Actor-turned-politician Richard Gomez’ painting of a male organ elicited reactions that range from disgust to laughter and mockery. I’ve personally seen more of the latter. But perhaps it spurs discussions on what art is and what to do about “offensive” art. It reminds me of the PragerU video about offensive art, which likely received much attention in the Philippines after the debacle on Mideo Cruz’s “artwork” some years ago. Its point is that offensive and terrible art still get celebrated because standards have fallen. With standards set and enforced, terrible and offensive art can be avoided.
While I generally agree with the video’s message that purely offensive art is not good (the intention to offend without a greater point is what made the art bad, as I see it), I disagree with the idea of of enforcing standards in order to ban or prohibit art everywhere. I believe art is subjective, and that taste cannot be made universal. Yes, in contests you can have standards, but they last only as long as the contest. Once the contest ends, the standards for that event end too.
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Problems arise as long as people try to impose something on others, including art and beauty. If ideas of beauty are subjective, then there is nothing to impose. When people impose their own standards of beauty on others, just as they impose their other cultural standards (such as SJW and politically correct views), they can violate the rights of others.
Things Are Not Always as They Look
It’s a long-time belief believe that beauty and goodness are linked, or that something beautiful must be morally good. But as I have written before, someone can be beautiful but an ass in life. There is no link between their appearance and their character. It’s more realistic to say beauty/art and morality are not directly linked. Something beautiful can be bad, and something unattractive can be helpful (as a pick-up, van or SUV can be more useful than a beautiful sports car). Even nature reflects that: many beautiful plants and animals are actually deadly, using their beauty to attract prey. The idea that the goodness or badness of a person is always evident in their appearance is a myth. Reality often busts this false wisdom, as people can fake appearances after all. This is why we get snippets of real wisdom from sources such as the Bible, namely, “Man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.”
One side effect I see in relating art and beauty to good and bad is that it could lead to morality and ethics not being taken seriously. Since beauty is decoration and being good is beautiful, then some people will treat morality as mere decoration too. Being good to others is done only for aesthetic reasons. This perhaps what leads to the deterioration of values and respect for others, and such people tend to see everything as decoration, and will not have respect for others who don’t share their sense of decoration.
Let me bring up the idea of beauty in Mauritania and similar countries. Despite it being a poor country, obesity rates are high among women. This is because fat is considered beautiful, and women are force-fed to be fat. I wonder what body-positive advocates have to say about this, but for sure, obesity carries a lot of health risks. Note, these women are force-fed. Forcing others to satisfy one’s desire to see beauty is cruel (same with the loudmouth gays and LGBTs who are arrogant with other people and hate those who don’t admire their “beauty”).
Another is when Mother Teresa said that there’s something beautiful about people suffering. We also saw Miss Universe Catriona Gray saying something similar, that there is a beauty in poverty. But I see it as a twisted sense of beauty (I with webmaster Benign0 still believe poverty is bad). It’s basically saying, “I think people going through bad things is beautiful.” It would likely lead to them thinking, “let’s keep people poor because it’s beautiful.” If they see someone who isn’t suffering or in poverty, they might try to force that person to suffer. This is how twisted people can become because while they are obsessed with beauty, they twist other things, such as their treatment of other people.
Art and Decoration
It seems to be a misconception of many people that art and decoration are the same thing. You may know people who go over-the-top with their decorations. You see so many figures, pottery and other decors that make a living room look more like storage area. They’ll say this is art, or that this is beautiful and everybody should appreciate what they did. But some art professors say, “Que horror!”
Art for me is not always intended to be beautiful. It is more of a visual presentation intended to convey a message. Decoration is just an attempt to beautify some place by adding something. Decoration is not necessarily art, and vice-versa.
Some art could be hideous and unappealing to some. Some people puzzle over Mark Rothko’s crude color bars. Juan Luna’s Spolarium depicts a sad scene; it’s not really beautiful if you’re used to the colorful, happy places Bob Ross painted. Some people wouldn’t get Pablo Picasso’s art. The urinal that Marcel Duchamp displayed can be considered a crock of piss by some. I also remember this sculpture called The Tumbling Woman, which was supposed to be a homage to the people who fell from buildings during the 9/11 disaster. But people found it disturbing and it was put under drapes to hide it (it now rests in the courtyard of creator Eric Fischl’s home). I could imagine if this were Mideo Cruz: he’d be fumed if his work was covered with drapes (But I think the venue keeps the prerogative on whether to let a work stay or to remove it). No work of art is entitled to appreciation or “likes.”
The Bottom Line
People have different tastes and likes because it also serves as a function of survival, as people fill different roles, or people prefer different things so they won’t quarrel over the same resource. Forcing people to have the same ideas about art and beauty might jeopardize this process by depriving people of their own initiative to decide on their own. But morality and ethics are things we should have more agreement on. Everyone for sure doesn’t want to get taken from, lied about, hurt or killed, dictated on who to marry, mutilated because of culture, etc. Art and beauty are a different ball game.
One of my pet peeves in life is when people want to order me on how to live my life. That includes dictating what should I feel, what I should believe, what my tastes and hobbies should be, what I should see as beautiful. Basically, people who tend to say, “if you want your own opinion, I’ll give it to you.” These are the people I would call the scum of the earth, because, as control freaks, they are the true “fascists” or dictators. People like me would get mad and retort, “How dare you tell me what I should think!” This for me is the problem with wokes, SJWs and same such people, perhaps lately even some LGBTQ+s.
I also believe these wokes believe in that age-old idiocy that the majority must be made to follow the “enlighted few.” They believe that they are the latter, and want their standard of beauty should be followed by society. Their idea is, for example, ousting politicians such as Duterte and having Robredo as president, and for some, taking someone else’s wealth to give to the poor, then claiming, “I helped you,” and claming it is beautiful. If someone does not agree with them, they attack these as “ugly,” “right-wing” or “bigots.” The idea of a majority following the “enlightened” few should be ditched, as “enlightened” few can also mean selfish, dictatorial few.
I disagree that if people all had the same standard of beauty or if everybody were the same, we would all get along and conflict would stop. The problem is not being different, but acceptance of others being different. If you insist that we all become the same, then you are a dictator insisting on your own way. You are also disregarding nature. If people have different ideas from yours, and you complain that they’re not cooperating, then you’re the one causing conflict. If people have a different idea of beauty, just respect it, and stop enforcing yours. Indeed, the cause of the world’s problems is that people cannot leave each other alone when they must.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.