Monday, February 2, 2009

What Are the Chances That We Are Going to Grow Up Sometime Soon?

Just a quick thought about David Denby and his new book, Snark. He was talking about it on the Diane Rehm Show last week, and I quote from the website: “The author argues that a certain mean spirit is infecting the national conversation and debilitating America.” Are we running out of things to talk about in this country? Or is it rather that we cannot turn our attention to things that really need to be discussed? I can accept that a certain degree of grace and tact, what we used to call manners, facilitate discourse. But are these things ultimately so crucial? Isn’t the real problem in this country not that people say things in mean ways, but that they really have nothing to say beyond their attitude? Isn’t the problem that so many people with a public forum are all personality and no substance? Is this not less a question of mean spirit and more a question of weak mind? I cannot stand Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly either, but their problem is that they are wrong about everything, not that they are mean. The question of mean spiritedness is entirely subjective. It is really just a question of one personality responding to another in a positive or negative way. The problem with criticizing mean spiritedness is that it then becomes an out for any encounter one may have with an unwanted idea. In other words, if you tell me something I do not want to hear, it is now very easy for me to accuse you of being mean to me. After all, if you were nice you would agree with me, yes?

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