Thursday, June 30, 2005

Neoplatonism and politics

Jeff at the Bernoulli Effect points us to this bit from Woody Allen:
As a filmmaker, I'm not interested in 9/11 . . . it's too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: He kills me, I kill him, only with different cosmetics and different castings.... History is the same thing over and over again.
Jeff adds:
My mind is reeling over the last two days from the staggering ability of rich, spoiled Americans to forget what happened on 9/11. And Woody Allen is the ultimate New Yorker!
I'm a bit surprised by this reaction, for two reasons. First, what Allen said was pretty much the standard neoplatonic aesthete talking points: this world of politics and war, the prose of the world (per Hegel), is transitory; only beauty is eternal and worthy of the artist's endeavors, blahblahblah. We see this talking point elsewhere in the interview:
I'm probably more interested in eternal human feelings and conflicts....The same feelings and problems will persist 5000 years from now. Like the Greek tragedies which still touch us today, which still work.
In other words, while there may be different wars and struggles, there are certain things that are eternal: love, anger, etc. By contrast, particular conflicts are "ephemeral." Inasmuch as the artist's project is to tap into these eternal themes, those are the things that an artist should focus on. (again, I'm not defending this Romantic aesthetic, only making it explicit).

Second, it doesn't seem to me that Allen was saying that 9/11 wasn't horrible, only that it's not an interesting topic for art (this position is certainly debatable, but not at all unusual for what I'd [awkwardly] call aesthetic neoplatonism). In other words, his point was about art, not 9/11.