I’ve lately been re-reading Plato’s Republic, his masterpiece that attempts to define justice by means of detailing an ideally good, and thus just, state. One of Plato’s main concerns in educating the future rulers of this state is with their literary and musical education. On his view, the stories and musical rhythms that children absorb shape their temperament and disposition for life. For example, children reared upon stories that depict depravity are likely to themselves become depraved, or at the very least, to “develop a very casual attitude to evil.”
One may agree or disagree with Plato’s analysis, but its relevance to modern culture is undeniable, all the more so following the recent horrific Aurora, CO movie-theater shooting. The culprit, James Holmes, is mentally ill, but one cannot help but ask how it came to be that his illness manifested itself in a violent shoot-up. Let’s suppose he had had no prior exposure to such a thing in the popular culture. Is it likely that his insanity would have manifested itself in the way it ultimately did?
This question in turn calls to mind an outstanding recent essay on cultural violence by WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan entitled, “The Dark Night Rises.” It really gets you thinking about how low our society’s standards have become. We are so busy trying to give our kids the best of everything, yet in the crucial matter of moral sensibility, we allow the bloated, amoral Hollywood elite to take over. It’s something we all must reflect upon.