"I detest 'artists' who cause things to devolve and dissipate, rather than evolve and enhance."
With the former, surely you are referring to Beethoven's last quartets? Spenser's The Fairie Queene? Julio Cortazar? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding you again.
"How is purveyance of hate and scorn and disdain and self-loathing in any way an exposition of beauty?"
Because it mocks the very self-loathing inherent in establishment types who want to control the expression of mass culture according to their antiquated mono-cultural view of what legitimate tradition is. Arguments about standards are thinly veiled arguments for political control. When a country that officially crows at every opportunity about being the land of the free has the third highest incarceration rate on the planet, then urban poor express hate and disdain for authority. When guys get shot by cops 41 times for pulling a wallet out of thier pants, things are seriously messed up. So far, only the rap artists (with a few exceptions, notably Steve Earle and Springsteen) are exploring that, although this tradition goes way back through depression songs and country blues into 17th century murder ballads, at least. We are lucky (and by "we" I mean us white guys) they do it in song and not in street rioting. The self-irony in rap has a long history. Those who take rap lyrics at face value are victims of a very good, though very pointed, joke. Dr. Dre's been having a good laugh at the Tipper Gores of the world, of which you are an excellent specimen, for nearly 20 years now. The average 15 year old gets it, why don't you? Where's the beauty, you ask? The beauty is in the idea of a more equitable society that these people recognize in their heads, that they instinctively feel in the hearts, but do not see on the streets, in their schools. They see poor rundown schools they go to and the well-kept palaces the rich kids go to. They know the rhetoric about "leave no child behind" is pure bullsh*t. They magnify the ugliness they see in song, knowing full well it's roots, or at least the power to change it, lie in the sanctimonious hypocrites who get all bent out of shape about rap music. Rappers consciously personify a reduction to absurdity of white America's self-created worst nightmare. (Sure, some do it unconsciously). It's art holding a mirror to society, only it's a fun house mirror where they hold up the opposite of what's desirable. Imagine that, a bona fide literay device like irony being used in a popular music genre! The fact that lots of dissaffected white suburban kids pick up on it just underscores the art's empathetic powers. The whole point is to reject YOUR values and YOUR standards. I mean, come on, what's more offensive, eminem songs or the fact that Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court fixing elections and pontificating about obscenity after having lied under oath about his voracious consumption of pornographic material and harrassment of female co-workers? What's a realistic artistic expression against such hypocrisy? For sure, huffing and puffing about dead white male standards misses the point.
Sure, people who read lots of books are going to end up preferring Cormac McCarthy to writers like Grisham, on the whole. Some art is better than others. But standards and relative comparisons of merit only have a place within a tradition. You've got to compare apples to apples. You can talk about why Marvell is the most major minor English poet and make sense, but comparing Barbara Cortland to Cormac McCarthy? That's just snobbery. Grisham is a damn entertaining writer, you should try him sometime. Don't let cultural anxiety about it not being good enough to deserve your attention get in the way.
You're right, "it's all good" is empty and false but slagging off stuff outside your own traditions is just small and mean. (Except for Kenny G., of course.) Stuff has to be pretty damn hackneyed to be worthless. There's a great quote from George Winston: the woods would be a pretty quiet place if the only birds that sang were the birds that sang best.
(Just for the record, I offer this in good fun. I'm serious about this stuff, but not nearly as disdainful as I probably come off. Notice I didn't even attack the highly questionable notion that art = beauty
Maybe literature ahould be in the off-season sports section? I'd love to hash this out over single malt or a cold 40 anytime. Who's buying?)