Idiots of High Culture

I recently saw this headline on a Classical Music website: "Cardiff Philharmonic removes Tchaikovsky from programme in light of Russian invasion of Ukraine.”  Oh, poor Pyotr Ilyich, he has been dead for almost 130 years, but he turns out to be guilty of the Russian fascism of the 21st century. He was hit by the Russian aggression as if by a ricocheting bullet.

A wave of hatred for Russian culture has rolled over the planet like a tsunami.  All over the world, cultural idiots are removing from their programs works by the great composers Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninoff and canceling performances by musicians, singers, and dancers who had the misfortune to come from the USSR or Russia.

Tchaikovsky (public domain image)

The conformist idiots who run the culture business try their best to portray themselves as "more Catholic than the Pope” when it comes to shunning all things Russian. They fired Valery Gergiev, the head conductor of the Munich Symphony Orchestra; the manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Peter Gelb, banned the prima donna Anna Netrebko when she refused to publicly condemn Putin. Gergiev and Netrebko spend most of their time in the Western countries, but they are still Russian citizens, having deep roots there, so it’s painful and even dangerous for them to publicly condemn the Russian invasion, especially given the vindictive nature of the present-day Kremlin czar. Not everyone has the courage or desperation to do this.

It's easy to be a hero and judge others from the comfort of New York or Munich. I could understand if they were fired for publicly supporting the aggression, but firing them for remaining silent? Somehow these events remind me of the Soviet times, when the whole nation had to unanimously condemn someone who disagreed with the party line or simply dared to be independent, such as Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, and Brodsky when they were awarded the Nobel Prize.

It is not out of their wisdom that cultural bureaucrats mix talent with politics and punish creative people not for their actions, but for their unwillingness or fear of publicly condemning the criminal behavior of their country of origin. The mere fact of belonging to a certain culture or the fear of speaking out loud about one's views, no matter what their nature, should not be grounds for ostracism.

I accept and understand that in Israel orchestras don’t wish to perform the works of Richard Wagner, not because they are Teutonic in nature, but because the composer was an active anti-Semite and even published a book in which he called for exterminating the Jews.  In such rare cases, the artist's work really becomes inseparable from his social and political actions, which is why I never listen to Wagner's music, even though I admit that it is quite good.  Or, for example, Tchaikovsky also disliked Jews, but this was noted only in his private correspondence and never in public, and therefore the composer's thoughts and sentiments should have nothing to do with his work. In Israel, his music is loved and often performed, but the smartypants in the Cardiff Orchestra decided to punish poor Pyotr Ilyich despite the fact that his father was from the Ukrainian Cossacks and his mother from a Franco-German family. But these illiterate idiots do not know this.

What is happening today with the Russian culture is a continuation of the madness that in recent years has swept the Western world, including the U.S., when under the pretext of fighting against contrived racism the idiotic activists destroy centuries of culture. This movement is called "cancel culture," which  the English grammar allows to understand in the imperative mood, especially if you add an exclamation point: "cancel culture!" That's exactly what's happening: the world's culture is being abolished.

The music department at Oxford University wished to ban musical notation as a white man's invention, and in some American colleges, the idiot bureaucrats declared mathematics a racist science. They even demanded the abolition of the multiplication table.

The cancel culture movement went as far as tearing down monuments to historical figures and removing books from libraries, for example, forbidding schools from reading Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn. You don't have to be a visionary about where this might lead. It is enough to recall the words of Heinrich Heine of nearly two hundred years ago: "Where books are burned, in the end people are also burned.” The German experience of the last century has already proved the great poet's sagacity.

In some not-so-rare cases, creative people have the courage to actively protest their homeland policies. I recall the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, who publicly refused to work in Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler's Germany, but went to Palestine to conduct the Jewish orchestra. That is why we should admire and respect the courageous civic position of some cultural figures in contemporary Russia who decided to express their opposition to the war in Ukraine and left their posts in protest. For example, Thomas Sanderling of the Novosibirsk Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko of the Russian State Orchestra, and Bolshoi Ballet choreographer Alexei Ratmansky refused to work on a new ballet. Yet, I'm afraid that the Western cultural idiots still won't forgive them their Russian roots.

Of course, not everyone is capable of becoming a hero and risking their lives to speak publicly against the authorities, like the desperate journalist Viktor Shenderovich, who was lucky enough to be driven into exile just before the war. Some famous artistic personalities do not protest publicly, but, as they used to say, “vote with their feet.” During the last few days, many Russian celebrities have left the country.

In previous years there was a tremendous brain drain from Russia — the most creative and talented scientists and engineers emigrated, and nowadays we see a cultural exodus, which will inevitably throw the country into the intellectual Stone Age, from which there is no easy return. Russia loses and the West gains, but the idiots of culture throw sand in the wheels of this inexorable historical process.

Jacob Fraden’s website is

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