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AskBen answer - Criticism and Change

From: AskBenTaylor
Category: Other stuff
Date: 14 August 2001


The other day I was thinking about whether it really is good to be critical. When you are critical you want to change everything all the time, to make it better or because it's imperfect, and sometimes I think the world changes enough by itself, time, season, etc, so maybe if we stand still everything changes anyway. What do you think?

I think you are confusing two things - the restless desire for everything to be new, all the time, and the relentless desire for everything to be perfect. True, the two are related, but they are distinct. Neither is particularly conducive to a balanced life, if taken to extremes, but they actually contradict each other if they are both prominent in a single character. The desire for change is present in both, but in different forms. Criticism naturally leads to a desire for development, improvement - every good satire or criticism has at least the seeds of an alternative, a solution to the thing it criticises or at least a synthesis of the object to which it presents an antithesis. Thatís why a lot of the things I write for worldwidereview arenít that good. Change-seeking does not presuppose or propose any particularly aim, just a desire to be rid. Good - desire to see the alternatives, form a view, exercise new critical facilities, find something better. Bad if genuinely despairing. So each of these two possibilities reinforces the other. So - a desire to change to have the world refreshed is it better or better to accept that the world changes around one? On the one hand, there's just a difference of viewpoints here - as things do change anyway itís simply a question of whether you can see this or not. On the other hand there's an overweening desire for agency, to be the force and agent of change yourself. This is ultimately egotism - the world revolves around me, but on the other hand it signifies a refusal to acknowledge that without me, the world changes also. The sickest thing is a desire to prevent change, whatever guise this takes. Cliche hides change, growth decay death birth decadence, and conservatism battles it, these are our only enemies. These and perfection.

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