Culture, Conservatism, and the Elite

As an IT professional you sometimes need to take a break to get down to earth and in touch with real life again. What could be a better opportunity than getting a fresh hair-cut?

Last Saturday, I arrived at the hair-dresser somewhat early and while waiting skimmed through the array of magazines available. One that immediately caught my attention sported a headline “The 500 most important intellectuals”. Normally, the most positive of my reactions rankings of that sort provoke is a bored yawn. The one hundred best dressed men, 1000 places to see before you die. Man, Heidelberg is kinda nice but there are a hundred places more interesting to me in Germany alone. I’ve even hated our literary canon in university. This ranking had an altogether different subject, though. So I looked at the magazine’s tag-line: “magazine for political culture” and I fell for it. It happened to be the April edition of a magazine called “Cicero“. “Hey,” I thought, “sounds like a magazine for people who like to reflect on what’s going on around them.”

So I started to leaf through the magazine and it didn’t take long to get me mildly annoyed. I hadn’t even started to read anything yet, just sampled the overall visual impression. As usual, that was heavily influenced by advertisements. It didn’t very much differ from that decadent Audi magazine I get every quarter or so, where the Audi club offers among other things weekend trips for a thousand Euros. Why a magazine for political culture needs adverts for designer suits, Breitling watches, and the like was not immediately clear to me. Of course, a magazine is an economical enterprise and will probably welcome Breitling’s marketing dollars. That’s to be expected. What always makes me suspicious in such a case is the question what kind of audience a company that sells a thousand Euro watches expects when it decides to spend part of its marketing budget somewhere. Also, what will the management of a company in the media business do to ensure the companies paying the adverts can continue to expect the right audience. I was more and more expecting this to turn out a magazine for the many smart people I know who turned thirty, found a well-paid job, and all of a sudden started to listen to classical music or Jazz, play golf and chime in to the same kind of phrases their parents would cant, like how dismissals protection should be relaxed or how binding minimum wages would harm the economy. Why must people once they earn more than the average employee start to approve of the merits of the classical liberalist trickle-down theory rubbish? Just to enable them to buy Breitling watches?

But OK, “Let’s give them a chance,” I thought and started to read the letters to the editor to find out whether I had guessed right about the readership. First thing I came across was half a page of letters where readers applauded suggestions of the very widely travelled but also very conservative Peter Scholl-Latour that Germany should build up its own arsenal of nuclear weapons. After all it supposedly was the nuclear weapons that made the Cold War stay cold. Or maybe we just didn’t wait long enough, but I don’t feel inclined to conduct any experiments to find out.

Next thing I found was a commentary by the regular editor Judith Hart “Ganz schön Hart” (roughly: “quite hard” hart=hard). She was commenting on a recent poll according to which more Germans regarded the United States a danger to world peace than Iran. First she smugly detected a discrepancy between that and the United States remaining the Germans’ favourite place to travel to. Then she concluded that this is just the result of people having found out that it’s much less dangerous to attack democratic America than Iran. Oh boy, I know that’s what conservatives would like to think (and I’m not even going to enter the discussion of how democratic America still is), but get real: Who, in Germany, has ever been endangered by criticising Iran? Who has been in any danger after the Mohamed cartoons? A number of soldiers in Afghanistan perhaps and some kidnapped travellers in Iraq, though it is not known that they actively criticised Iran from which potential critics could derive it is safer not to. What is more, the general populace you need to get this kind of poll result (which is remarkable in its own right) who voices its opinion in their private homes or pubs will certainly not feel personally threatened by Ahmadnijad. Explaining the poll result with fear of criticism of Iran is saying that half the German populace is following a few cabaret artist who have supposedly decided that it is less harmful to their health or their applause to criticize the U. S. than to criticise Iran. Or was it that defeatist social democrat Schröder who dared to voice an opinion differing from Bush’s or Blair’s in Iraq II. Isn’t that a little too far fetched?

The current issue has an article about how climate change is a completely natural phenomenon. So, there’s nothing to worry about and nobody needs to invest their hard earned money in environmental protection. Hey, the extinction of entire species’ is also a completely natural phenomenon. Maybe the world would be so much better off if it finally happened to the human race.

How I hate it when people say “culture” and mean elitism!

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One thought on “Culture, Conservatism, and the Elite

  1. opit says:

    That is what you call reading ‘puff pieces’ – and I don’t mean the Magic Dragon either : all wind – no substance. I wouldn’t qualify that as either culture or elitism : drivel is what comes to mind.

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