Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The "Culture of Positivity" is a Bummer

Some of my favorite haters—Céline, Pound, Bernhard—seem to have been exceedingly nasty people. Maybe they needed to be, or whatever, but is art worth it? Rilke skipped his daughter's wedding because he didn't want to lose his concentration. I say go to her wedding, make her happy, it's just a poem, dude.

But I do admit to finding our culture of positivity a bummer. I agree with Adorno that "The common consent to the positive is a gravitational force that pulls us downwards." Vituperation is a defense against vapidity. I live in Mississippi at the moment, where social relations are modeled on the butterslide. Everyone is very polite, and that politeness is sinister. I've got nothing against civility ("Among narrow puritans, this is lying; but with civilized people only civility"—Bellow, Herzog), but there is a kind of disguised animosity that forces itself on you with a grotesquely exaggerated deference. I prefer my animosity unclothed.

Michael Robbins mounts a fresh argument against the new nice. (Questions for later: Is the New Niceness still new, or even nice? It is unclear. But the aggression in general these days is definitely too veiled.)

14 Comments / Post A Comment

Hamilton (#122)

Yes! Fuck the new nice.

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

I think about veiled nastiness and phony niceties often since I moved from Chicago to California. When I meet blunt and genuine people out here, I befriend them so hard.

Matt (#26)

Anytime you want your SOM glogin back all you have to do is ask.

To quote Jeremy Irons as Claus von Bulow: "You have no idea."

The older I get the more niceness stalks me like the dagger-wielding spectre of death itself.

laurel (#4,035)

@My Number Is My Address

Ah, my prawns.

HiredGoons (#603)

fear & loathing.

Is that an original Choire?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

"Quoting a man's dissertation is a low blow …."

His bark is not even as bad as his bite.

Kevin Knox (#4,475)

Christ, what a shitty poem.

Thanks, Kev! The internet sure is a great place to try to make people feel bad, isn't it? Also a wonderful arena in which to impress people with your intelligent responses to art.

gregorycraigory (#13,983)

@Michael Robbins@facebook Yet you took the time to respond (with CRUSHING WIT). I thought you said you preferred your animosity unclothed?

You do bring up an interesting question, though – must responses to art be intelligent? If so, what are the criteria? Do I need a PhD in English in order to hate your poem? How far must we go in justifying our like or dislike?

@gregorycraigory I don't know about a PhD, but you do need to be able to read to understand the distinction I make in the interview between "civility" (which I said I approve of) & "disguised animosity." Christ, I said that "I'm not interested in being an unpleasant person." Who is? Why?

If you can't tell the difference between "preferring animosity unclothed" & "really liking to treat people like shit," I feel for you. Sincerely, as it were.

The question of liking or disliking something is irrelevant here. Liking doesn't require any justification at all; judgment does. "I dislike your poem" is a different assertion than "That is a shitty poem." The one states a preference, the other an aesthetic judgment. The latter will always stand in need of justification. But obviously the clever Mr. Knox is interested only in being a troll, which is an endeavor, as we all know, that requires boundless wit & discernment.

for a nickel bribe (#205,488)

I was all set to agree with this guy, but then I saw his comments here, and I would just feel too dirty aligning myself with him.

Jesus fucking christ, dude. Do you know what trolling is? Someone saying your poem is shitty is not trolling. Unless they're secretly of the opinion that it's great, they're expressing a sincere opinion of your work. I'll assume Kevin didn't even know you were going to show up in the comments to get your thin-skinned outrage on, so who would he even be trolling? Choire?

I have to assume your quote about "preferring animosity unclothed" was edited for space, and the full version was something along the lines of "I prefer my animosity unclothed – as long as that animosity is being directed at someone else, of course. I'm fragile. Please don't hurt me with your mean mean words."

@for a nickel bribe You just spent how long typing that inane comment? I'm afraid I don't have time to teach you how to read right now, but internet trolling is not what anyone having a serious conversation about literature means by "animosity."

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