Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Unideal Observers

According to this article a German production has been cancelled due to fears that it would anger the Muslim community and perhaps incite riots. Fantastic. The opera contains a scene in which the king presents the heads of idols including Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha, and the Prophet Mohammed.

Is this possibly offensive? Sure. Does that make it bad? Nope. Art sometimes offends people. So does philosophy. Sometimes you need to make a statement or get the audience’s attention.

Someone in the article makes the comment that once we bend art to the stick of religion we are on our way back to the middle ages. They are completely correct. It’s a move that we can’t afford to make.

We ought not to make excuses for people who threaten violence like a schoolyard bully. You’re offended? Tough. Don’t go to the opera, change the TV channel, listen to a different radio station.


  1. I agree with much of this. However, it's worth noting that this was not censorship by a higher authority, but rather self restraint due to prudence. Though we may lament the fact that people would be angry at this opera, and further lament that violence might ensue, I think it's misplaced criticism to blame the opera house for pulling the performance.

    It would be awfully lofty of us to say that despite certain violence ensuing (let's say), no one should watch what they say or do on principle. For the greater good of society, one might say, we should go ahead with an offensive display (and get beaten over the head for it) because it demonstrates our allegiance to the free society.

    If this opera were a case of the government putting a stop to the production, I would be very critical. As it is, however, I cannot blame this opera company. The most that we can do, I think, is to gripe that this self-censorship was necessary.

  2. I totally agree. I blame the situation, and not the prudence of the opera company. Self-preservation is a good thing in most cases, and they certainly had to keep the sefety of the actors and such in mind.

    That said, how are we to react to those who threaten violence unless we bend to their wishes?

    Also, good to hear from you Arthur. I hope things in BG are going well!