A good friend of mine, who is an unusually interesting and learned person, was embarrassed to admit that he’s not overly familiar with Western classical music. I took him to task for that, but not in the way you might expect. Instead, I wrote him as follows:
I grew up in a home that confused classical European culture with morals. Considering that my parents lived through the Nazis, they should have known better. Whether you like Bay City Rollers and Verdi says nothing about what your core values are. Growing up in that environment, however, I accepted as true that “good” people liked classical music, fine art, and looked down on tacky stuff and pop culture. (It was always vaguely humiliating to me that I was — and am — so charmed by Disneyland.)
Growing older and having lived with the consequences of those principles, I’ve learned that I made a lot of terrible mistakes in life based upon that so-called “value” system. Having grown a lot wiser, I know now that I’d rather spend time with good people listening to top forty music, than with snotty, hate-filled, Progressives congratulating themselves on their ability to appreciate high opera and modern art.
Of course, some cultural things can give the game away about ones sense of decency. Someone who respects women, and opposes rape and using guns to commit random crimes probably isn’t going to be a fan of gangsta rap. I don’t think it goes the other way, though. That is, someone can have tastes that run to flowers and sunshine and vegetarianism, and then go and slaughter 6 million Jews, kind of like Hitler did.
If you’re ever tempted to think less of yourself or someone else because opera isn’t on the top of the playlist or a museum isn’t the preferred Saturday activity, please repeat this to yourself: Being cultured does not equal being moral.
(I should add that I actually adore a great deal of Western culture — except for the opera part. I love going to museums and I enjoy a broad-ish range of classical music. I just no longer think that those tastes somehow make me a superior person. Also, if you’ve ever been to Versailles, you know that even classical definitely doesn’t automatically equal good taste. Versaille is a hideous, gaudy testament to ostentation, and can be very enjoyable for precisely that reason.)