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metallica vs. the philosopher kings
( greed )
by ryan jespersen
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What the Internet needs is a couple of philosopher kings. Individuals who, perhaps unintentionally, left an unforgettable impression on modern history with the presentation of their unique understanding of how the world was to function and develop.

Before the phenomenon we refer to as postmodernism enveloped and began to define the popular thought process, artists and especially poets completed a very distinct circle of thought. Poets were respected and valued for their contribution to society, artists painted with passion and purpose, and philosopher kings were understood to be society's commentators--the source for absolute truth in a situation lacking, yet seeking, exactly that.

Cut to the 21st century. No longer do our poets, both musical and otherwise, define society; instead, they reflect it. Some of the most significant philosophers of our time have provided nothing more than political fuel, and fashion designers have been left with the sole responsibility of directing the masses.

We can hardly claim to perpetuate the age-old search for nobility. Knowledge is no longer a reward in itself, and a good number of us believe Socrates to simply be a character in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

To attempt to dissect and interpret the history of the human philosophical journey would be an onerous task, to say the least. However, it may not be unreasonable to point to a gradual rearrangement of priorities as the influence, not the indication, of a civilization now characterized by greed. Take Metallica's battle with Napster, the Internet music source most recently targeted in a corporate and legal battle to protect copyright laws, and perhaps more accurately, profits for record producers. Metallica, composers of all that was profound to many for the past 20 years, are now being criticized for biting their proverbial feeder's hand, for slapping the same industry that fueled their success.

Who's the real greedy party, though? Is it Metallica and their label, Elektra Entertainment, or the hundreds of thousands of fans who rely on the band for sound clips without providing anything in return? The reward modern philosophers sought was not one of popular approval or monetary royalties; instead, it was the knowledge that through presenting their ideas to the masses, they were contributing what they could to a society collectively seeking to better itself. However, a postmodern civilization driven by greed ensures the opposite will occur: Artists, musicians and poets have become cultural court jesters and are paid off instead of recognized and revered.

People consumed by greed will be characterized as individuals who search for material gain instead of intellectual advancement. Furthermore, artists driven by the same greed will be those whose motivation is that of affluence instead of fulfillment of duty to greater mankind.

We could not have benefited from considerable technological advancement without considerable sacrifice, as sociologist and technophobe Neil Postman has warned for decades. A great degree of irony lies in the realization that the same medium we have benefited from has also facilitated that inevitable sacrifice.

Individual greed has replaced societal accountability, and along with that has come the disintegration of personal and corporate quests for nobility. Instead, we find ourselves taking pecuniary ownership of art without stopping to consider the implications of staking such claims.

Is it likely we will mutually return to an ancient approach that values art and philosophy and perceives it as truth? No. Is such consideration inherently positive? Of course not. We have become so accustomed to art as a commodity that we wouldn't know how to handle societal duties without obvious tangible benefits as a promised return. However, recognizing nobility as the ultimate goal instead of financial success or mindless entertainment might not be a bad step to take; that is, if we could get a philosopher king or two to log on and give us some direction.

Copyright © 2000 Ryan Jespersen All Rights Reserved

Ryan Jespersen recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a degree in Communications. After writing for the Calgary Herald last summer, he is currently contributing to The Gauntlet, the University of Calgary's official student newspaper, before leaving for an extended visit to South America to further pursue a growing passion for photography. Besides the cover photo featured in issue 2.0, this is Ryan's first contribution to *spark-online.

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