If you wonder what’s wrong with modernity, just look at Daniel Barenboim. Danny, to recycle the title of Lermontov’s novel, is truly the hero of our time.
He’s a man of outstanding talent. Not for music qua music: Danny’s a boring pianist and a worse conductor. His real talent lies in the area of self-promotion, and there he has few equals.
Danny Boy has parlayed that gift not only into a monstrously successful career but, much more important, a celebrity status. He doesn’t fit my light-hearted definition of a celebrity (someone I’ve never heard of), but he does fit the more serious one: someone whose fame is totally out of proportion to his achievements.
That status confers certain entitlements, one of which is to pontificate on any subject in His Creation, confidently expecting an attentive and appreciative audience. That’s par for the course: a celebrity’s professional field is a small pond in which he is a big fish.
Music alone can’t contain Danny: he must come across as a saviour, just a notch or two beneath the Saviour. In that capacity he has already solved all the problems between Israel and the Arabs, by creating an awful orchestra with both Israeli and Palestinian musicians.
Its contribution to music has been close to zero, but the trick has worked wonders for Danny’s reputation. He’s now more than just a great musician (actually, quite a bit less, if you ask me). He’s the Apostle of Peace – this even though the amateurish music he extracts from his orchestra is neatly harmonised with the never-abating background noise of rockets exploding all over Israel.
Having sorted out the Middle East, Danny has decided it’s now Britain that’s in urgent need of saving, what with the catastrophe of Brexit looming large. To that end, he has further developed the recent trend of musicians rapping with the audience.
The occasion was provided by the Proms. Before regaling the public with his puny musical insights, Danny made a five-minute speech, shattering his own record of ignorant, bombastic inanity.
The trouble with the world in general and Britain in particular, he explained, is lack of education. Implicitly it was that lacuna that explained our otherwise inexplicable desire to be governed by our own parliament. If we were better educated, we’d see the light shining out of the EU’s good offices and Danny’s bad orifices.
Now, at the risk of sounding immodest, I’d suggest that my friends and I are immeasurably better educated than Danny in every relevant discipline – and yet we detest the EU. It may be a misguided, irrational feeling, but it’s certainly not one that springs from ignorance.
But hey, Danny is a celebrity, so he got his obligatory round of applause and pressed on. We’re all so blinded by narrow-minded nationalism and so irredeemably ignorant that we can’t think why we should belong to the same single state as the Greeks, Danes and Germans.
Actually, Danny didn’t explain why either. Perhaps he felt no explanation was necessary; some things just go without saying. Oh yes, here’s one reason: there’s such a thing as European culture.
It allows for some local particularism, but at base it’s the same for all. Thanks, Danny, for telling us. Nothing like stating the bleeding obvious to get the punters going.
Let me see if I get this right. The European Union is a purely cultural project, created to educate Europeans in the fine points of the arts. Since it’s synonymous with European culture, rejecting the EU is tantamount to spitting on Bach, Racine, Beethoven, Leonardo and Goethe.
This doesn’t quite explain how that great culture got to be created in the first place: after all the EU only graced us with its presence in the second half of the twentieth century. By then all those great names Danny dropped to prove his point had already created European culture in conditions of shameful parochialism. How they must have suffered.
Having thus negotiated his way through the maze of cul-de-sacs in which European culture bumped heads with the European Union, Danny pointed out that there’s another diabolical force at play here: religious fundamentalism.
Presumably it’s for that reason that the British voted to regain their sovereignty. It’s not only ignorance but also religion that’s to blame.
Now which religion would that be? Britain does have a state religion, but it would be a bit of a stretch to describe it as fundamentalist. And it would be even more of a stretch to believe that the British are so impassioned by the 39 Anglican Articles that they want to have nothing to do with those continental Lutherans and Papists.
That is, it would be a stretch for anyone other than Danny. He’s a celebrity, remember? He can mouth any cretinous drivel and still be hailed as a quasi-messiah.
How does such a transparent nonentity get to be so smugly self-important? The answer lies all around you: it’s called modernity.
Having lost one God, we’ve decided to settle for thousands of idols, and perhaps we are indeed so ignorant as not to realise that we got terribly short-changed. So here we have one such idol, mouthing gibberish and finding a receptive audience.
I suppose it’s futile to hope that Danny will ever shut up. He’s a celebrity – so no one will get him out of there.