I am observing, in our global culture, a trend away from quality. Film, music and other parts of culture are turning more and more into a colorful, but bland flicker.
In our growth-economy, attitudes and values that increase fast turnover and profit tend to be promoted. And the fastest growing businesses and economies push everything else aside. Attitudes and values that do not help to increase turnover are not promoted or are even suppressed. Quality is among these. You can see this in many parts of culture. You can observe it even in museums or other institutions that ought to be places of education (for instance, I have written about this in the case of planetariums before).
To take the example of film: to make the most profit, a production must appeal to the greates possible audience. This can be achieved in two ways: make the production less demanding, so it can be consumed by a larger number of people, and lower the taste of those people, i.e. “educate” into accepting kitsch and low quality. The result is the replacement of quality by effects. Content is replaced by superficial visual fascination and by fast action. “Aha”-experiences” are replaced by “Aw”- and “wow”-experiences. Gone is the art of making the most of a limited medium.
There is also a trend in the opposite direction, at least among some. For example, I notice young people coming back to very old music because they observe it was “somehow better”. I see people who are culturally active again, instead of just consuming, creating music and film themselves. I am just afraid that many of them will be sucked into those commercial machines that will disappoint them and put an end to their creativity and their ability to produce quality. The commercialized and “consumerized” world of today is not a good place for talented young people, despite of (and to some extent because of) all the technology that has become available.
The ability to recognize and to appreciate quality can only be gained through exposing yourself to quality. To appreciate quality requires educating and cultivating yourself. This requires time and effort. It requires work. It is like investing time and effort to learn a language. But this time is worth to be spent and this effort is worth to be invested. There is so much to be discovered…
(I am currently spending some time on listening to and learning about the Vietnames music style of Ca Trù, for example.)