A love of great music, great art and great literature does not provide people with any kind of moral or political immunization against violence, atrocity, or subservience to dictatorship

The fact that Germany had produced a Beethoven, Russia a Tolstoy, Italy a Verdi, or Spain a Cervantes, was wholly irrelevant to the fact that all these countries experienced brutal dictatorships in the twentieth century. High cultural achievements across the centuries did not render a descent into political barbarism more inexplicable than their absence would have done; culture and politics simply do not impinge on each other in so simple and direct a manner. If the experience of the Third Reich teaches us anything, it is that a love of great music, great art and great literature does not provide people with any kind of moral or political immunization against violence, atrocity, or subservience to dictatorship.

From: Richard J. Evans’s The Coming of the Third Reich (2003).

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5 thoughts on “A love of great music, great art and great literature does not provide people with any kind of moral or political immunization against violence, atrocity, or subservience to dictatorship”

  1. This dovetails with Kurt Vonnegut’s quote about art and Vietnam:

    “During the Vietnam War, every respectable artist in this country was against the war. It was like a laser beam. We were all aimed in the same direction. The power of this weapon turns out to be that of a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high.”

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  2. Absolutely true and great gifts do not necessarily sit beside high moral character. One can carry this a step further , penetrating intelligence does not guarantee high moral behaviour. Those who claim the answer to many of the world’s problems is education need to think carefully. In western nations it has become a golden calf. The constant seeking of knowledge can unseat contentment and inflate the ego as well as bring dangerous new tools into our armory. Progress itself has serious snags as well as benefits.

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