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Well, In My Opinion...
Saturday, 27 June 2009
From "The Demon of Progress in the Arts"
Topic: General Impressions

This is an excerpt is an extensive quote of the last three paragraphs from the Postscript from Wyndham Lewis' book "The Demon of Progress in the Arts."  I find it amazingly prescient.  Except for a few dated media references this could have been written yesterday.  The scary part about it is that how much worse it's all become SINCE he wrote this tract:  

"We seem to be running down, everywhere in life, to a final end to all good things.  Compared to fifty years ago, when the supreme and ultimate rot began, our food –– our milk, our cheese, our bread, our concocted foods, everything, in short, is inferior, and there is every reason to suppose that it will get more so, decade by decade (italics mine - RF).  The cloth our clothes are made of has declined in quality, no only in beauty but in durability, to such an extent that no tailor would have the face to deny it.  The furniture at present manufactured, the materials with which our houses are built, the bricks, the mortar, the wood, the fittings, are notoriously inferior to what they were a short century ago.  Paper is not what it was, in our newspapers, our books, our writing materials and so on; steel products, such as scissors, pins, etc., become less and less reliable; the gut used in surgical stitching is no longer graded; but it is not necessary to enumerate this decline in detail.  Everything that is sold in the shops is necessarily inferior to what it was so short a time ago as twelve months.  Why?  For the very good reason that the word business may be defined as buying cheap and selling dear.  Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted that 'The business man is a crook.'  He is, by definition, dishonest.  The board meetings and conferences in every business establishment concern themselves always with some essentially dishonest device for putting money in their pockets; in the case of the manufacturers, the subject discussed is how, in manufacturing their speciality, they may cheat the public –– to make the public pay the same price (or more) far an article composed of less valuable ingredients.  This must involve a progressive deterioration of everything we buy, from the gas in our meters to socks on our feet.

"Meanwhile, the great suspense is a factor of daily, unrelenting ruin.  The enormous cost entailed by the fabulous armaments imposed on [us]... is alone sufficient to bleed us white, to maintain a dangerous fever in all our blood; and, since the arms we are now manufacturing are potentially so destructive that when at length they are used they may entirely alter our lives, they are responsible for the great suspense.

"Well.  Unless human beings are going to experience the same deterioration in the very tissues of which their bodies are composed, unless their skins are to lose their resilience, their warmth, and all the other qualities which make them so high class a covering for man to have; unless nature is to begin to take less trouble over our nails, our hair (that may disappear altogether), our wonderful shining eyes, which may become dull and myopic, so that spectacles must be provided for all from the cradle onwards –– unless all this is come about there will have to be some great revolution.  That is why talking about the alarming outlook for the fine arts appears so trivial a matter when one has finished writing about it.  It is infected with the triviality of everything else."

Posted by ralph.fisher at 11:43 PM EDT
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