Long ramble that goes nowhere, prompted in part by recent events, partly by this. It felt like I was going to get close to a point, but the dammn thing slipped away somewhere and I'm tired of searching for it. Read at your own risk
Beauty and imagination have a lot in common
They are deep drives in the heart of mankind. They have an animating force to drive the human heart, but almost no direct tangible power. They are gratuitously unfair. There is some silent part of the rational mind that loathes them both.
(Because how can she just be better? Just a better person to be around? Why? And how can you just make a new thing? It can't be. Everything has to come from something. If everything is rational then there can never be something utterly new. Things can't just happen.)
And democracy, and meritocracy, are exceedingly rational ways of life. They are fair. That is the point. That is why we made them.
Beauty is a storm, it races through people, some are raised up and some are cast down. Too little beauty can cripple people, too much probably can too. The storm doesn't care. Imagination breaks through things. Sometimes they are bad things that keep people trapped, sometimes they are good things, that give people stability, and therefore safety, or just decency. Imagination also doesn't care what it does or who it happens to.
They are forces and there is something pure about them. They can never be fully described or pinned down. New things can always be beautiful, new beauty can always be found, you don't know where you are going to find it.And the more you try to destroy beauty the deeper and more secret its hold on you becomes. They are related to the world but they go beyond the world.
And what does the rational mind hate?
Things that cannot be described. Anything beyond its understanding.
So I read De Torqueville and Rebecca West one after the other and they don't have much in common but one thing they do is heroism and the limitations of liberalism.
Rebecca West just never seems to meet a mediocre person at all. Most of the people she bumps in to seem exceptional and heroic in some way. Artists, rebels, aristocrats and saints. The ones who aren't heroes are monsters. And they loathe order, they all (most) hate centralisation. (Much of their experience of it is bad). The Germans she meets on the train are kind, petty, vague, useless, prejudiced. Highly civilised And maybe that's just the world Rebecca West lives in 24-7 but maybe its also part of why she went there.
What I think West feels when she goes through Yugoslavia is that the people and the culture there are in some deep sense more vital more deeply felt more heroic than the people she knows at home, perhaps this is because they are not equal, and not safe. She has a little Conan in her.
When I think about things like Istvaanism, the Ugly Face Clubb and the numbers of Presidents and Prime Ministers with dead dads, its hard not to agree with her a little. Exceptional people come from stress. No stress, no exceptions.
De Torqueville talks about the fading of the aristocracy from the world. The loss of exceptional people. The more equal people are, the more weak any individual is in comparison to the whole of society, the more they desire to become like each other. Everyone is very small and very weak in comparison to a huge mass that makes up the population. The majority rules intensely and can tolerate little outside its nature. Aristocracy is fucking rough, but aristocrats are powerful individuals and can afford to be exceptional and strange, and they set the tone. So an aristocracy can be repressive, consuming, intolerant of specific differences and yet somehow still more tolerant of exceptional behaviour. A meritocracy has to be fair, that's the point. If it isn't that it isn't anything.
Most games of D&D are highly functional members of a bureaucratic meritocracy simulating the absence of that society. We call forth the hero, the mad inspiring individual. The one outside the rules, who remakes them
The superhero is another response by people shaped in a relentlessly equal society. (If you don't think our society is unusually equal then you could point out to me a period in the history of the west, or the world, when it has been more equal.) The hyper-individual created by who? By fascists? Surprisingly, no, for, while they have force and confidence and energy and worship power, they lack imagination, and you need that to create the superhero, quite a lot of it really. When Alan Moore was trying to find a theoretical replacement for superhero comics he settled on pirates. Also heroic, driven uber-individuals living on the borders of chaos.
What need do they serve? The need to be world-effecting. The need to be a heroic individual who shapes their world more than it shapes them, this comes first, then the imaginative construct is brought into being to support it.
It must be agony to be a very liberal person in this half-saved world. It must be a very hell. Almost worst than the high tide of racism in the 19th/20th century. Because at least then you were *certain*. And now? When you have half-won? You've legally freed almost every minority group possible, you've pretty much run out of people to legally free. You can't expunge the prejudice from peoples hearts, you don't have the technology for that. Yet. But even if you did, you doctrine says you aren't allowed to do that, so..
You've got rid of all the bad unfairness you could. It didn't seem to quite work. You don't feel like you've won.
And there are beauty and imagination, waving it in your fucking face.
So of course the war would be over beauty, and over imagination.