I was watching this talk with the always-interesting writer Mark Steyn, which took place at UC Berkeley in 2007, and I was struck by one particular thing Steyn said and thought I would note it down here. Steyn started out as an arts critic and journalist, but he’s far better known now as a commentator on world events and politics. His book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know Itwas a bestseller (and that, indeed, provides a large part of the grist for the 55-minute conversation you can watch via the YouTube clip below). The quote that I thought worth capturing conveys some of the motivation behind his transition from arts criticism to what you might call pan-global-societal criticism.
I love writing about music, I love writing about film and theater, and I would do that if this was an ideal world. But I think at some point, if there are great things going on in the world, and you want to say something about them, and you don’t — it’s not going to be any consolation to me to have a great CD collection as Western civilization falls apart. In a sense you’ve got to — if you value the freedom to stroll into some piano bar in a hotel somewhere on the planet and hear a great singer singing “The Way You Look Tonight” or whatever — you’ve got to understand that even that little miniature experience is at the apex of a whole cultural foundation, and that you can’t just sort of sheer off the small pleasures of a 32-bar song from all the big geo-political issues. They are explicitly connected in that sense.