As related at New English Review, a recent perusal of a book of photographs of mid-20th Century Portugal caused Dalrymple to think about old-world beauty and to conclude that “in progress there is also loss”:
One of the questions that I have never been able to answer satisfactorily is why peasants the world over lose their aesthetic sense the moment they move from the country to the town, and become aficionados of kitsch.
Those who until then had an instinctive understanding of form and colour seem to care about them no longer: I have observed this in India, Africa and South America. Indeed, they not only lose their instinctive good taste but acquire instinctive bad taste to replace it.
What is the explanation for this? Is it that abundance and cheapness of acquired goods means that one no longer has to look at them with the same concentration as in conditions of relative shortage? Is it that, making almost nothing any more for oneself, one loses the appreciation of form and colour? Is it that, in the new conditions, all that belongs to the past comes to seem retrograde and associated in the mind with poverty and oppression? Is it that everything from the past – the earthenware pots, for example – come to seem almost childish by comparison with the modernity of aluminium pots and pans? Is it that life loses in intensity what it gains in extension?