It may just be me, but I can’t help regularly being blown away by how mean spirited we seem to have become. Everywhere I look, I see examples of it. I see it in the snarky reviews posted on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. In the debates we see in Parliament (or whatever the nearest equivalent is in your country) where politicians are more interested in one-upping each other and scoring points over their opposition than having reasoned and thoughtful debates and discussions. And don’t even get me started on the contents of Twitter, or the comments you see posted on any website where that dubious feature is enabled.
I’m not saying I’m against criticism. I think it has a valid place. As a writer, reasonable constructive criticism is an essential aide to help me get better at my craft. And none of us wants to see politicians and other figures with power in our society being able to do whatever they please without any checks or balances. Criticism definitely has a crucial part to play in our world, and I would be extremely worried about the agenda of anybody who said otherwise.
I do, however, feel like there’s a balance between being critical and being supportive. Good criticism is helpful. It’s encouraging. And being open to criticism helps, not just in improving yourself, but in understanding other perspectives and seeing the world in ways you never thought about.
A lot of the criticism I see isn’t like that. It’s nasty. It’s personal. Often, the intention seems to be showing off how smart the critic is, rather than providing a reasoned criticism of the matter at hand. It’s like the only objective is to shoot the other person down, as viciously as possible. You can only win by making sure someone else loses. And if you’re on the end of that sort of viciousness, you’re hardly likely to want to see their side of the story. You’re just going to want to fight back.
I don’t want to play like that. I don’t want every interaction to turn into a zero-sum game, where there has to be a winner and a loser. I reckon I can do way better than that. I’m not pretending that we all live in some peace and love kumbaya sort of world. I’m not going to stop saying things as I see them. I’m not going to stop offering criticism if it’s due. But I’m going to try and do it in a way that builds rather than destroys.
I’m not imagining that I’ll make much of a difference in the world. I don’t see myself being able to do much to end the torrent of mean-spiritedness. But I can only do what I think is right. As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for a little generosity of spirit. And that’s what I plan to bring into the world.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as