Suggestion for all future conversations:

Posted on December 30, 2009

5


In the spirit of the new year, I humbly submit the following.

How about instead of eye-rollingly alluding to things that some of us disdain (recent listening experience examples: the magazine The Believer, the band Wavves, and, of course, “hipsters”) and assuming that everyone knows both what they are and why we are all supposed to hate them, we start actually defining these things as we see them (if something concrete like a magazine or a band is in question, we should be sure that we have actually read and/or listened to more than one paragraph/30 seconds of a song on Myspace), and explaining exactly what it is about them that makes us shudder with distaste? This will make all conversations at least 300% more interesting, not to mention providing actual things to talk about, rather than the kind of deadly boring conversation-about-conversation that comes from talking about undefined things in the vaguest of ways and watching everyone else hustle to agree, but only third or fourth so that they don’t have to defend the opinion if someone else questions it.

In other words, let’s bring back open and well-argued dislike (or at least criticism). I also think this should be applied to music blogs, which seem to have two modes: desperate fawning and smug mockery. How about actual shaded arguments? Sometimes bands do some things well and some things badly. Sometimes bands have an annoying marketing gimmick but are also good musicians. The world is complicated.

And you know, we should bring back the perfectly nasty witticism too. Politicians used to say things like, “If he had a few more brains, he could be a halfwit,” and “He never opens his mouth without subtracting from the sum of human intelligence.”* With these you can cut pompous people down without losing your cool and trying to shout over everyone. People who have never questioned their convictions shout very loudly. Louder than us. But, the more spluttery they get in response to a nice little clever jab, the worse they look. It’s great.

I know this is controversial, since it requires us all to step outside of our bastions of safety and probably look stupid sometimes, but on the other hand, it will make talking to people interesting again, which I’d like. I bet you would too. I’d like it so much that I am even willing to look stupid for it. I have caught myself perpetuating this bullshit embarrassingly often, but now I am setting a standard. I will do better. I aim, from this moment on, to never talk shit without knowing what I am talking about, but to never be afraid to talk shit due to social repercussions. Now let’s all go out and get in some serious arguments.

sincerely,
Gabriel

*Both examples from speaker of the house Thomas Reed in the 1890s, courtesy Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason

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