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.)