"But one of the functions of art (yes, even popular art) is to call people out of their narcotized stupors, to raise people's consciousness, to awaken their capacities for compassion. William Faulkner probably put this best in his 1950 Nobel Prize speech: 'The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man; it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.'"
I have been puzzling over this paragraph. I agree heartly with Faulkner, and with Almond's idea that the arts "raise people's consciousness...[and] awaken their capacities for compassion," but I'm uncomfortable with the attitude that the phrase "narcotized stupor" seems to suggest. To some extent, I think it is true -- I think our contemporary society, with its speed and volume, with its lack of time to reflect, its rampant materialism, and its constant pressure to consume leads people to self-medicate in so many ways: alcohol, drugs, television, consumer goods. In that sense, they are living in a stupor, because to live with all senses alive is too painful.
What bothers me is the condemnatory attitude implied by phrases like "narcotized stupor." There is something very judgmental here, like a teetotaler at brewery tour, that does not seem to me to be conducive to profound art, which is based on deep empathy. In fact, such scorn, in many ways, is blaming the victim. People must cope daily with the spiritually deadening effects of American society, and art reminds them of what it is to truly live. If that art wakens the spirit only to condemn it...that seems wrong, somehow.