Monday, 22 December 2008

Brightening Up

As from today, the days will be getting longer. So, to accompany this meteorological brightening up, I was cheered to read this article by John Parker in Intelligent Life to counteract all those doom-mongers with their "dumbing down."

It is argued that we are now in the "Age of Mass Intelligence" and that, in rich countries at least, there have never been so many educated people. There are more visitors to museums, literary festivals and the opera than ever before.

Now, the cynical and the cultural snobs and the doom-mongers will all argue back: Ah, but those museums themselves are "dumbed-down". "More educated" doesn't mean "better-educated". This is just about the popularisation of culture, surely, not about intelligence?

Do you know what? I don't want to split hairs, nor do I want to get into an intellectual debate about what constitutes high culture or intelligence these days. Along with the book "The Long Tail", this article has brought to my attention just how much choice is now accessible to all of us, in terms of film, reading, music, thought, entertainment, art and culture in the widest sense, if we choose to seek it out. And I believe that only the worst cultural snob in the world could begrudge a fellow human being discovering the wit of Jane Austen via Gwyneth Paltrow, the beauty of Chopin through Classic FM or the splendour of Puccini through Paul Potts.

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