La paz futura

No: the emotions will not make us cosmopolitan, any more than the greed for gain could do so. It is only by the cultivation of the habit of intellectual criticism that we shall be able to rise superior to race-prejudices. Goethe —you will not misunderstand what I say— was a German of the Germans. He loved his country— no man more so. Its people were dear to him; and he led them. Yet, when the iron hoof of Napoleon trampled upon vineyard and cornfield, his lips were silent. ‘How can one write songs of hatred without hating?’ he said to Eckermann, ‘and how could I, to whom culture and barbarism are alone of importance, hate a nation which is among the most cultivated of the earth and to which I owe so great a part of my own cultivation?’ This note, sounded in the modern world by Goethe first, will become, I think, the starting point for the cosmopolitanism of the future. Criticism will annihilate race-prejudices, by insisting upon the unity of the human mind in the variety of its forms. If we are tempted to make war upon another nation, we shall remember that we are seeking to destroy an element of our own culture, and possibly its most important element. As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular. The change will of course be slow, and people will not be conscious of it. They will not say ‘We will not war against France because her prose is perfect,’ but because the prose of France is perfect, they will not hate the land. Intellectual criticism will bind Europe together in bonds far closer than those that can be forged by shopman or sentimentalist. It will give us the peace that springs from understanding.

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El arte

I have said that the community by means of organisation of machinery will supply the useful things, and that the beautiful things will be made by the individual. This is not merely necessary, but it is the only possible way by which we can get either the one or the other. An individual who has to make things for the use of others, and with reference to their wants and their wishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot put into his work what is best in him. Upon the other hand, whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the most intense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism that the world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, may seem to have created Individualism, must take cognisance of other people and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere of action. But alone, without any reference to his neighbours, without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing; and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not an artist at all.

And it is to be noted that it is the fact that Art is this intense form of Individualism that makes the public try to exercise over it in an authority that is as immoral as it is ridiculous, and as corrupting as it is contemptible. It is not quite their fault. The public has always, and in every age, been badly brought up. They are continually asking Art to be popular, to please their want of taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what they have been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired of seeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much, and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their own stupidity. Now Art should never try to be popular. The public should try to make itself artistic. There is a very wide difference.

Fragmento del ensayo de Oscar Wilde The soul of man under socialism, del que Borges dijera que “no sólo es elocuente; también es justo”, que a continuación traduzco.

he dicho que la comunidad proveerá las cosas útiles por medio de la organización de máquinas y que las cosas hermosas las hará el individuo. Esto no solamente es necesario, sino que es el único camino posible  por el que podemos conseguir lo uno o lo otro. Un individuo que debe hacer cosas para uso de otros, atendiendo las necesidades y los deseos de éstos, no trabaja con interés y por consiguiente no puede dar lo mejor en su trabajo. Por otra parte, cuando una comunidad o una parte poderosa de una comunidad, o un gobierno de cualquier tipo, intenta dictar al artista lo que debe hacer, el Arte o desaparece del todo o se estereotipa o degenera en una forma baja e innoble de artesanía. Una obra de arte es el resultado único de un temperamento único. Su belleza es consecuencia del hecho de que el autor es lo que es. No tiene nada que ver con lo que la gente quiere. En realidad, en el momento en que el artista se da cuenta de lo que la gente quiere y trata de satisfacer la demanda, deja de ser un artista y se convierte en un artesano aburrido o divertido, en un comerciante honesto o deshonesto. No tiene derecho a exigir que se lo considere un artista. El arte es la forma más intensa de Individualismo que el mundo ha conocido. Me inclino a decir que es la única forma real de Individualismo que el mundo ha conocido. El crimen, que bajo ciertas condiciones puede parecer como creador de Individualismo, debe conocer otra gente y relacionarse con ella. Pertenece a la esfera de la acción. Pero solo, alejado de sus vecinos, sin interferencia de ningún tipo, el artista puede modelar algo hermoso; y si no lo hace para su exclusivo placer, entonces no es en absoluto un artista.

Y debe notarse el Arte es una forma intensa de Individualismo que hace que el público intente ejercer sobre ella una autoridad que es tan inmoral como ridícula y tan corruptora como despreciable. No es del todo su culpa. El público ha sido siempre, en todas las épocas, malcriado. Ellos están constantemente pidiéndole al Arte que sea popular, que satisfaga su falta de gusto, que adule su absurda vanidad, que les diga lo que ya se les dijo antes, que les muestre lo que debieran estar cansados de ver,  que los diviertan cuando se sienten pesados después de haber comido demasiado, y que distraiga sus pensamientos cuando están cansados de su propia estupidez. Pero el Arte nunca debería intentar ser popular. Es el público el que debería intentar hacerse artístico. Hay una gran diferencia.