In the south of Germany there lies Herzogenaurach, a town home to an interesting little piece of industrial history. Since the 1920s, this town has set the stage for one family’s drama. Not only did this drama divide a family, it has since polarised the whole town – with reports that would fit comfortably in a modern rendition of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. One family, their business, and their town, completely divided in two and conveniently so right down the river in the middle. One small family shoe business divided, each remaining half to be in exceptional competition with the other. Each having their strengths, each striving to outdo, outperform, and outshine their sibling.
This is, of course, the story of Adi and Rudi Dassler, two very different brothers growing up and running a business during the Second World War. Two brothers who, due to the paranoia, misunderstanding, and likely the dividing influence only two wives who loathe each other can have over their husbands, ended up creating the competing shoe manufacturers Adidas and Puma. Whereas some might interpret this as a competitive success, the brothers divided might have ended up far less successful than had they continued together in the one family business. And so this is, in my opinion, a cautionary tale.
The story of the Dasslers is the story of how one small misunderstanding caused monumental polarisation. One mere slip of the tongue, one misunderstanding, was followed by years of a bitter rivalry that divided Herzogenaurach along the lines of brand loyalty (be it who you worked for, your family worked for, or who your love interest was), with people taking note of your ‘side’ before choosing to talk to you, let alone allow you to enter their establishments or homes.
It is a tale of how easily the human condition can cause us to turn family and neighbours into the bogeymen – an evil unseen force, to which we must give some appearance in order to settle our own nerves and insecurities. Herzogenaurach is only one example, in a small city within one industry, that grew quite out of control within half a century. It is a situation that repeats itself throughout history on a lesser or greater scale, though no matter the scale, no-one involved is left unscathed.
Many countries experience political strife, polarity, aggression and spite, yet few come close to the near 50/50 political polarisation found in America at present. More than ever, Americans have moved away from political moderation, embracing a villainization of the Other, or in this case, a person with a differing opinion or perspective on any one or more issue.
Why divert this post right into politics when this blog clearly states, in its name and its mission statement, that it is about culture? Because politics is downstream from culture. If we accept this premise, then our political aggression and polarisation as a nation is only a symptom of some deeper toxicity. As long as we are afraid of differences in our culture, of being on ‘the wrong side of history’ or the simple peer pressure exerted on those deemed to have ‘the wrong opinion’, we will continue a futile battle between faux good vs. faux evil, where no-one is good, no-one is evil, and everyone suffers.
It goes without saying that this year’s election cycle in the United States is a disaster caused by this very polarisation, and one cannot expect it to stop here. The divide will grow. Grey areas and dialogue will cease. Everyone will seek to silence the oh so silent bogeyman: the Wrong Opinion.
Yes, this blog is about culture, but it will not stay away from those political and cultural policy topics that can inflame more now than they ever did during the culture wars of the Eighties. I seek to be disliked by all, but read by everyone. Some bridges need to be built, between black and white, red and blue. Maybe one small step towards building that dialogue can begin here.
Therefore, this blog’s primary objectives include:
- Point/Counterpoint: Occasionally, opinions that surpass simple exhibition reviews or general policy assessments are called for. My goal is the be as objective as possible, presenting both, or in some cases, multiple, perspectives on various cultural situations and policies. In the cases where this is impossible, not only do I intend to state my bias, and present my own point of view on the situation, but will gladly accept requests for a counterpoint. No, I will not publish any random article or contrary viewpoint, but a well-articulated counterpoint to those issues for which I cannot give one in good conscience is something I greatly desire to give a platform.
- Reviews/Information: Reviews of exhibitions, artists, museums, publications, and governmental oversight of culture are always at risk for review, assessment and opinions. Alongside this though, is a requirement for objective information and knowledge, without which any opinion will suffer. Love or Hate Mapplethorpe? What about Kinkade? Visceral reactions to artists and their work will always exist, but even the most hated work of art can at least be understood, if never particularly appreciated.
- International/Local: General coverage of arts in the US comes in a few forms. There’s the deep coverage – of those involved and living consistently within that world that creates the culture. There are national and state outlets, usually covering important, or, more often, controversial cultural moments. This blog refuses to stick to only one of these areas. A small local community art exhibition in Hungary might be as equally covered as large policies changes implemented federally in the United States. We hold this variety to be valuable; even the most isolationist personality benefits from international knowledge, just as the staunchest globalist benefits from investment in their own backyard.
This blog intends to present, as best it can, this dichotomy of interests, perspectives, and personality. Difficult as it may seem, it is vital, in order to combat the growing polarisation that is perhaps the most threatening aspect to modern culture and individuals.