Everyone’s a critic

When Jesus called on the sinless to cast that first stone, he demonstrated that (in addition to not knowing much about how stonings typically work) he was uninitiated in the ways of social criticism. See, much like the good old­-fashioned stoning laws of Jesus’ time, modern c​ritique​ has come to adjudicate over some of our most basic day-­to-­day experiences—what we eat, the way we dress, the very language we use—and its use isn’t reserved for the sinless among us.

There has been a self­-critical element present among humans since societies were first conceived (presumably, from the moment when one neanderthal remarked to another that his use of Grog’s shin bone as a flute was insensitive, and, frankly, perpetuated a discourse of utility-­based values that threatened the tenuous ethical fabric of their neo­ troglodytic hegemony). The kind of critique I’m talking about is a more recent phenomenon. It’s that wave of slyly ­written articles that accompany the news like flies on horse manure whenever anything discussion-­worthy happens and which then proceed to scrutinize those situations into a bloody, opinion ­rife pulp. It’s the attempt to save the world by editorializing it.

We’ve all at some point skimmed through one of these poignant pieces of crap I’m talking about. You know, those 20 page pieces of edgy journalism with a cool title that lets you know that t​his​ opinion is far edgier than any of the other radical opinion pieces you may have read on [insert relevant/sexy/edgy issue]. If you don’t see what I mean, I refer you to the column you’re currently reading.

The point of these critical musings, in principle at least, is to deal a blow to the cultural zeitgeist, righting whatever misconceptions we sheeple may have picked up from the media (which excludes, of course, those critical musings themselves). The problem, though, is that this task is inherently condescending. When it comes to this shoot-from-the-hip style of journalism, it’s just plain difficult to write with authority about issues like “cultural appropriation”, “islamophobia” or “the inherent problems of social criticism” without patronizing not just your audience, but often the very groups of people these positions set out to defend.

I don’t propose that we stop this armchair criticism or leave it for the academics who are trained in it. The diversity of opinions out there can sometimes be wonderful, if damn annoying. It’s just that it all too often devolves into an ideological axe-­grinding competition, one from which no one benefits so long as the dialogue is a shouting match. Maybe I think we need to shut up and listen a while longer before expounding that oh­-so-­interesting opinion on the matter. Maybe I don’t: it doesn’t matter what I think. What you should be taking away from this is that it’s vain and missing the point altogether for me to try to express what you​ should think on the grounds that I’m the one writing the column.

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