Do we, as a global society, still care about beauty?
In a world of efficiency, do we still care enough to take a moment to admire eloquence? Do we still have the ability to blend beauty with the blunt knife of necessity? Rather, not do we have the ability, but do we even care enough to pursue the artistic grace of a Swift, a Milton, or even perhaps Socrates? I don't mean this as a personal reflection. Instead, I am asking whether or not beauty still matters when it comes to working through this life.
Survival trumps aesthetics. With seven billion souls on the planet, all resources will be exploited. Free enterprise has performed marvelously in its basic function of advancing efficiency, productivity and technology, but there are limits on its ability to increase the rate of economic production. Infinity does not exist in this world, and infinite wealth is what we are asking of it. Nothing can deliver that. Like other animals, the human one breeds to just beyond the boundary of the resources available to support its population, and so the pressure to maintain economic growth in order to avoid death is ever present. As economic growth becomes more difficult to achieve all formerly discretionary usages of resources are drawn into the mill in a collective desperation driven by the survival instinct.
From the point of view of concrete survival, art, which creates and exposes beauty, is among those optional activities. Artists are becoming superfluous to economics. As the pressures to exploit all resources to expand the economy so that the expanding human population can survive continue to grow, beauty will correspondingly grow less important to society as a whole. Appreciation and pursuit of it will become less collective and more individualistic. Artists will become increasingly devalued by society as a whole and will have to find courage and dedication within themselves in order to do their work.
What of our desire for excess? China one-birth laws respond to a drastic neglect of resource limits. We chase convenient efficiency, meaning machines do the work and we get paid, but that's not survival; we have just found slaves that can't complain
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