Moral Panic and The New Didacticism

New rules of conduct are popping up everywhere, and in many cases, that’s a good thing, e.g. reduction of the harrassment of women in the workplace, expansion of civil rights for minorities, and so on.

This zeitgeist for updated ethics has spread into the arts, and that can also be a good thing, if it results in changes that reduce predatory behavior within institutions, as when two male dancers were recently fired from the New York City Ballet for alleged sexual misconduct.

On the other hand, now everyone is empowered to leave a comment on everything, and any asshole with a smartphone can take down somebody else with a bad review. People nit-pick anything and everything, leading to an infinite regress into social atomization.

Reorganization of codes of conduct is periodically necessary for societies to move forward, but at this point there is so much social media-fueled uncertainty, division, and vitriol in the air that it is bleeding over into the work itself, often with less-than-satisfactory results.

Of course artists can’t disconnect themselves from current events, and a political work can sometimes have the power to transcend its time and place. If all art and poetry are fresh responses to experience, then that must include the social and the political.

The problem for me with didactic poetry and artwork is more form than content. It’s tonal. We can and must respond to the world around us through our work, but the preachy tone and the black and white, all or none, baby with the bathwater attitudes will go away in time.

I just hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Political Discourse

You know what they say about opinions.

Let me get something straight: I don’t care about your opinion about anything, and nobody does, with the exception of yourself. That unwritten rule of thumb is subconsciously applied to any subject on which you may choose to opine, be it government, economics, literature, art, science, whatever.

When it comes to true discourse, there are certain minimal requirements that make it useful. Especially when it comes to political argument, without a few ground rules, a vast sea of personal thoughts and opinions drown us in uselessness.

Why is that, you might ask?

I’m glad you ask. The reason most of the opinions put out there by your fellow earth dwellers are not useful and oftentimes detrimental to the conversation at large is that there is no rigor in the thinking behind them.

In the realm of political argument, I have found three useful components which I find essential, if the argument is worth paying attention to. Anything less is simply not good enough, and ignorable.

  1. The Emperor Has No Clothes - a childlike insight into some discrepancy in the status quo.

  2. Research - honest and bonafide information to back up all arguments. Not youtube videos, not dubious conspiracy websites or other nonmeritorius sources, but instead scientific papers, books, and other high quality source material.

  3. Logic - carefully structured arguments.

In every argument may be found the inherent biases of the speaker, but discourse that is presented logically, with verifiable research, which questions or offers alternatives to unsatisfactory systems, laws, and practices, arguments which are rigidly consistent and above all coherent, are infinitely more useful, no matter the value system represented.

The demand for such coherence and consistency must be much higher now, in an age of abundant false information and atomized social structures.