I am currently reading a fascinating book: Natasha's Dance, A Cultural History of Russia, by Orlando Figes. It has been very enlightening and thought-provoking read, reminding me of the various contributing factors to a culture, like geography, language, interaction with other cultures, war and peace, and, ultimately, the national attitude toward God. Reading through sections on the peasant effect, the cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow, the parties, the music, the art of Russia made me appreciate the vastness and beauty of the Russian culture.
What in the world?!? Why glorify Russian culture now? The same Russia that has wrongfully invaded Georgia, and threatens Poland, Ukraine, and other free states? Yes, I looked at the paintings by Levitan, and listened to the music by Mussorgsky, and read the poetry of Anna Akhmatova, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Mussorgsky's Pictures of an Exhibition has skyrocketed to one of my all-time favorite pieces of classical music (an album by the same name, and with similar music in the rock genre was put out by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer... cool, huh?). But then comes the chapter on the Soviet influence. Truth became subordinate to the state. Film, a new cultural medium in the twentieth century, became the vehicle of deception and influence.
Figes' analysis of the use of this medium, especially Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin is well worth the time to read. Film critics like Roger Ebert rate the movie as one of the greatest of all time, waxing lyrical about Eisenstein's use of the media to influence public opinion. But Potemkin is not about truth, and that's the problem. It is about manipulation of the facts (which some of us call falsehood) in order to gain an outcome favorable to you and your cause. Whereas most of the pre-revolution Russian musicians, artists, and writers attempted to show truth and beauty, Eisenstein worked toward a revolution that was false. Not surprisingly, culture in the Soviet era suffered miserably, not only because it was no longer about beauty and truth, but because artists lived in fear of reprisal, prison, and death. They were not free to communicate truth in their chosen medium and through their unique personalities.
Political correctness in our own culture tends to have the same suppressing and perverting effect on our own art. If you are politically correct, any perversion is a grand success, while if you are not, any truth is ridiculed, and slandered into hopefully inconsequential nowhere. More than this, the liberal media in our country tends toward the Eisenstein method of falsehood, which should alarm truth-lovers into standing for what is right and true, and not tolerating those who use the old Soviet methods of propaganda. One such media organ is US Magazine, which this week featured this cover, a shameful attack on John McCain's running mate:
Regarding Senator Obama, the same magazine ran this cover:
You can almost see the halo in the second cover as much as you can see the hate in the first.
S.I. Hayakawa wrote a wonderful book on the subject of the manipulation of truth, Language in Thought and Action. It can serve ably as a guide to this season's election.
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."