After reflecting on this for days, reading both positive and negative comments about the Levine issue that has tainted a half century, I’ve concluded this: talent is evaluated often in terms of Manifest Destiny. Once upon a time, the idea that monarchs were chosen by God was accepted. The irony of that was always clear to those that were being ruled. The rise of monarchies was always related to the accumulation of wealth and influence. Nothing wrong with accumulating wealth until the need for more requires the subjugation of others: feudalism, slavery, classism, big business, Banks too big to fail, Auto Manufacturers too big to fail, Big Pharma, Big Tech…
What they all have in common is the importance of one person over another. The Manifest Destiny of talent is just a continuation of a dangerous idea that we’ve seen fail in politics and business over centuries.When we conclude that someone’s abilities make them Divine we consequently enable Levine! The divinization of any human being can and often lead to narcissistic and even predatory behavior. What could have stopped Henry VIII from decapitating his wife and start his own religion? A society of powerful English nobles enabled the Henry VIII murders because it suited their political/religious aims and their sense of self-importance. How is that different from predatory executives, athletes and artists that are shielded (and others who are innocent served up as sacrificial lambs) in the name of God and HIS chosen?
When I know that a soprano singing a high C vibrates her vocal folds more than 10 times faster than the wings of a hummingbird and that the operatic voice does not sound louder than an orchestra but rather developed specifically to excite the most sensitive frequency range of human hearing, I am inspired to believe that there is an intelligent design at work. It also suggests that such an intelligent being would be too advanced to put one human being above another.
The Greeks use of the term Apotheosis suggests that humans can develop skills that raise them to the status of Gods! How many human beings could achieve such heights if we didn’t consider it God-like but rather extraordinarily human? How many Barack Obamas and Kamala Harris if Whites were not considered Superior? How many Asian, Latino, LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, Women would we have as President of the United States?
Talent can be influenced by genetic and environmental variables, both nature and nurture! Reducing it to nature has only one goal: to elevate one person above another and thereby disenfranchising the other. It is fair to celebrate the achievements of a human being but the moment we make that person divine and indispensable we raise them above other human beings and make it ok to subjugate the weak, whether it is Big Tech buying off potential competition, or athletes and artists raping helpless young people with impunity!
Therefore, the question: how many great talents would rise if no one was considered Superior but rather more accomplished? A bunch of African American opera singers won Grammys last weekend. There’d be none if they had been considered “so much less than” by the establishment as during slavery and Jim Crow. How many great conductors might have come up if Levine was not considered Divine? If a Black lead tenor was not an anomaly? If a female conductor was not a Unicorn? If a minority person had access to a top lawyer?
What a dream worth dreaming!
©19 March 2021