Ephemera, 8/31/23

Justin E. H. Smith in his meandering essay on Generation X:

“In order to be a suitable candidate for redemption, a being must of course be flawed. It was long thought that to be this way was simply the general condition of humanity, but today, if you were to seek to learn about our peculiar species by studying the daily tide of social-media discourse, you could easily come away with the impression that it is the condition of only some people (roughly half of them) while the rest are consistently righteous … To identify some work of art, literature, or entertainment as problematic is not overtly to seek to censor, nor to call categorically for moral condemnation. It is simply to taint public perception, to inform readers or viewers that enjoyment of the work in question will likely result in some sort of subtle social sanctioning. It is a weasel word, employed by people who lack not only the courage of their convictions but also anything beyond convictions … “

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Along those lines, this piece claims to be against the “binary” of good and bad books, but it seems actually to be about the need for people to be nicer to other people when talking about the books they like. Ok, sure. Essentially another entry in the modern dominant genre of discourse, which can be described as, “I’m not an asshole, but boy, what about those other assholes, huh?”

There remains, in fact, good and bad (and mediocre) literature; I’ve hated some good, loved some bad, and passed the time with (and written) some mediocre. Also, the thing about human beings (see Smith’s quote above) is that we’re all assholes.

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Minor housekeeping note: since my series of notes on Ellul’s Presence in the Modern World is spiralling out of control, I’ve created a series page listing them in chronological order, including the corresponding page numbers in the book. You can also access the series from the Archives page, and in the header to each series post, which lists the number.