The Movement That Worked to Destroy the Past, Present, and its Foundations

dadaism was more than absurd, it was an attack on the past and present

In Jacques Barzun”s excellent ‘From Dawn To Decadence (Amazon link),’ in the chapter titled ‘The Artist Prophet And Jester,’ he talks of the beginning of the movement that attacked foundations of the past, and the past itself. It was called the Dada movement, which along with its cousin Surrealism, detached themselves from the foundations of reality, eventually leading to the cancel culture and its SJW adherents of our day.

Unsurprisingly, those in the movement chose a French word that was baby talk for hobby-horse, according to Barzun  (although some suggest it may have come from other sources).  I say unsurprisingly because it reflects the immaturity and rebellion against taking responsibility that comes when young people have to face growing up. Resistance to taking responsibility is now embedded in much of Western culture.

Although World War 1 has been given as the event that triggered the movement, I’m not convinced it’s true in and of itself. I tend to think it was just another excuse for radical leftists, which the Dadaists were, to attack the foundations of Christianity and the West, using the arts as a means to expand their influence to many other segments of life. In fact, they hated and didn’t believe in objective truth, nationalism, capitalism, the middle class, reason and tradition. As typical of the left, they view these things as the reasons behind the problems of the world.

Among the major tenets of the movement were to reject the past and present by desecrating, ridiculing, and making a parody of them, and in regard to the arts, including literature, to destroy the very idea of art itself, among other things. While there have been attempts by those writing about Dada to portray it has humorous and whimsical, it was far from that; it was destructive and brutish to the core.

Since a significant number of Dadaists decided it was the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of middle class capitalist society that was the cause of World War 1, they rejected and attacked that way of life by expressing in in their art, which they actually stated was anti-art; an accurate description. Their overall purpose wasn’t to create a new art form, but to destroy art itself by undermining its legitimacy through the nonsense they produced, and by extension, the culture and way of life that produced traditional art. By rejecting logic and reason, along with Christianity and morality, the outcome was to embrace chaos. This is something to consider when contemplating the woke culture of the present.

What made Dadaism different from other art movements was the nihilism associated with the desecration of the past and present. In other words, it didn’t focus on specific targets it was in disagreement with, it attacked everything. Again, this is very similar to what is happening now.

One of the reasons many Christians and others on the right are at times confused and dismayed by the leftists is they have nothing in particular they’re attacking, just like the Dadaists of the past. They are attacking everything, making it difficult to formulate a counterattack.

The good news is since the left mostly thinks in terms of politics and power, we can at least narrow down the parameters they operate in, even though they attempt to use the state to implement and force their ideas and worldview on others in every area of life that crosses their minds.

So while they attack everything their imaginations can come up with, the levers they use are the state and cancel culture. If we overly focus on every nutty idea they come up with, it will overwhelm the majority of us because it confuses many people on how to fight what appears to be an endless number of hydra heads that are cut off and seem to grow two more to replace it.

What many are discovering is that when people decide to desecrate the past and the present based upon the conclusion their is no truth but their own, there is little if any contact point when trying to find any type of common ground to communicate from. As a matter of fact, the idea of there being fixed truth is an abomination to the left of today and the early 20th century; it’s an affront to them that we even suggest there is something called truth that we are to operate and base our lives upon. That’s especially true when Christians use the infallible truths revealed in the Bible to confront their deception.

What’s the answer? The answer is to use the gifts and callings God has given us and apply it to all areas of life. All you have to do is look at the work of someone with a foundation to see the difference between their work and the work of those that have no foundation or truth.

Having said that, most Christians need to develop excellence in all their work in order to show the difference between the false and evil, and the good and the beautiful. Developing our various skill sets will bring about a contrast that can’t be denied as to its substance, reality, and character, when measured against the works and projects of those that reject the idea there is such a thing as objective truth and reality.

As the Dada movement of the past, there is an ongoing commitment to destroying the past and the present in order to create a future built in the image of those that use their ungrounded imagination to build something with no foundation or concept of truth or reality.

And as with the Dadaists, all they can do is desecrate and destroy based upon envy and hate for the truth and those that believe there is such a thing. This is nothing new, history has identified this as revolution, and the goal is only to break and kill everything, with the idea it will create a regeneration of mankind that will be to their liking. In their view, it’s either join or capitulate to us, or we’ll crush you in all areas of your life.


For the Christian, the answer to this, including what I mentioned above, is to preach the gospel, including the important part of teaching the nations to obey all the laws and commands Jesus taught.

We should also build quality Christian schools or home school our children in order to lay the foundation of truth in their lives, without the corrosive influence of our enemies.

Last, we must apply the Bible to all areas of life, starting with what we are individually called to do. There are so many things that can be done; all we have to do is think it through and examine what is needed in our local communities.

If we look primarily at the macro level of the challenges we face, it can be very daunting. But if we look at something we can serve in in our neighborhoods and surrounding area, there are plenty of needs and segments of life that need to be engaged and healed.

The point of this article is to give some understanding as to what it is we face and why. The answer is holding our own ground by training our children outside the public school system, and seeking out various areas of service we can perform in our community that offer opportunities to share the gospel and teach the commands of Jesus Christ to the people we are connected to.


For those of you interested in what Barzun said, it’s on pages 717 to 721 in Dawn to Decadence. For a more thorough look, consider the entire chapter ‘The Artist Prophet And Jester.’


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