By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind.- How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), pp. 75-77.
Allan Bloom, currently a professor at the University of Chicago, has had a distinguished academic career, teaching also at Yale, the universities of Paris, Tel Aviv, and Toronto. During the 1960’s he was a professor at Cornell, resigning i !1 protest over the capitulation of that school’s administration to campus radicals.
His Closing of the American Mind became an unexpected bestseller, indeed, something of a cultural phenomenon, during 1987. While we do not endorse everything in the book, several passages are well worth reflecting upon.
This is the significance of rock music. I do not suggest that it has any high intellectual sources. But is has risen to its current heights in the education of the young on the ashes of classical music, and in an atmosphere in which there is no intellectual resistance to attempts to tap the rawest passions.
But rock music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire – not love, not eros, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children’s emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimating them, not as little sprouts that must be carefully tended in order to grow into gorgeous flowers, but as the real thing. Rock gives children, on a silver platter, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up and would understand later.
Young people know that rock has the beat of sexual intercourse. That is why Ravel’s Bolero is the one piece of classical music that is commonly known and liked by them. In alliance with some real ark and a lot of pseudo-art, an enormous industry cultivates the taste for the orgiastic state of feeling connected with sex, providing a constant flood of fresh material for voracious appetites. Never was there an art form directed so exclusively to children.
Ministering to and according with the arousing and cathartic music, the lyrics celebrate puppy love as well as polymorphous attractions, and fortify them against traditional ridicule and shame. The words implicitly and explicitly describe bodily acts that satisfy sexual desire and treat them as its only natural and routine culmination for children who do not yet have the slightest imagination of love, marriage or family. This has a much more powerful effect than does pornography on youngsters, who have no need to watch others do grossly what they can so easily do themselves. Voyeurism is for old perverts; active sexual relations are for the young. All they need is encouragement.
The inevitable corollary of such sexual interest is rebellion against the parental authority that represses it. Selfishness thus becomes indignation and then transforms itself into morality. The sexual revolution must overthrow all the forces of domination, the enemies of nature and happiness. From love comes hate, masquerading as social reform. A world view is balanced on the sexual fulcrum. What were once unconscious or half-conscious childish resentments become the new Scripture. And then comes the longing for the classless, prejudice-free conflictless, universal society that necessarily results from liberated consciousness – “We are the World,” a pubescent version of Alle Menschen werden Bruder, the fulfillment of which has been inhibited by the political equivalents of Mom and Dad. These are the three great lyrical themes: sex, hate and a smarmy, hypocritical version of brotherly love. Such polluted sources issue in a muddy stream where only monsters can swim. A glance at the videos that project images on the wall of Plato’s cave since MTV took it over suffices to prove this. Hitler’s image recurs frequently enough in exciting contexts to give one pause. Nothing noble, sublime, profound, delicate, tasteful or even decent can find a place in such tableaux. There is room only for the intense, changing, crude and immediate.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 10, p. 299
May 19, 1988