and money-making. I have heard businessmen who, pushed hard, readily admit that what they really want is industry for Texas. In order to attract industry, there must be good universities and a tone of civic culture; those universities must be especially good in the sciences, for obvious reasons. In addition, there must be, of course, the humanities; some sort of publicly avowedbut modestly supportedrommitment to the cause of culture, art, literature, and philosophy. Thus interest in the humanities is, nine times out of ten, either dishonest in priciple or insincere, not a matter for real committed conviction. As a humanist at the University of Texas, I have frequently felt that the real, but never stated, purpose of Classics, Philosophy, Art, Music, etc., was to provide. a frosting for the Texas science-cake and to stimulate civic groups to those activities for which, presumably, life exists, and without which it is merely unreflective habit. It is so often a matter of chic, snobbery, and lip-service. It is chic to have operas, museums, to be au courant; but I personally see very little evidence that the immense cultural machinery of Texas has any real base in Texas life. TAKE AUSTIN, a city which I know reasonably well. Austin is a university city, has some 24,000 students, and another 2,000 faculty and staff ; a city of more than 200,000 citizens. It possesses a museum, a handsome municipal center, a symphony, several ballet groups, handsome parks, etc. What it does not possess is good bookstores, good restaurants, good architecture, a good newspaper, and general civic good taste. It lacks good food and good restaurants almost altogether. The food served at the University cafeteria the Chuckwagonis the dreariest I can remember since my days of basic service at Fort Bragg. The restaurants in the city with only one or two exceptions are either vulgar or pretentious, and their menus are tiresomely similar: the same grilled steak, the same baked potato with bacon and chive dressing, the eternal limp salad. “It’s fun to eat out,” cries the Restaurant Association. Not in Austin; it’s an experience in gastronomic boredom and bad taste. -So too with furniture; if you want good furniture you must go to an interior decorator; if you lack that kind of money \(and go to the big stores where you can choose between two styles, between what might be called Halloween Traditional and Dubious Danish. In real estate and architecture Austin’s record is no more barbarous than that of most Texas cities, but Austin has more than most cities to lose. Her handsome physical advantages the hills and lakes and general greenness that make the city so surprisingly pleasant to an outsiderare being swiftly destroyed by powerful, real estate interests. Good taste in building is extremely rare; good taste in landscape architecture is apparently missing altogether, and nowhere more so than at the University of Texas. Sensible zoning is abandoned in favor of transparent co m m e r c i a l opportunism; building codes are mostly a mockery; and the “architecture” of the new suburbs, developed with appallingly arrogant lack of taste and transparent greed \(and tolerated by what seems to be a universally obsequious or spineless group of local raped daily by contractors and builders and developers, and nobody seems to care. Indeed at times the city council seems almost an extension of the real estate lobby. “Cooperate with our builders and developers.”this is the slogan with which the city fathers of Austin and outlying communities abandon their responsibilities in a general prostration before the First Commandment of Texas: Thou shalt not interfere with thy neighbor’s god-given right to turn a fast buck at the general expense, lest the same right be someday denied even unto thee. Just as the whole state falls to its knees before the general contractors’ association, so Austin prostrates itself before the real estate lobby. And all this greed is then metamorphosed into uplift: paeans to progress and civic growth, hymns to Free Enterprise whose fervor emphasizes the vulgarity and greed it is designed to disguise; a loud, hearty air of self-congratulation and the empty parade of altruism. To rephrase Tacitus, the builders of Austin have made a desolation and called itAustin. That is, at the level of popular cultureculture where it counts and affects the lives of everyone: the food people eat, the furniture they buy, the houses they live in, the books they can buy, the style of their city and its public and private buildingsAustin is, for all its museums, auditoriums, professors, libraries, ballet societies, and brag, an uncultured city: There are in it two distinct styles, one for the rich and one for the poor or lower middle-class, and both styles are essentially vulgar. Austin is what it is because it possesses no single style, no coherence of good taste. For a single coherent style, a style of life that permeates the whole fabric of experience, is indispensable to culture. It is perhaps too much to expect that any American, or indeed any truly modern city can conform to such a notion of culture. The heart of our modern condition is that a single style is almost everywhere impossible, the culture has become fragmented and discontinuous. But culture in Austin and other Texas cities lacks a single style, not because these cities are, accurate images of modern metropolitan chaos and multiculture they have has almost always been The Lieutenant Governor On a Related Matter Lt. Gov. Preston Smith, addressing the Edinburg chamber of commerce, made the customary speech in honor of tourists and their money, but ended on a novel note. He warned the businessmen against a future built solely on material prosperity. “We must find ways to enrich our lives, multiply the choices of life for all men,” he said. “Culture and education must be given equal rank with recreation, and superior rank to mere time-passing.” imposed from above, is a vast pretense organized on the spot, it seems, by millionaire magicians in the belief, apparently shared by the audience, that museums, libraries, operas, etc., are culture, or a reasonable facsimile. We have, that is, in our Texas cities what we have in our Texas schoolslarge handsome structures, sometimes well-designed, often superbly lit, of delicate aluminum and glass and steelthe splendid context of a culture which does not yet exist. Inevitably the splendor of the context exposes the reality. One constantly has the feeling that Texas confounds culture with cultural institutions, just as it patently confuses education with impressive school buildings. Here Texas materialism reveals itself fully in its confidence in the reality of stone and steel and physical plant, and in its appalling distrust of the individual, the teacher, the intellectual, and the artist. We believe, it seems, in the humanities without believing in men, and we believe in the arts but we distrust any artist except the visiting soprano who is here too briefly to disturb us. The rest are ignoredor firedif they trouble us. This faith in the context rather than the spirit of culture, in educational buildings and programs without faith in individual menthis is the danger. The Texas hunger for the life of the spirit, or for the reputation of it, constantly reasserts in its very presuppositions the primacy of money and material power. This is why high culture in Texas seems always to have something of manipulated pretense about it. At its worst, it seems a hollow sham created by professional image-makers; at its best, it seems thin and unreal. It lacks a base because the base is constantly being perverted or corrupted by the standards detectable at the top. What we have, in fact, is businessman’s culture, superficial because it is so rarely disinterested. It all too often contains, along with a real hunger for a higher life, a corrupting core of self-interestthe notion that culture is finally a matter of economic investment \(like what is now called “inbut because it is a desirable commodity which confers prestige and status. A product to be packaged, something to be sold. June 11, 1965 21
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