Thursday, 8 March 2018

Past and Present Evidence of Ignorance

In enlightened minds, satires often fall flat when they fail to reflect present reality accurately.

Prejudices are frequently displayed through art, just as is the case through entertainment.

Presenting a past theatrical production in the present is not necessarily prejudiced.  The production may either reflect history or something more sinister.

But satire is always contextual.

Some human faults are present across generations.  Other human faults are corrected over time, at least temporarily.

The enlightened purpose of satire is to correct societal faults.

If you have long been ignorant of that fact, I am here to enlighten you.

I am a moderate radical, a conservative anarchist and a liberal-democratic reformer.

Are you aware of the political philosophy your own actions reflect?

You may be here for the continuation of the Mozarty Party Climatologically Cool 100 countdown.  That is understandable, especially if you are frequently keen to enlighten yourself.

Witnessing the harmonious display of beauty, understanding and magnificence is usually useful in that regard.  There is nothing prejudiced or otherwise ignorant in such displays.

Many prejudices have been official ones.  Quite a few official and unofficial prejudices have continued from past centuries.

As a political philosopher, I am interested in examining the barriers to political reform.  It is no good having a brilliant political philosophy, as I do, without being aware of why so few other people seek to implement its theories in their own societies.

I am well aware that Mozart and I are far more brilliant, philosophically and musically, than most other people.  We have both examined past and present evidence of ignorance and used that information satirically.

What is your current understanding of satire?

What is your current understanding of the history of theatre, especially in relation to satirical works?

What is your knowledge of satire in relation to opera?

Who do you believe made the most significant contributions to 20th century theatre, and how?

Who made the most significant contributions to 20th century satire, and where?

What is the evidence of past satires actually being reflections of prejudices?

It has never been easy to make a good living, in a sustainable and consistent way, through philosophy or the arts, except by devoting attention towards either the tastes of the masses or the tastes of the wealthy, or both.  The masses and the wealthy have often had similar prejudices.

How do you compare Mozart's career with that of Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan?

How do you compare the career of Lorenzo Da Ponte with that of Sir William Schwenck Gilbert?

Past evidence of ignorance has often been expressed through prejudices claiming to be satirical comedies. This is certainly the case with Princess Ida.

How many well-know opera composers or librettists have been women?

Are you a woman?

Regardless of whether you are one sort of human specimen or another, do you ever read the poetry of Alfred Tennyson, also known as 1st Baron Tennyson, or Lord Tennyson?

Do you ever write poetry in blank verse?

Have you ever set an iambic pentameter to music?

Is English your first language?

Asking questions is often a good indication not only of ignorance but also of the desire to overcome it.

Here is a snippet from one of my own little poems:

Past and present evidence brings wisdom.
Questions show how you and I may work well.
Ignorance has never helped make friendships.
Answer please, to state the things you know.
Lord Tennyson's poem The Princess was composed in 1847, before he became a poet laureate.

What do you know of the music of 1847?

How does the music of that year compare with 1747 and 1947?

Mozart was not around in any of those years as a mortal person.

There were some significant philosophical works published in 1748.

There were significant philosophical works in 1847 and 1848.  The latter year, in particular, has been of long-term historical and political importance.

What was philosophically important about 1947?

How many well-known poets and philosophers have been women?

Lord Tennyson's The Princess was written as a blank verse comedy-drama.

How many well-known writers of comedy have been women?

The Princess is a narrative poem.  You may be aware that, prior to writing it, Tennyson had been accused by critics of preferring trivial themes.

A comedy drama is much like life is meant to be, with much lightness between its serious themes.  The most realistic works therefore combine seriousness with humour, like life itself.

I am sure most mental illness is a consequence of the lack of that balance.

In the best poetry and music, the interplay of dark and light moods reflect the ever-changing reality of experience. Both light and dark expressions of art may either soften reality or make it harsher.  This is frequently achieved through the incorporation of fantasy.

The separation of the light side of life from the dark side has long contributed to the prevalence of ignorance.  People take the light side for granted when rarely, if ever, inhabiting the dark side.

People mostly inhabiting the dark side tend to believe the light side is to be avoided, or that it does not exist.  They shun lightness as if it always equates with triviality.

Unfortunately, there are also many people who lack seriousness when observing the distress around them.  They are either indifferent to other people's suffering or they use black comedy as a way to express their lack of concern, or as a way to cope with distress, or as a form of political satire.

How do you cope with distress?

How do you respond to the distress you observe in other people, in other animals, and in nature more generally?

How do you discover the true extent and depth of distress?

Some people have been taught to hide their distress, as if it is something unworthy of complaint, or something shameful.  They tend to suffer in silence.

Some people do not feel they can trust anyone enough to tell them about the distress, or they do not know where to turn for help, or they cannot afford the help available.

Some people have discovered that feigned distress is an effective way to attract attention and gain other benefits.  They tend to highlight their own problems, resentfulness and bitterness, while ignoring the needs of other people.

Some people are eager to learn about distress but have little ability to do anything to resolve those situations.  They are not motivated to learn deeply about problems in order to resolve them properly.

Most people prefer a quick fix to a careful plan of action.  A quick fix is usually the only strategy available when faced with an unforeseen emergency.

How do you prepare for possible emergencies?

How do you assess risks?

Who do you expect to help you when an emergency arises?

Are you an Adelaidean?

You may be aware that a seaside suburb of Adelaide is named after the eldest son of Lord Tennyson, a former governor of South Australia and a former governor-general of Australia.

Do you know much about Lord Tennyson's wife, whom he married three years after publication of The Princess?

Tennyson was in his early 40s when he married.  His wife, Emily, was in her late 30s.  They had known each other for many years.  In 1847, her uncle John died.  A street in the centre of Adelaide is named after him.

What is your knowledge of 1847 in science?

What is your knowledge of 1747 in science and 1947 in science?

Have you ever participated in the conservation of Tennyson dunes?

Have you ever observed how some people want to make money and/or appease self-interested groups, by destroying special ecosystems?

Have you ever observed how some people act in the belief that fossil fuels are more important than fresh drinking water?

Have you ever observed how cruelty is often hidden behind a mask of authoritarian sanctity?

Have you ever observed how cruelty in politics degrades societies and causes immense distress?

Have you ever observed how incompetence in organisations makes victims of that incompetence feel as if no-one cares about their suffering?

How do you lift societies out of a moral vacuum?

Is the world any better now than it was in 1847?

Is your life any better now than it was seven years ago?

What do you recall of literature from 1747, from 1847 and from 1947?

As you may know, long poems are often divided into cantos. The word "canto" means song in Latin, like the word chant.

When set to music, cantos of long poems, or short poems in their entirety, may form a cantata.  In a cantata, words are sung and accompanied by musical instruments, and possibly also a choir.  The works may be religious but not necessarily.

A canticle is a religious song from a Biblical text other than the psalms.

Tennyson's The Princess was not a religious work. It was a work of humour.  In 1870, it was adapted into a farce play by W.S. Gilbert.  The Princess by Gilbert is a parody of the original.

The year after Tennyson wrote The Princess, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded.  There were uprisings throughout Europe in 1848.  There were many significant political events in 1870, too.

In 1847, Queen's College was founded in London for the training of governesses.  It soon became an institution for the higher education of women more generally.

What have been the main gaps in your own education?

How do you compare the political leaders of 1747, 1847 and 1947 with those of today?

How do you compare the cultural leaders of 1747, 1847 and 1947 with those of today?

You may be aware that the Amadeus Quartet was initially founded as the Brainin Quartet in 1947.  The 1948 debut of the quartet, at Wigmore Hall in London, was possible through the support of Imogen Holst.

Informally, the quartet was known as the Wolf Gang.  Three of the members had been refugees.

Tennyson's The Princess is, in its own way, a story about refugees.  It is about women escaping an unfair world, ruled by men, by establishing their own university as a safe haven from ignorance.

There is a considerable difference between the serio-comic and tragicomedy, farce, parody and comic opera.  In each case, The Princess, has been presented from a domineering and demeaning, male perspective.

Several works by other men have been inspired by the work, including Edward Lear, Gustav Holst and Benjamin Britten. 

What is your knowledge of the history of female education?

When Gilbert wrote his play, Princess Ida, Girton College had recently opened near Cambridge.

When the Gilbert and Sullivan opera of the play was first performed in the hot summer of 1883, a higher education institution for women had recently opened in London, Westfield College.

Sullivan wrote Savoy operas mainly for the money.  He felt the works were below his dignity.

The Victorian era was one in which the dominant people expected everyone else to know their place in the hierarchy.  Authority was not to be questioned.

The Establishment ruled society.  Its members considered their controlling influence to be both natural and moral.  Their sense of superiority made their empire-building activities appear, to them, to be a great gift to the world.

Any attempt to change the hierarchy was treated with ridicule or considered to be a sign of dangerous, revolutionary tendencies. 

Born-to-rule attitudes were prevalent.  They are still prevalent.

Shortly before the Gilbert and Sullivan version of Princess Ida opened, the Royal College of Music opened in London.  On that occasion, Sullivan was knighted by the queen for his contribution to serious music, including the development of music education.  The comic operas were seen as low entertainment in contrast and unworthy of a knight.

A 1999 film was based on the experience.

The Guildhall School of Music had opened in 1880.  During and after the Second World War, one of its teachers was Max Rostal.  He provided free tuition to the refugee musicians of the future Wolf Gang.

At number seven in the Mozarty Party Climatologically Cool 100 countdown is the String Quartet No. 23 in F major, K. 590.  It is part of a series of three quartets written between 1789 and 1790 for the politically unenlightened but keen musician, Frederick William II, King of Prussia.

Mozart, through his patron, Karl Alois, Prince Lichnowsky, became acquainted with the king in Potsdam and Berlin, on the eve of the French Revolution.  Mozart, like Sullivan, had money troubles. He hoped Frederick William would resolve them.

The Prussian Quartets were published after Mozart's death.

Frederick William II was unfaithful to his first wife, Elisabeth Christine Ulrike of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel.  After the birth of their only child, a daughter, the spouses competed with each other in unfaithfulness.  The marriage ended in scandal and divorce.

In 1791, their daughter, Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, married the second in line to the British throne, the soldier Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, Prince-Bishop of Osnabr├╝ck.  They had no children and soon separated.

If the situation had been otherwise, in terms of offspring, the city of Adelaide would most likely have been called something else entirely.

The Princess by Tennyson is likely to have been influenced by the aristocratic, secular cannoneses of medieval Europe, and by Tennyson's future wife and several other, relatively thoughtful ladies of his acquaintance.

Tennyson would have been well aware of the changes occurring in British society as a consequence of the Reform Act of 1832

Gilbert's play Princess Ida was first staged only a few years after the Reform Act of 1867.

Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera was first staged in the same year, 1884, as the Third Reform Act.

The Savoy Theatre was built by the entrepreneur Richard D'Oyly Carte and opened in 1881. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company owed much of its success to a university educated woman, Helen Carte.

The theatre, and the hotel built from the profits, were named after a palace destroyed in the peasants' uprising of 1381.

In 1885, there was a redistribution of seats in the House of Commons, more along the lines of one vote, one value.  But there were still many reforms to be made.

Unlike the more enlightened situation in Australia and New Zealand, women in Britain had to wait until 1918 to gain initial acknowledgement of their suitability as voters.  Most British women still had to wait until 1928.

Secret ballots were introduced in Britain in 1872.

The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act of 1883 was certainly a necessary advance in democracy, too, though many of its features have since eroded.  Most countries require a similar act, preferably enforced properly.

Are you some sort of political reformer?

The people opposed to political reform tend to be beneficiaries of current circumstance.  They often fail to understand and respect the point of view of reformers.  They may even abuse those persons.

The first election in Britain with universal suffrage occurred in 1929.  One of its consequences was a hung parliament.

Until 1948, Britain had plural voting for some property owners and individuals with university degrees.  It meant qualified persons could vote more than once.  Owners of businesses could vote more than once until 1949.

In 1969, the voting age in Britain was reduced to 18 years of age.  It was the first time many undergraduate university students could vote.

Unfortunately, past and present evidence of ignorance indicates that voting itself does not provide sufficient political enfranchisement for most people.  And nor does the entitlement to stand for election.

Are you both moderate and radical?

Do you actively work for world peace, local peace and economic stability through organicism, bioregionalism, personal privacy and autonomy, local interdependence, lofty principles, with the encouragement of localism, decentralisation, philanthropy, deliberative approaches to reform, and the fair and effective supervision of training and responsibility?

Do you believe major public policy decisions should be agreed through deliberative referenda?

How are you working to prevent authoritarianism and belligerence in the world?

And how do you imagine me?