I used to have this clunky slogan ... and it really IS clunky.
I wish I had a nicer phrase.
But somehow "perfection is flawed" has stuck in my brain.
Anyway, I mean, your heroes have feet of clay.
No-one's perfect. Especially the people you admire or love.
They'll all have their flaws. Some of them, horrible.
That's the way it is, and sometimes we need to accept the fact of it, and live with it.
I'm not a big fan of the term "CancelCulture". I think it's largely dreamed up by right-wing reactionaries to whine about how they aren't allowed to make money on their YouTube channels any more because advertisers have decided they don't want to be associated with arseholes.
It's only because people now think they have the right to be given a platform to be racist, that "deplatforming racists" has become an issue.
Nevertheless, sometimes zealots DO get it into their heads that they'll purge the world of its evils if they can just make life uncomfortable enough for those who have slipped into some infraction or other. Or who haven't quite repudiated old habits hard enough. (More ThePyramidOfHate)
And it helps to remember that we are all flawed humans.
And cut each other some slack.
If we expect our heroes to be saints, we won't get saintly heroes, we'll just get no heroes.
Some people point out to me that this doesn't matter. We're better off not having a mentality that thinks in terms of heroes.
I'm sceptical. I think we still need the awkward squad. The unreasonable man who gets stuff done for us. (TheWorldBelongsToTheUnreasonableMan)
We still need to celebrate great deeds.
And it's a cliché, but yeah, by definition, the revolutionaries we want to break the rules we want broken, may well be the kind of people who break the rules we'd rather not have broken.
We need to figure out how to live with that. Or at least accept that it's a thing.
We need to learn to celebrate people for the good they do. Not worry about tearing them down for any bad in them. (Doing > being)
Otherwise we won't celebrate anything or anyone. And a world without things to celebrate will be a very cold one.
Quora Answer : Why is Julian Assange a negative figure while Edward Snowden be considered as a hero?
They're both heroes as far as I'm concerned.
I have a general philosophy that is rather clunkily expressed as "perfection is flawed". There are NO heroes in history who didn't cut corners, rub people up the wrong way, weren't ornery or didn't break rules and hurt people's feelings. That's not how you get to actually make waves and change things.
As Shaw said, the world belongs to the unreasonable man. And it's true. Drill down into almost anyone admirable and you'll see they had to fight and upset people. And take risks. And not be team players. Etc. etc. Along the way.
In my book, people who carp about the things wrong with Assange (or even Snowden) are doing just that. Looking for excuses to complain, because they're uncomfortable with the big picture ... which is that the world needs difficult people to actually get things done. The machinery NEVER works so smoothly that you can make change by following the rules.
So, at the end of the day, Julian Assange has a very serious sexual assualt accusation to answer to. It's not trivial. It's not to be brushed off. It needs to be recognised that it is a disgrace. We can hold on to that position just fine.
And yet ... Julian Assange is STILL a hero because ... perfection is flawed.
Heroes are not saints. And they don't need to be.
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Quora Answer : Why has Jeremy Corbyn been suspended from the Labour Party?
The definition of a witch-hunt is where protesting your innocence is considered further evidence of guilt.
Corbyn is accused of doing anti-semitic things. He protests his innocence and says he didn't do anti-semitic things.
Protesting your innocence is then taken as further evidence of guilt.
Or "saying that the claims are exaggerated is compounding the problem" as the anti-Corbynists put it.
Protesting your innocence is considered further evidence of guilt.
Corbyn's anti-semitic crime consists entirely of him denying that he's an anti-semite. And "not doing enough" to stop anti-semitism in the party.
This is, let's remind ourselves, in an age where bad ideas have been running rampant across the internet.
Imagine someone came to Keir Starmer and said "you are now personally responsible for stamping out COVID-denialism and mask-refusal and lockdown-breaking in the Labour Party. If you don't remove COVID denialists and non-mask wearers and those who go to the pub from the Labour Party, you are "enabling" and "encouraging" COVID denialism. You are an evil COVID denialist complicit with the thousands of unnecessary deaths from people who wouldn't wear masks"
Then, because COVID conspiracies and denialism is ramping up on the internet it turns out that Starmer fails to hunt down and remove every COVID-denialist in Labour.
So now Starmer is a pariah because he was "enabling" COVID deaths?
Would you go along with that?
No, you'd find it absurd that Starmer is held personally accountable, and receives personal animosity for the institution's failure to fix the evil influence of the wider culture. Sure, he can be criticised. But to what degree? To the degree of being considered an accessory to the crime?
You'd find it even more absurd that when Starmer tried to defend himself, this was taken as further evidence that he was secretly plotting to kill more people with COVID.
This is pretty much the situation with Corbyn.
And it matters, not just because it's unfair to Corbyn. But for a far bigger reason.
This is now the standard playbook by a coalition of the right-wing and centrists for taking down left-wing politicians.
You find a seed of something, anything, that might be construed negatively. You then start hammering on that "issue" non stop. You blow it up to be the biggest thing in the world, in politics. It can be alleged "anti-semitism" (ie. support for Palestinians and criticism of Israel). Or "corruption" (as was used to take down Dilma Rousseff, one of the least personally corrupt politicians in Brazil for what was, effectively, common accountancy massaging during her election campaign). Or something you did in your childhood (Aaron Coleman, the 19-Year-Old Progressive Who Won His Kansas Primary, Speaks About His Troubled Past and Promising Present). Or not keeping your sex life sufficiently separate from your work life (Alex Morse Would Like You To Know He Has Sex) etc.
You demand that the left (or liberals if those are your target) have zero-tolerance for this kind of thing. You appeal to their sense of shame and embarrassment that their political leaders might be anything other than saints. That anything other than zero-tolerance or complete self-immolation is total shame.
Then you let the left fight itself to destruction.
The right, then happily, pragmatically, able to live with some of most the flawed leaders and representatives imaginable, waltz off to take power and implement policies a million times worse than anything that would actually follow from the alleged "wrongdoing" of the left politician you destroyed.
We have to stop falling for this trick. All our leaders and heroes have feet of clay.
Humans have skeletons. Sometimes in cupboards. And we need to learn to judge politicians and leaders pragmatically. Not to hold them up to some impossibly high standards.
We must reject the narrative that says that the left can only be "legitimate" if they are supernaturally "pure". Because we will always lose on those terms. Politicians are not saints.
I mean does anyone actually believe that Corbyn was actively plotting, or actively trying, in any way, to get more anti-Semites to join Labour? Or to move Labour policies in a more anti-Semitic direction? What's an example of this?
No ... it's insinuation that because he didn't do some indefinite "enough" or didn't "care enough" (ie. prioritize over the hundreds of other items in his job's todo list) that he is complicit and culpable in everything. And because he has now rejected the accusations, he is diminishing their seriousness and therefore bringing the party into disrepute for not being sufficiently anti-anti-semitism.
This is the kind of thing that gives "virtue signalling" a bad name.
So is this why Corbyn's been thrown out? Because he doesn't sufficiently play along with the narrative that the Labour Party has been the most evil party in the history of evil parties because it didn't stamp out every instance of prejudice and rudeness among its 500,000 members?
Well, no, of course not. If it had been someone that these guys liked who had done that, then it would all be glossed over with hardly a ripple in the media.
But people hated Jeremy Corbyn. And feared what he stood for. A Labour Party that turned its back on the kind of neoliberal centrists politics of New Labour and wanted to rediscover its roots as a socialist party.
That is the real answer to this question. Corbyn was suspended because the right in the Labour Party want to get rid of the left in Labour.
And now this is a convenient justification. It's part of a huge theatrical performance aimed at discrediting the left. If the left scream, then they can be accused of defending the indefensible. If Corbyn accepts that he was the most evil and shameful of Labour leaders ever then he contributes to his own humiliation and the humiliation of his project. If he tries to defend himself, he is "compounding the problem" and therefore can be chucked out. (Protesting your innocence is taken as further evidence of guilt. )
If the rest of the left leave in a huff, then that makes the problem of the left "go away". If the left start the same kind of campaign against Starmer as the right waged against Corbyn, then that makes them look petty and unserious (because that's what the right campaign against Corbyn was).
For the Tories, it's even better. If large numbers of supporters now drop out of the Labour Party, that hits Labour finances. And reinforces a narrative that a large number of enthusiasts for Corbyn's Labour were incorrigible anti-semites. Labour lost the last election for many reasons, but being internally divided was undoubtedly part of it.
Starmer and right-wingers in Labour undoubtedly hope that a big, dramatic showdown and cathartic purge of Corbyn and the left now, will make the problems go away more quickly and more cleanly (criticisms from the right will stop, the left will be too demoralized and subdued.)
We'll see whether they are right about that, or if this failure to heal the rift (which is, let's remember, the policy that Starmer stood on. He was voted by many Corbyn supporters because he implied that he wouldn't be trying to purge the left but rather provide continuity and rebuild the alliance between different wings of Labour), dooms it to another failed election in 2024.
PS : here's the basic Guardian summary of the findings : Key findings of the EHRC inquiry into Labour antisemitism Find the evidence in that that shows my interpretation here to be wrong.
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Quora Answer : How problematic can it be as a critic when you rate someone's music based on personal or negative feelings you have towards them?
I think you have to accept two, perhaps contradictory, things :
that art is impossible to separate from the artist.
MUCH of what we value in art comes from its connection to the artist and what we value about them as a kind of "icon" or "role-model" etc.
This is why I think AI is never going to take over making music. However clever it is, we'll always want to identify with a "person" as a front for the music.
In fact, we've already seen this : people relate to and idolize a DJ who just plays tracks on a computer, composed by other people who outsourced most of the hard actual "playing" of the music to their computer.
But we still want a human to relate to, and so the DJ is now the human face of that highly mechanized supply-chain. And we turn the DJ into the star.
Art loses much of what it means to us if we try to disconnect it entirely from the human behind it.
Even when we admire ancient works by unknown people, we speculate about them, or even create a kind of "unknown artist" persona as a place-holder for our interest in them.
at the same time, humans are flawed, and the artist can't fully determine the art
All "great people" have feet of clay. Humans are imperfect. We can't expect our heroes to be saints. And if we do try to demand that heroes are saints, we won't get heroes who are saints, we'll just end up with no heroes at all.
However much you love an artist, chances are he or she has said or done things you don't approve of, and are perhaps horrified by.
We can't let art be hostage to our moral evaluation of the choices of artists, because we'll end up with very little art. And we'll lose much art which is really good.
So we must evaluate and appreciate and interpret art independently of what we think of the artist.
So it's a paradox.
On the one hand I believe that the artist is an essential component of the value of art. Even if we don't want to put someone on a pedestal, we want to think "there is a someone who had the artistic vision and drive to make this". Because if we can believe that, then we can, by mimesis, aspire to have such visions and drives in our own lives. And part of what the artist does is "perform" being someone who affects the world through their creativity and aesthetic taste and therefore acts as a pathfinder and role-model for the rest of us.
At the same time, we can't reduce art to simply the egoistical expression of the artist. Its use and meaning comes from how we incorporate the works into our own lives. What does this music do for us? Is it great to make us cheer us up when we are sad? Or to pump us up at the gym. Or to remind us of a first-love. Etc.
We all operate within this paradoxical space. But critics, if we're talking about professional thinkers / writers on art, need to be able to explicitly operate within this space. To explicitly be able to think and talk about both the artist behind the work, what that artists means to them and to a wider audience. While also being able to diagnose and map the usages made of the art, the meanings it has, beyond the artist's biography.
This is hard. But it shouldn't be that hard.
In a sense, a critic is already juggling paradoxes. The critic must simultaneously give "objective" evaluations of a work, while also acknowledging that art is all about "subjective" evaluation. Forget the problem of what the critic thinks of the artist. What about if the critic merely doesn't like this actual piece of music?
All critics must handle this problem. That they must be fair and do justice to music while also respecting their own taste.
And while extending that paradox-handling to the artist is an extra step, it's using the same skills / habits of mind.
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