The Funniest Convention

“But the kind of originality that everyone shares is not the kind of originality that modern romantics require in order to feel fully individuated in mass society. What they need is original originality, or meta-originality, as it were. This sets up the equivalent of an arms race, with more and more extravagant gestures required to mark a person form the herd (is this necessity not a key to understanding much of the history of art in the late twentieth century?). Unfortunately, the desire to escape from convention is itself a convention. The mass bohemianization of society has not necessarily resulted in the flowering of worthwhile individuality or cultural achievement: one has only to reflect upon the small population size of medieval and renaiissance Florence or Siena to realize this” (Theodore Dalrymple, In Praise of Prejudice, p. 40).

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