Literature will set us free

“Nothing can defend us better against ignorance, prejudice, racism, nothing better than good literature. […] good books are the best defense that we have against prejudices, against distorted views of people of different languages, different beliefs, different customs. We discover that in spite of all differences, the common denominator among men and women of different traditions is much more important, because we are all humans and we are all challenged by very similar kinds of problems and obstacles that we have to overcome in order to survive, in order to live.

If free and democratic societies are to carry on as such, it is imperative that their citizens be trained by reading good literature not only for the great pleasure the activity affords, but also for its great potential to stimulate the critical mind, which is the real engine of historical change and the best protector of liberty.”

From: cnnphilippines.com/life/culture/literature/2016/11/09/mario-vargas-llosa.html

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Literature’s Greatest Contribution to the World

“Reading and writing are subversive acts by default. […] this activity develops in societies a critical spirit about the world as it is.

Why do you think that all dictatorships have tried to control literature? […] They have established systems of censorship. They have given special laws to put limits to the fantasy world that literature creates—because they mistrust very much this activity that is producing stories to replace the real world with the fantasy world of literature.

[…] writers don’t need to be politically inclined to make a criticism. Literature itself is critical of the real world.

The critical spirit […] is developed by presenting readers with worlds that are better, more coherent, more rich—in which life has possibilities that real life, the real world, doesn’t have.

And the greatest contribution of literature to the world, is when it gives us ideas that are very critical of the world as it is.”

Mario Vargas Llosa

From: gmanetwork.com/news/story/587427/lifestyle/dictators-like-marcos-are-right-to-fear-writers-mario-vargas-llosa

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Culture on the Battlefields of the Cold War

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The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) was “a major player in intellectual life during the Cold War — the closest thing that the U.S. government had to a Ministry of Culture. This left a complex legacy. During the Cold War, it was commonplace to draw the distinction between “totalitarian” and “free” societies by noting that only in the free ones could groups self-organize independently of the state. But many of the groups that made that argument — including the magazines on this left — were often covertly-sponsored instruments of state power, at least in part. Whether or not art and artists would have been more “revolutionary” in the absence of the CIA’s cultural work is a vexed question; what is clear is that that possibility was not a risk they were willing to run. And the magazines remain, giving off an occasional glitter amid the murk left behind by the intersection of power and self-interest. Here are seven of the best, ranked by an opaque and arbitrary combination of quality, impact, and level of CIA involvement”:

From, and more: https://theawl.com/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked-93e65a5a710a#.wmnc741ah

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The Monetization of Art and the Killing of Creativity

Artists as a rule ever since they emerged from the shamans and healers of the old age have always been investigating the nature of the world, been the seekers of truth, and the philosophers of life. As such they often represented the highest form of intellect and culture in society […].

Artists always attempted to go beyond the bounds of normal art to unbound the secrets of the world, depict the true meaning of life, and ponder on the true purpose of existence.

Then came the agents, aka ‘the curators’...

The curators know art and artists, and also know the buyers. Hence they are the key figures, the active agents of the financialization of art. […]

Putting it simply, the financialization of the last segment of society that had the potential to produce creative free thinkers, who are not directed by profit making financial intentions, is being wiped out in front of eyes. […]

This matters because only free thinking people can be the ‘compass’ of society. Artists through the ages have always made comments upon the ideas, aspirations, and events going on around them. This is being lost where the last bastion of intellectual freedom will have been commercialized by the ultra wealthy and sectional institutions within our society. The creative people who have the potential of free thinking is now controlled by financial interests, as soon as they have any professional success. […]

We are all going to be passengers on a boat with perfect technologies, perfect crews, and perfect stewardship leading us. However in this perfect world there will be nobody who can question the bearing and direction that the boat will travel.”

From:

http://moderndiplomacy.eu/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=988:the-financialization-of-the-art-world-and-the-cannibalization-of-creativity&Itemid=717

Related, The Literary Industrial Complex: https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/the-literary-industrial-complex/

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To Write Something One Must be Something

“Art brings into play the subjective impressions and imagination of the artist. But these impressions and this imagination carry weight and endure, in the end, only in so far as they correspond—in accordance with art’s distinctive mirrors—to life and reality as they are.

We are not dictating this state of affairs—but it is a fact that only the art with something to say about the decisive questions facing masses of people, however indirectly or poetically, will be of great interest in the years to come. Self-absorption and social indifference will be looked on with as much astonishment as contempt.

The great novelist Leo Tolstoy had contributed to the 1905 Revolution in Russia although he was no revolutionary. “Everything that Tolstoy stated publicly” about the cruelty, irrationality and dishonesty of tsarist Russia “in thousands of ways … seeped into the minds of the laboring masses … And the word became deed.”

This is our conception too, that art has the ability to alter the thinking and feeling of masses of human beings. To have that sort of influence, however, the artist must know something important about the world, about society and history. To do something one must be something, as Goethe observed.”

FROM: wsws.org/en/articles/2016/06/01/awr2-j01.html

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Reading Books vs Watching TV

Research shows “The more a child watched television or was exposed to television, even if it was playing in the background, the weaker their understanding of their parents’ mental state. Ultimately, if the television was on in the vicinity of the child, it impaired their theory of mind, which is defined as the ability to recognize their own and another person’s beliefs, intents, desires, and knowledge.”

…”watching too much TV could actually alter the composition of the human brain.  […] the more time spent in front of the TV, the thicker the frontal lobe region of their brains developed. It’s the same area that is known to lower language processing and communication, which researchers suspect is also why [test subjects] had a lower verbal IQ. But that wasn’t all; the hypothalamus, septum, sensory motor region, and visual cortex were all enlarged — these are where emotional responses, arousal, aggression, and vision are processed.”

Meanwhile, “aside from pleasure and practicality, reading [books]  strengthens the neural pathways like any muscle in your body. Even at a young age, children who are read to by their parents develop five enhanced reading skills, which include an advanced vocabulary, word recognition in spoken words, ability to connect written letters to spoken sounds, reading comprehension, and the fluency to read text accurately and quickly.”

More on TV watching and the benefits of Reading Books:
medicaldaily.com/neural-pathways-watching-tv-human-brain-reading-book-389744

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If Writers Were Taken Literally

“Raven locks, arched eyebrows, eyes like stars, rosy cheeks, sea-shell ears, pearly teeth, cherry lips, swan-like necks, lilly white hands, and a Grecia nose”…

If writers were taken literally, the heroines of fiction would look like this:

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The Literary Industrial Complex

“The MFA isn’t about developing a unique style at all, but about learning how to sound like already published writers. It’s about gaining entrance to the club. Look closely at the promotional materials of creative-writing programs and you’ll almost invariably see a host of proper names—these are the people with whom you can expect to rub shoulders, if not directly, then by association through the former graduates that have passed through the program or the mentors of your mentors whose influence will surely rub off on you. It’s about having the opportunity to insert yourself, however virtually, into that literary social network.

While something may happen in MFA programs, perhaps that thing is more behavioral than artistic. When we look at the data, the MFA seems to be helping people sound like everyone else. To put a positive spin on it, we could say the degrees help writers fit into the literary landscape. Like the universities to which these programs belong, the MFA may offer a way of gaining entrance to an elite club. You learn the rules of the road, at least as defined by the publishing industry and literary reviews. At its worst, it doesn’t do anything at all.

From: theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/mfa-creative-writing/462483/

The CIA + the MFA = https://spywriter.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/the-cia-ideology-and-american-literature/

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Shared Reading For Mental Health

“This one-year research study concluded that shared reading groups helped patients suffering from depression in terms of their social, mental, emotional and psychological well-being. The clinical data indicated that statistically significant improvements in the mental health of depressed patients had occurred during the 12-month period in which they had attended reading groups.

It found that there were four significant ‘mechanisms of action’ involved in the reading group intervention, three of which were essential to its success, the fourth influential:

– A rich, varied, non-prescriptive diet of serious literature
– The role of the group facilitator in making the literature ‘live’ in the room
– The role of the group in offering support and a sense of community
– The creation of stimulating, non-pressurised, non-judgemental atmosphere (‘not like school’, as one participant emphatically put it) overrode considerations of physical environment

The report also established what types of literature work, why they work and how they work in the specific context of depressive illness.”

From, and Download the report (PDF): http://www.thereader.org.uk/media/72227/Therapeutic_benefits_of_reading_final_report_March_2011.pdf

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Noxious Vermin

“What is this curse that makes us all so inert and cowed that we cannot pull ourselves together and deprive the generals of their grants? We are oafs, most of us, lazy and ignorant, and we nod our heads and are satisfied when we hear a lot of profound nonsense about “balance of power” and “interplay of forces” and all the rest of the jargon. Balance of power? If every Tom, Dick and Harry were to exert himself and demand that the money should be spent on making him better off instead of on arms and war there would be no war and we should all be better off. But the Toms, Dicks and Harrys must first bang their fists on the table and let it be known who holds the power and how that power is to be used. […]

“I still see red when I think of, let alone meet, those who incite to war, all the idiots who directly or with treacherous insinuations fan dissension and belligerent instincts. I have seen the result of the infamous activities of these propagandists, commentators, fanatics, cold business brains and lusting politicians. They are noxious vermin and, as such, should be destroyed.”

Sven Hassel, Wehrmacht, WWII; author of WWII novels.

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