"The Europe Syndrome" and the Arts
- The Europe Syndrome starts with a conception of humanity that is devoid of any element of the divine or even specialness. Humans are not intrinsically better or more important than other life forms, including trees. The Europe Syndrome sees human beings as collections of chemicals that are activated and, after a period of time, deactivated. The purpose of life is to while away the intervening time between birth and death as pleasantly as possible. I submit that this way of looking at life is fundamentally incompatible with a stream of major accomplishment in the arts.
The most direct indictment of the Europe Syndrome as an incubator of great accomplishment in the arts is the European record since World War II. What are the productions of visual art, music, or literature that we can be confident will still be part of the culture two centuries from now, in the sense that hundreds of European works from two centuries ago are part of our culture today? We may argue over individual cases, and agree that the number of surviving works since World War II will be greater than zero, but it cannot be denied that the body of great work coming out of post-war Europe is pathetically thin compared to Europe’s magnificent past.