Against Cancel Culture: From Caravaggio to Roman Polanski to Plácido Domingo
Spanish – By Julio Ariza
An artist does not have to be a martyr, nor does he have to be any more exemplary than a typical office worker, but he does need to be talented and prove it. Caravaggio, who invented modern painting, made chiaroscuro a resource for discovering the soul, however dark it might be. He invented the most human face of the saints, their most tormented heart. Caravaggio was also a troublemaker. Following one of his fights, he had to flee from Rome with a warrant for his arrest. Persecuted by the judiciary and the Vatican, he took refuge in Naples, Malta, Sicily. He was an angry, womanizing, alcoholic. He frequented the underworld and paid the price for a bad company. He had a prodigious talent for storytelling and for illuminating the psychology of characters. He painted like no one else. He returned to Naples and died in Rome, forgiven by all. It is clear that he was not a faultless man, and yet the Colonna of Naples gave him protection to continue painting. Should they have forbidden Caravaggio to continue painting? Should he, ashamed of any of his actions, have abandoned painting? Is there anyone in his right mind who censors his works, asks for their destruction, or tries to prohibit us from contemplating them? Perhaps the Taliban.
Roman Polanski has directed a splendid film on the Dreyfus case, which is not only a historical event, which it is, but also, perhaps, our daily reality, even in our praised democratic and lawful states. The film is called The Officer and the Spy and is on par with some of his great works, such as Chinatown, the Pianist, and Tess. Polanski is an illustrious film director (as well as an intelligent scriptwriter and a good actor). He is also a man persecuted by the law and apparently has engaged in deplorable sexual behavior. Qui le Sait. So should we stop watching his cinema, burn his films, stop him from directing ever again? It is easy to join a lynch mob, to vent the anger within us, the frustration, the thirst for revenge against the scapegoat of the moment. On the occasion of the prestigious César Awards in Paris, a tide of hysterical feminists has started a campaign not only against him but also against his film, which is splendid. And the president of the jury of the Venice Film Festival (supposed lover of the seventh art) refused to attend the official screening because she did not want to differentiate between the man and the work.
The other case is Plácido Domingo. Besides accusations of widespread abuse, none of which has been proven in court, there was also attempted extortion by a film union, which apparently asked the tenor for half a million dollars for his silence. Plácido denied everything, and all of us who love him supported him. Now he has got a diffuse and sad note of indeterminate half recognition of no one knows what. No one can judge Plácido for that. But, let’s imagine the worst scenario. In the worst case, should Plácido stop acting and singing? Should the world’s opera houses cancel their tours and condemn the world’s best tenor to ostracism? Should he himself stop singing?
There is a Talibanism that blows up the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, there is a Talibanism that wants to close the cinemas, and there is a Talibanism that wants to turn off the record player.
We live in a society of hypocrites, of Pharisees, of moral lynchers, who, however, are pouring water over everything. A society in which the mob exerts an apparent puritanism. Nevertheless, the same mob promotes sexual aberrations like cramming a minor with hormones to initiate his transition to a gender that is not his own, in an impossible and irreversible process that will condition the rest of his life. The same vigilantes who ask Plácido to stop singing or who want to censure Polanski, enthusiastically applaud every time an idiot tries to indoctrinate the minors of any school in aberrant sexual practices.
Haven’t there been young and beautiful women who have wanted to take advantage of successful, mature, powerful men, or old billionaires whose success has made them lose their way to the point of believing, silly them, that they are still physically attractive guys despite everything? There are many stories and events that we all know. How many of those who are throwing Plácido Domingo today can throw the first stone, one way or the other? (The furious leader of the #MeToo movement turned out to be a woman accused by a young man who claims she raped him). It seems that the worst Calvin is back, but morality was always at Castellio’s side.
I want to be allowed to freely watch a Caravaggio, I want to go to the cinema to see The Officer and the Spy, and I want to be able to listen to Plácido Domingo singing like no one else Tosca at the Teatro Real in Madrid.
Julio Ariza is a lawyer, former Spanish MP, communicator, and president of the Intereconomia Group.
This article was originally published in Rebelión en la Granja.