Criticism

Lately I’ve done a lot of thinking and a bit of writing about the critical nature of our culture. Specifically in the worlds of art, design and technology. Creative, risky, and thoughtful works are almost guaranteed to face an onslaught of abuse, most of the time, as soon as the public has any kind of access. Of course there are usually a few competing voices among the crowd that show support, but more often they are unable to match the hysteria of the detractors and rarely get the same amount of attention.

I understand having a thick skin is a requirement in these industries, I wonder why it should be that way, even so it’s always seemed like an infantile action to take against work that is often a big chance by the people creating it.

Isn’t that what we want, if not need? Don’t we need big risk takers? People who take serious shots at big ideas? Or are we comfortable with telling them how stupid and ugly their work is and driving them towards the middle. Maybe this is contributing to what looks like the stock market of ideas. Simple ideas, quick turnaround, and we might be able to get acquired, otherwise we fold up and do something else and there was relatively little risk for everyone involved. High-fives all around.

I wonder what our world would look like if we took a more collectively critical stance towards those practices or even better, ignore them and focus on supporting the people taking bigger swings, instead of rooting for strikeouts.

Are other industries so harsh with each other? Are they subjected to similar social vitriol? I picture Jan, a middle-aged accountant, caring and thoughtful in her work with a pleasant enough attitude towards the rest of the world. One afternoon Jan goes on Twitter to find out that much of the world thinks her handling of the Stevens account was amateurish while at the same time her excel formulas seemed ancient and indicative of her just not getting how things work nowadays. One person confidently declares that Jan should just fuck off.

Maybe there are whole online forums and conferences where accountants get together to bash other accountants. I only know a few accountants, I’ll have to check with them. Maybe getting in a group and being against things that are new or different is a part of our species.

A really wonderful thing to practice in life is maintaining awareness that while we can’t choose how others behave or how a situation will unfold, we can choose how to react and experience it.

It’s not easy to always be that aware, at least for me, but it’s a practice. In considering that practice, I have reevaluated my understanding or at least my position on the criticism that creative works endure. If most of the things people take shots at and turn a jaded eye to are things that are trying to do something big, new or just different, well, then I hope I do something in this life worthy of criticism.