At that moment the realization hit me-and has never left me since: true Philistines are not people who are incapable of recognizing beauty; they recognise it all too well; they detect its presence any where, immediately, and with a flair as infallible as that of the most sensitive aesthete-but for them, it is in order to be able better to pounce upon it at once and to destroy it before it can gain a foothold in their universal empire of ugliness. Ignorance is not simply the absence of knowledge, obscurantism does not result from a dearth of light, base taste is not merely a lack of good taste, stupidity is not a simple want of intelligence: all these are fiercely active forces, that angrily assert themselves on every occasion; they tolerate no challenge to their omnipresent rule. In every department of human endeavour, inspired talent is an intolerable insult to mediocrity. If this is true in the realm of aesthetics, it is even more true in the world of ethics. More than artistic beauty, moral beauty seems to exasperate our sorry species. The need to bring down to our own wretched level, to deface, to deride and debunk any splendour that is towering above us, is probably the saddest urge of human nature.
Simon Leys, The Hall of Uselessness, 42
This is a wonderful book, with an even more wonderful title.