AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

16 March 2021

Self-contained.


Faking depends on a measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable of feeling. There are fake beliefs, fake opinions, fake kinds of expertise. There is also fake emotion, which comes about when people debase the forms and the language in which true feeling can take root, so that they are no longer fully aware of the difference between the true and the false. Kitsch is one very important example of this. The kitsch work of art is not a response to the real world, but a fabrication designed to replace it. Yet both producer and consumer conspire to persuade each other that what they feel in and through the kitsch work of art is something deep, important and real.

Anyone can lie. One need only have the requisite intention — in other words, to say something with the intention to deceive. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake things you have to take people in, yourself included. In an important sense, therefore, faking is not something that can be intended, even though it comes about through intentional actions. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his lies are exposed, but his pretense is merely a continuation of his lying strategy. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a member. Understanding this phenomenon is, it seems to me, integral to understanding how a high culture works, and how it can become corrupted.

To convince themselves that they are true progressives, riding in the vanguard of history, the new impresarios surround themselves with others of their kind. They promote them to all the committees that are relevant to their status and expect to be promoted in their turn. Thus arose the contemporary establishment — the self-contained circle of critics and promoters, who form the backbone of our official and semi-official cultural institutions. They trade in "originality", "transgression" and "breaking new paths". But these terms are clichés, as are the things they are used to praise. Hence the flight from cliché ends in cliché.

It is not only beliefs and actions that can be faked. Fake emotions have played a decisive role in the evolution of art in recent times. Real emotion allows no substitutes, and is never the subject of a bargain or an exchange. Fake emotion seeks to discard the cost of feeling while receiving the benefit. It is therefore always ready to exchange its present object for a better one. 

Sir Roger Scruton, from "Great Swindle – Culture of Fake Originality"

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