Charlie's Blog: Cultural Hygiene


Cultural Hygiene

You are what you read.

Have you ever watched a movie that was really bad? What did you say to yourself at the end of that horrible movie? I know what you said. You said, "I'm not ever getting that time back." That instant regret is a good thing because it shows that you are still capable of distinguishing the good from the bad. Essentially, life is too short to waste on garbage. The problem is that we often don't know what is garbage and what is good until after the fact. Critics are helpful in this regard, but they are becoming more worthless by the day as they become unmoored from what is true, good, and beautiful. We need a return to a knowledge of the transcendant in order to make these critical judgments and experience less regret in our cultural endeavors.

At the outset, I must confess that I am a cultural chauvinist. I do not believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I believe that some works of art, music, and literature are better than others. Others like the entire genres of hip hop music and modern art are cultural garbage unsuitable for a civilized people. Does this make me a snob? Yes, it does. My Brahms is better than your Jay-Z. My Michelangelo is better than your Jackson Pollack. I am not going to apologize for this. Have I offended you? That's good. You deserve to be offended. You consume garbage. I am even amazed that you have read this far or even can read this far.

If you consume garbage culture, you are stupid. You are an imbecile. You are a Philistine and a fool. By consuming this garbage, you become this garbage. Oscar Wilde is right. You are what you read. But may be you are tired of living like this. You desire to live on an elevated plane. I can tell you that you will not find this elevated plane listening to AC/DC or reading Fifty Shades of Grey. You can find it if you endeavor to practice cultural hygiene.

Cultural hygiene is the process of removing garbage culture from your life and replacing it with the good stuff. Anyone with a half decent public school education should know enough on how to do this. And the good stuff is not hard to find. Thanks to the public library, public radio, the internet, and other sources, you can avail yourself of elevated forms of culture. The problem isn't access. The problem is poor taste.

To make good choices in the cultural arena, you must commit to the idea that truth, beauty, and goodness are not relative things. These things reflect the mind and character of God. Good culture reflects these attributes of God. As creatures made in the image of God, we have a built in sense of what is true, good, and beautiful. We recognize these things when we see them. When we encounter them, it's like remembering something we are surprised that we ever forgot.

We forget what is true, good, and beautiful by effort and reinforcement. So much of music and art today appeal to the basic instincts for sex or excitement. These are the cheap thrills of loud music, pornography, and action movies. These things work to bludgeon from our minds what is true, good, and beautiful. I call this cultural pollution. The purpose of this pollution is to tear apart your mind and your soul.

When practicing cultural hygiene, you should ask yourself two questions. Does this make me better? Or, does this make me worse? This is not a utilitarian question as virtually all culture fails in the utilitarian sense. Culture always takes time and money. The benefits are accounted on the higher levels of being. Does this make me wiser? Does this make me more virtuous? Does this elevate me in some way? If the answer to these questions is no, that bit of culture should be expunged from your cultural diet.

When you practice cultural hygiene on a regular basis, you will notice some strange things happening to you. You start to become smarter and better informed. You become less stressed and calmer. You become more attuned to things in your experience. You become more virtuous. The benefits are many. I just know that my practice of cultural hygiene has made me a better and happier person. I also rarely have experiences of regretting time lost on bad movies.

How do you practice cultural hygiene? Here is a handy guide.


I used to love watching sports. I now see this as a complete waste of time. Sports are valuable when you actually participate in them. A night spent at the bowling alley is better than a night spent watching Monday Night Football. The best sports are those that get you in shape and teach virtues like teamwork and fortitude and patience. But watching sports is always bad. Time spent watching sports is better spent getting in shape and playing sports.

News is not a waste of time. As citizens, you should know what it is going on in your community, your country, and the world. These things matter. Philistines don't spend time reading the news because it cuts into time looking at porn. But you are better than that.

The problem with the news today is left wing bias. This has always been bad going back for decades, but it is more acute today. Once upon a time, newspapers and broadcasters strived for objectivity. Now, I hear an NPR news brief on my classical station, and I am floored at the blatant propaganda and lies they spew.

I am a conservative and a Republican. If you are a leftwinger, you are a lost cause, and you should stop reading here. You are too stupid to be reached. It is beyond your capability to appreciate what is true, good, and beautiful because you can't even grasp reality. Like I said, I am a cultural chauvinist. I am also a political chauvinist. Marxism is evil, and all Marxists are evil by extension. But if you would like to change this, keep reading.

You should stop reading the New York Times and The Washington Post. You should stop listening to NPR or watching network news or CNN and MSNBC. Instead, you should listen to conservative talk radio, watch Fox News, and read conservative websites like The Drudge Report and Breitbart. Be extreme in removing left wing propaganda from your life.

Once upon a time in my libertarian past, I thought such extreme prejudice in the journalistic realm was bad. It might make you one dimensional. You need to hear news from a variety of sources and perspectives and maintain an open mind. This is nonsense. This is because leftist journalists lie. They make it up. Or, they selectively omit facts. This is because they report with an agenda, and truth is the first casualty in their information war. They report whatever advances their left wing Marxist agenda. Facts be damned.

Conservatives do a better job of reporting the news because they actually believe in truth. That truth is not always flattering to the conservative cause. Conservative news sources will conflict with each other and criticize one another. Conservatives are not monolithic in their thinking. This is because conservatism is not an ideology like Marxism, and conservatives don't have a Saul Alinsky playbook that dictates their operation.

As for local news, I listen to and read my local sources. I find little bias in the crime reports, the weather, and high school football scores. Community news is informed by community values, and these are usually conservative.

Within the world of Catholic media, the same sort of left/right thing is going on. I don't read the Catholic Left crap that you will find at places like the National Catholic Reporter. If they are big on social justice warrior garbage, women priests, and LGBTQ inclusion, don't read them

Social media is a poor source for news. Most of it is too immediate to be accurate. Then, there is the censorship. Plus, social media can lead to addiction. Just delete those accounts.

Music can be placed in one of three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Classical music is Bach and Beethoven. Popular music is Frank Sinatra, country music, and Motown. Vulgar music is hip hop and heavy metal.

Good music tends to stress the melody. Bad music tends to stress the beat. The beat of vulgar music is similar to the tribal beats of pagan cults. The devil's music has a strong beat to it. If Hell has a jukebox, the music on it is purely beat driven stuff.

Classical music is the best music. You rarely hear the beat in classical. When drums are used, it is to sound an ominous tone in a piece. The melody is the prime component in classical music, and this is why it is superior. As you slide down the scale of degeneracy, you have jazz which retains the melody but puts it to a beat. From there, you get blues, rock, and rap.

Not all classical music is good. Avant garde composers like Arthur Schoenberg and Philip Glass rejected common sense and made experimental pieces that are disgusting to listen to. They wanted to do to music what Picasso and Pollack did to art. Unfortunately, left wing types have taken over the classical music establishment especially the NPR stations and might try to slip this garbage out there. But you will know it when you hear it. Change the station or turn it off.

As for popular music, it ranges from beautiful to awful. Classical music consistently delivers. Popular music does not consistently deliver. I have experienced some sublime moments listening to American Idol, but they are rare. Most of the time, pop music is like ear candy. It's fun, but you shouldn't live on it.

The best sources of classical music I find are from internet stations and YouTube. You may also have an NPR station in your area devoted to classical music. The only downside to these stations are the leftwing newscasts at the top of the hour. I find these make for good bathroom breaks when listening at home.

There is a lot of good art out there. Unfortunately, the bulk of it won't be found after 1900. I'm not sure why, but the twentieth century was not a good one for art. Some people blame the camera for the turn towards abstraction, but I find this to be an empty argument. A realist painter like Edward Hopper shows what an artist can do in a post-camera age.

Like music, art can also be classified in three categories--classical, popular, and vulgar. Virtually all art before Picasso is good. Some think the slide began with the Impressionists like Monet or a guy like Vincent Van Gogh. But art didn't truly take the vulgar turn until Picasso began embracing the ugly and the hideous in his art. This opened the gate for others to explore this forbidden territory of garbage art.

Picasso has been cited as an influence by many garbage artists. Now, it is important to distinguish beauty and skill. One does not have to be the most skilled artist to produce beautiful art. I have seen beautiful folk art. I have seen beauty in the simple drawings of children. Likewise, a person can be very adept at art like tattoo artists that could fit in with the Renaissance painters. But their work is not beautiful.

Technical proficiency does not make great art. This is where popular art comes into the discussion. Artists like Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade made art that was popular, and this art required a great deal of skill. But it tends to be kitschy. It is eye candy--sweet to the eye but not so good for you.

Comic book artists, greeting card makers, and cartoonists occupy this pop art category. There's nothing wrong with this as long as they don't try and pass it off as equal to Michelangelo or Leonardo. These people are more like illustrators than artists.

The bulk of my derision is for shock art. This would be excrement in a can. Literally. As modern art became more depraved, it tended towards the perverse, the visceral, and the scatological. It wasn't enough to be ugly. The artist had to strive to make you feel sick inside. And they succeeded. Spectacularly.

The twentieth century was a time hostile to God and Christianity, and the art of this time period reflects this hostility. This hostility to truth and reason persists today as common sense drains out of every aspect of society such that even public restrooms have given over to transgender confusion.

You should prefer the classical art to all others. You should never give vulgar art and shock art any of your time or appreciation. As for everything else, it would be illustration being neither beautiful nor ugly. And it's ok to put your kid's drawings on the fridge. They have their own kind of beauty because they come from a place not yet corrupted by the world.


Books tend to be good on the whole. This is because stupid people do not read books. It takes too much effort and brainpower. But some bad books do get published like Fifty Shades of Grey. Nonfiction books tend to be worthwhile reading because they deliver information you didn't know. The quality of that information depends upon the worldview of the writer. this requires discernment, but I can tell you that you will be better off not reading Marx, Darwin, or Freud.

With fiction and literature, you should avoid popular trash like romance novels. Men have their own trash novels usually involving action and war. I think virtually all of the books of Tom Clancy and his imitators fall into this category. I also admit to liking a series of trash novels in my younger days called The Destroyer.

Great novels have a quality that trash novels don't have. They impart a moral education. This is not a didactic form of moral education with happy story lines and trite endings. Instead, it is the moral law applied to a fallen world. The characters strive to be virtuous and do what is right in a world that opposes what is virtuous and right. This does not always mean a happy ending. Sometimes the characters fail. This is known as tragedy. Shakespeare is the epitome of a moral education in literature. You will improve considerably from repeated reading of the Bard.

Trash novels just provide excitement. It can come from sex or violence or both. Usually, the cover will tell you if it is trash or not. As for Tom Clancy technothrillers, this is a form of geek literature like science fiction literature. This is literature lost in the details of the worlds they create. Lord of the Rings has this quality but redeems itself because it gives a heavy dose of moral education along with the runes and imagined histories of places that don't exist.

I recommend reading items from the list of Great Books. Not all of these books are necessarily great, but many of them are. Books that are hostile to Christianity are not great books. The key is to remember what I said at the beginning. Books should make you better at the end of reading them than at the beginning. If you find yourself twenty pages into a book that is making you worse, return that volume to where you got it. At least a bad movie only wastes two hours of your life, a bad book can waste days.

Cinema, home video, and television
The same judgment you use for novels can be applied to fictional movies and television shows. The difference is that visual entertainment is almost completely trash. This is because stupid people don't read, but they do love watching stuff. Most of the good movies and television shows that are produced in a year can be counted on one hand. You would do well to watch Andy Griffith reruns on YouTube or local TV stations. Otherwise, you are wandering in the desert.

I spend most of my leisure time reading and listening to classical music and talk radio. I rarely watch TV or movies. But I do keep them as options for those times when something good gets made. I don't use Netflix as it is a waste of money. But it will surprise you what is available for free on YouTube.

Guilty pleasures
Even the most adept practitioner of cultural hygiene will have moments of weakness. This is when I turn off the classical and go on a rock binge on YouTube. Sometimes, this is simple nostalgia. Other times, it is just for fun. This sort of thing is akin to going off of a diet and eating a pile of junk food. It's fun while it lasts, but it usually ends in regret.

Should you enjoy these guilty pleasures? That will be at your discretion. I treat these guilty pleasures like candy or desserts. The goal is not absolute elimination but reduction and minimization. I follow a vegan diet which can seem extreme to those not embracing a plant based lifestyle. But I do have a handful of jelly beans every so often which is my only dietary guilty pleasure. Vegan ice cream might be another. In the cultural arena, this would be watching guilty dog videos on YouTube.

I am not against fun. Fun is fun. You may not necessarily be better off from this stuff, but you shouldn't be worse off either. I think listening to The Smiths with your wife is a lot of fun. Listening to Norwegian death metal is not fun. And that's something to keep in mind. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet and Macbeth, but he also wrote The Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Fun has its place.

The goal of cultural hygiene is not a Puritan one. This is the impetus behind Baptists burning Black Sabbath records. Culture is fundamentally something you enjoy. When you practice cultural hygiene, your enjoyment of culture should actually increase. You should experience more moments of rapture and the sublime. Cultural pollution diminishes the enjoyment of culture in much the same way that a steady diet of candy bars diminishes the taste of a great salad. Candy gives immediate satisfaction that doesn't last and proves harmful with greater indulgence. In the same way, garbage culture gives an immediate satisfaction. This is its fundamental appeal. But it leaves you worse off. Great culture has delayed satisfaction, but it leads you to a better place.