Classic Essays

Cultural Transplants

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JOSEPH R. SHAPIRO is founder and past president of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. (ILLUSTRATION: This canvas by Wassily Kandinsky is a mild example of the sort of “art” favored by the Joseph R. Shapiros of this world.)

During a recent confab at the Chicago Jewish Community Forum, Mr. Shapiro asked:

Can the art of the Jew survive in America? . . . The taste-makers, art dealers, museum officials, directors, curators, university dep’t heads, collectors and critics are predominantly Jewish. In art, the Gentile is definitely a minority class. Indeed, we should rephrase our question, “Can Jewish Culture Survive in America?” to “Can Culture in America Survive Without Jews?”

We wonder exactly what kind of culture Mr. Shapiro is talking about. Could it be the excremental doodling of modern art? The porn film centers and massage parlors of Times Square, the high rents for which pass exclusively into the hands of his “cultural” cousins? The black racist epics like Mandingo, the anti-Wasp films like Nashville, the anti-Irish films like Nasty Habits, produced and written exclusively by his Jewish “artists?” The primate-level message plays and hybrid sitcoms on TV and Broadway? The high art of the strip tease developed by the Minsky brothers? The Tin Pan Alley musicals? The obsessive, paranoid and banal Jewishness of modern bestsellers? The highbrow Jewish journals like Commentary and the New Yorker with writing that degrades the human imagination and reduces human creativity to the single dimension of minority racism?

A promotional flyer put out by the Anti-Defamation league of B’nai B’rith almost a decade ago, raised a question almost as pregnant as Mr. Shapiro’s:

QUESTION: If the following people (whose expertise spans the fields of education anthropology, sociology, psychology, history, law and humor) were to get together, what would they have in common?

Gordon W. Allport, Carl Bereiter, William J. Brennan, Jr. Robert Coles, Martin Deutsch, William O. Douglas, Siegfried Englemann, Mario Fantini, Jules Feiffer, Charles Y. Glock, Harry Golden, Oscar Handlin, John F. Kennedy, C. Eric Lincoln, Seymour Lipset, Ashley Montagu, Thomas F. Pettigrew, Fred Powledge, Harry Rivlin, Arnold Rose, Bayard Rustin, Benjamin Spock, Melvin M. Tumin, J. Milton Yinger.

ANSWER: The same publisher. And, what may surprise you even more is that this publisher happens to be the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

We are not at all surprised. Western culture has become the possession of non-Westerners. Mr. Shapiro is right. His people have taken over.

Culture, however, is a delicate wild flower that anyone can dig up and transplant into his private garden. But as the blossoms quickly drop off, as overnight the leaves shrivel and turn brown, though the flower thief may boast that the plant is now his, what does he really own?

* * *

Source: Instauration magazine, October 1977

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