perversion” accounts for the pleasure, since what he enjoys, among other things, is his opacity. But that isn’t the reason THEY continue to push the conspirator to make himself a critic, to subjectivate himself as critic, nor the reason for the hate THEY so commonly express. The reason is quite simply the danger he represents. The danger, for Empire, is war machines: that one person, that people transform themselves into war machines, ORGANICALLY JOIN THEIR TASTE FOR LIFE AND THEIR TASTE FOR DESTRUCTION.
The Scholars”Bald heads forgetful of their sins,Old, learned, respectable bald headsEdit and annotate the linesThat young men, tossing on their beds,Rhymed out in love’s despairTo flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.They’ll cough in the ink to the world’s end;Wear out the carpet with their shoesEarning respect; have no strange friend;If they have sinned nobody knows.Lord, what would they sayShould their Catullus walk that way?
I repeat here what you will find in my first chapter, that the only thing that signifies to you in a book is what it means to you, and if your opinion is at variance with that of everyone else in the world it is of no consequence. Your opinion is valid for you. In matters of art people, especially, I think, in America, are apt to accept willingly from professors and critics a tyranny which in matters of government they would rebel against. But in these questions there is no right and wrong. The relation between the reader and his book is as free and intimate as that between the mystic and his God. Of all forms of snobbishness the literary is perhaps the most detestable, and there is no excuse for the fool who despises his fellow-man because he does not share his opinion of the value of a certain book. Pretence in literary appreciation is odious, and no one should be ashamed if a book that the best critics think highly of means nothing to him. On the other hand it is better not to speak ill of such books if you have not read them.
When…did it become irrational to dislike religion, any religion, even to dislike it vehemently? When did reason get redescribed as unreason? When were the fairy stories of the superstitious placed above criticism, beyond satire? A religion was not a race. It was an idea, and ideas stood (or fell) because they were strong enough (or too weak) to withstand criticism, not because they were shielded from it. Strong ideas welcomed dissent.
At that shameful stage in the development of our criticism, literary abuse would overstep all limits of decorum; literature itself was a totally extraneous matter in critical articles: they were pure invective, a vulgar battle of vulgar jokes, double-entendres, the most vicious calumnies and offensive constructions. It goes without saying, that in this inglorious battle, the only winners were those who had nothing to lose as far as their good name was concerned. My friends and I were totally deluded. We imagined ourselves engaged in the subtle philosophical disputes of the portico or the academy, or at least the drawing room. In actual fact we were slumming it.
Ah, but sir,’ said Lascelles, ‘it is precisely by passing judgments upon other people’s work and pointing out their errors that readers can be made to understand your own opinions better. It is the easiest thing in the world to turn a review to one’s own ends. One only need mention the book once or twice and for the rest of the article one may develop one’s theme just as one chuses. It is, I assure you, what every body else does.
Is there wisdom in innocence? I think there is, but there is a cult now of drab men and women, for whom the world, and even life itself, is a kind of commodity. These critics, having eaten, now study their excrement to see what they consumed. On this they base certain conclusions. Their ignorance is uncompromising. Let us rather stand before the unknown, in very humble, quiet observance and wait while it reveals itself.
To criticize a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous, but to criticize their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticize ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society. A law which attempts to say you can criticize and ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed.It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended. The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness – and the other represents oppression