As we stumble closer and closer towards nuclear war, environmental destruction and societal collapse, young people are feeling understandably a little hopeless. Some are shooting up schools; others are dumping hundreds of gallons of milk out onto grocery store floors to promote a “plant-based future.”
Historically, when people are ideologically hopeless, they destroy art. The two disgruntled they/thems who recently threw two cans of Heinz tomato soup on Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” thought that by defacing an oil painting depicting the sublime fruits of an unscorched earth they would draw attention to their cause: ending all oil consumption and thereby saving the planet.
🥫 JUST STOP OIL SUPPORTERS CHOOSE LIFE OVER ART 🥫
🎨 Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our Government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis.#VanGogh #FreeLouis #FreeJosh #CivilResistance pic.twitter.com/gXXGLsi0ej
— Just Stop Oil ⚖️💀🛢 (@JustStop_Oil) October 14, 2022
It’s hard to know whether they knew about the other politically embittered groups who destroyed art to make a point, be they the Nazis, the Stalinists or ISIS. Maybe these young women (?) thought the oil paint was petroleum based. Maybe, at college or in boarding school, they learned that nothing is sacred, truly beautiful and worthy of preservation (except the earth). Inherent to their protest is the assumption that art is a frivolous indulgence for the ruling class and a distraction from the current ecological doom faced by the human race. As someone who grew up in a Montana trailer park and who found connection to nature through art and learning to love flowers, I vehemently disagree.
At least one of the protesters, Phoebe Plummer, is rumored to have attended the £15,000 ($17,000) a term St. Mary’s of Ascot boarding school. They have the luxury of having no hope or aesthetic appreciation. Both of the young ideologues who glued their hands to the museum wall acted out like characters from Dostoevsky’s Demons, nihilistic anarchists with too much ideological zeal but no sense of awe or connection to divine empathy.
Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in front of any Van Gogh painting can literally feel the vivid, chromatic humanity radiating from his canvases. I spent countless hours in New York crying in front of his flowers, like an Old Testament widow weeping for her dead husband. Look at his self-portraits: his deeply sad blue eyes move and he is still very much alive. Great art pulls us back into ourselves, makes us truly know the living beauty of everything (including sunflowers) and provides a portal for religious experiences. This idea is very much out of fashion now, and it’s easy to see without looking too far that not much is really sacred.
Both of these girls are highly educated and schooled in a new-left ideology that is totally artless and godless. Nothing is real to these young people except the inevitability of death and endless power struggle. They subscribe to a Foucaldian and gender-neutral death cult denying the supremacy of beauty and truth while stopping at no means to make noise. “What is more important? Art or life!” screamed the pink-haired Phoebe Plummer as she stuck herself to the wall in front of a shocked audience.
These poor kids never stopped to embrace the alien idea that maybe life is an art and our very detachment from nature’s beauty is what enabled us to destroy it in the first place. I can’t help thinking this all could have been avoided had these artless little girls taken two hours to watch the Julien Schnabel film about Van Gogh, which so beautifully depicts his worshipful and devoted relationship to the trees, the flowers, earth life.
What do these people think Van Gogh did all day? He spent the first part of his art-making life depicting the struggles of farming peasants with as much humanity and psychological depth as any human being could ever achieve. Nobody was more a part of nature than he was.
The new climate activists could not be farther from the beauty of this earth, as their actions show they know none of it. They have never read Edward Abbey or The Monkey Wrench Gang. There is an effective way to be an eco-terrorist, and it does not involve destroying the very essence of what you are trying to protect. We will not solve the problems of this planet using the same kind of thinking that created them.