Critiques & Controversies: October 2007 Archives

but what the heck does global warming have to do with peace?

Every year the committee goes further out of its mind in following its insane and paranoid vision of world politics.

If they ever had one shred of validlity (for example when they nominated Mother Teresa of Calcutta) this undermines it all. Anyone less deserving than Al Gore of such a prize would be hard to imagine. I'm surprised it wasn't awarded posthumously to Saddam Hussein.

Such a blatant and obvious attempt to influence the American Political scene should be soundly repudiated by any person thinking properly.

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Rules of Engagement

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This is in response to something that I thought both sad and exemplary of poor form for a Christian critic.

There are only a few very good reason for conducting public criticism of an author's work. Most important of these is to inform the public about a work that is either exemplary of Christian and literary value or utterly detrimental to a person in a profound spiritual way. Another important reason for literary criticism is to allow a reader to better understand a work. A third is to express an opinion or recommendation on a work by an established author to give the reader some indication of its worthiness for taking up an extended period of time. For private critique you may add the betterment of the author to complete the task of a writer--instruction and correction. This last is NEVER a legitimate purpose of public criticism. Such work should be conducted privately ONLY and ONLY at the request of the individual. Following Updike's rule for criticism, even if one doesn't care for a work, the exposition of it should set forth all of its best points even as one's own opinion of its merits is made manifest. But once again, this is ONLY for those well-established in the field.

Another reason NOT to pursue criticism is to show how much one knows. Or, by far the worse crime, to attempt to profit from making others look bad--either by the work of criticism itself, or by making one's own work stand out from that of the riff-raff that is not worthy to stand nearby. It is very unappealing to watch a person show off their intellectual prowess at the expense of another. If this is the way to success, it were better not to succeed.

Young writers, writers just starting out, are prone to a great many errors and a tremendous arrogance regarding the work of others. When this arrogance expresses itself in launching full tilt at T.S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, and William Wordsworth, it can be at once amusing, and a marvelous example, as one ages of youthful folly--the literary equivalent of those pictures most mothers have of naked babies on sheepskin rugs. The folly is the author's entirely and as Yeats, Eliot, and Wordsworth are unlikely to suffer any real harm at the hands of one so arrogant as to take them on, only the author is likely to suffer any consequences.

However, when an author takes on contemporaries, and particularly contemporaries who are just beginning to emerge into the writing world, there is only one conclusion one can draw from extensive negative public criticism. That is, of course, that the critic intends to profit from this by making his or her own work look good. This is absolutely unacceptable. One becomes the John McEnroe or Bobby Fisher of the literary world. One takes what one is not entitled to and profits thereby--the very definition of theft. By calumny and hurtful speech one is set in a better light--either with respect to one's own literary writing, or by the sparkle of one's wit and intellect. It is simply better to keep one's mouth shut and continue to produce one's own good work rather than seek to profit by the destruction of another.

So, the bottom line, one should not try to excuse the literary equivalent of chewing with the mouth open, by noting that it could improve the world for literature. Arnold wasn't able to accomplish this goal, Eliot didn't do it, Wilson didn't do it. How likely is it that some 20-something literary ingenue is likely to do so? And more importantly, who really gains thereby?

No, if the strong need to help make the world a better and safer place for literary endeavors manifests itself express it in one of two ways: write those better literary works and leave the "lesser lights" alone in their gloom; or offer to share insights with the author of the works in question--then do so privately. Public display of aggressive intellect is no more appealing than PDoA. The only poor light it casts is on its perpetrator.

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This site details a miscarriage of justice which, even if it occurred only once suggests strongly the utterly demented view courts have of patent and copyright.

When you patent a gene, particularly a gene for a plant whose material is spread by pollinators other than humans, you cannot reasonably expect that the gene will remain bound to its original planting ground. Already we've seen several genetically modified plants "escape" from their original founding ground.

And, in fact, does it make any sense at all to allow patents on genes? After all a gene is not something anyone can own, and particularly not when genes spread through an aegis beyond human control.

In the realm of intellectual property rights, our legal system is utterly demented: it grants nearly eternal rights to works of authors and creators of works of art and then supports idiotic lawsuits such as the one detailed in the links above.

I am not a sensationalist regarding Genetic engineering. There are tremendous risks involved and tremendous potential benefits; however, I find the idea that I could be sued if some came around and discovered the corn in my field had a "patented" gene in it absolutely horrifying. The small farmer is already under enough pressure for the industrial farming business, there's no need to add this to it.

It's amazing how, too often, it is easy to overlook some of the astounding ramifications of our own twisted systems of logic. Among the most twisted strains are the theories of who can own what. In point of fact, on Earth, if you can't eat it, you can't really own it. You can take care of it, it can own a piece of you, but lacking portability, there are precious few things you can own. The European theory of land ownership, for example, is ludicrous in the extreme and made more so by the extremes to which it is brought in American jurisprudence.

Every material thing is simply a loan for our time on Earth--our sense of ownership of it deprives us, in a a very real way, of our sense of dependence upon providence. It deprives us further of focus on the One Thing that matters. We endlessly toil and preserve "what's ours" with no real sense of the fact that "you can't take it with you." Even our bodies are not our own--but sheer gift and grace--given by God and returned ultimately to Him should we find ourselves in the state of grace at death.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from October 2007.

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