The air conditioning I consider critically important, and it is my personal favorite invention ever.

Posted by Ilyka at September 6, 2004 09:49 PM in i don't know you tell me

There is a wonderful quote which I saw offered on a mug sold by a jewelry guild. "Creativity is the willingness to make mistakes; art is knowing which to keep." Persistantly keeping the wrong mistakes is thus a flaw in an artist.

Posted by: triticale at September 8, 2004 12:28 AM