The Point of Insincerity

And Some Notes On Criticism

Preface—Gilbert (Wilde) prophesying the social dynamic of Tarotforum.net:

“The security of society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members. The great majority of people, being fully aware of this, rank themselves naturally on the side of that splendid system that elevates them to the dignity of machines, and rage so wildly against the intrusion of the intellectual faculty into any question that concerns life, that one is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accord with the dictates of reason.”

The reaction on Aeclectic.net's Tarot Forum to my review of the Transcendental Tarot took a more philosophical turn this week, and among other weighty questions they tackled was what requirements should be placed upon a critic before his criticism should be paid any mind by anybody. The following list (of assumptions) is alleged to express all the areas in which I am supposed to be deficient, and by this is established the Aeclectic Tarot Forum requisites for a proper critical review:

a) the reviewer is writing from a balanced and dispassionate viewpoint

b) they have actually experienced the product they are reviewing

c) they have a background understanding of the subject (in this case
the artistic concept) to give credence to their review

d) they are respected in their field and amongst their peers.



And my response to this list:

First I would say that I have no assumptions when I read a critic, or a review. On the one hand, if I know the critic's work, I will have some idea of what I might encounter, but I don't enslave the writer to his reputation or past—after all he might have something new to say or have changed his mind. On the other hand, if I have never heard of the critic, I would prefer to read the review without filtering it through some arbitrary set of guidelines. As we shall see, criticism, while it may not always aspire to or achieve this end, can be art too. Secondly, if I had a set of assumptions, I would hope to assume something more useful and intelligent than the particulars listed above, to which I will now respond:

a. Well, quite frankly, this assumption brands the list maker as a person who has absolutely no idea of what criticism is about. The last thing in the world I wish to do is read a person struggling (no doubt inanely) to be "balanced" or worse "dispassionate". If you do not stand for something, and have passion for it, what precisely is your purpose in reviewing anything in the first place? Well, I suppose if it's one's profession, he could say "money", in which case I would say he may be passionless but he could hardly be disinterested. I wrote my review of the Transparent Tarot for the same reason I write all my reviews: I was interested to do so. That is the only reason and the only requisite any critic needs to write. Agreed that may not be sufficient to determine the quality or truth of his opinions, but it's an important first step.

b. "Actually experienced" is a funny notion for a product whose concept dictates that a good portion of it is stripped of anything to experience. Granted that if a person reviews a movie, I'd like to think he watched the whole thing before passing judgment, but perhaps his judgment was to walk out half way in because it was so dreadfully boring. That is not necessarily an invalid review, especially if he can entertain me in the telling of this tale of woe. And that raises a point generally misunderstood—the critique itself is a work, which stands alone as well as being linked to the thing it critiques. I would simply point out the artist of the Transparent Tarot called my review "witty", and plainly said she found it "highly amusing". Of course, as I have pointed out, she was pretty forgetful about that view (published at Facebook) when it came time to plead her case at Aeclectic's tarotforum.net. There, she acted as if she had never said my review amused her, and instead asked "How funny is that?" Anyway, I have repeatedly pointed out that the "actual experience" requirement was satisfied since I was reviewing her deck mainly as Tarot (thus images and ideas), and not as the experience of its gimmick of transparency, which the author took pains to simulate for everyone for many months now.

c. I guess to put it plainly, I am pretty sure I know enough about Tarot to review an alleged Tarot deck. I am not sure how much "background understanding" one needs of the concept of transparency to review an application of it, but if it is in fact that demanding, then I do not think many reviews of this deck will pass muster. Anyway, being bound to the concept of empty space is kind of its own review, isn't it?

d. What field? What peers?

The thread on criticism got around to dealing with some fundamental problems of the "New Age Industry", forums in general and ATF particularly. And one surprising admission was the following:

"In the end, a public forum may not be the best place to get an honest critique—one way or the other. Taking it to somewhere smaller and more private may well work better and result in much more useful and in-depth commentaries."

And then this:

"You can't judge the knowledge, attitude and forthrightness of forum members purely by what they say in public."

In that case, it seems we can then judge the sincerity, or lack of it, of ATF forum members by what they say in public, since it seems to be so deficiently incomplete (i.e., dishonest) as to require such a disclaimer.

Consider the amalgamated level of sheer fear that governs the creation of content on ATF.

They are afraid of each other, afraid of Solandia and her brown shirts; certainly they are afraid of the critical remarks of Ausländeren.

And that is supposed to be the most vibrant and interesting (& eclectic !!) Tarot community.

Lastly, I offer a sampling of other Ausländeren opinions on the subject of criticism. I trust they will enlighten and entertain you.




First speaking to the point of owing an artist a painless or encouraging critique:

“The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism—are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselves surrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideous starvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than man's intelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article on the function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathy with suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought. Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease. They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.”
—Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man”

“The ability to contradict.—Everyone knows nowadays that the ability to accept criticism and contradiction is a sign of high culture. Some people actually realize that higher human beings desire and provoke contradiction in order to receive some hint about their own injustices of which they are as yet unaware. But that the ability to contradict, the attainment of a good conscience when one feels hostile to what is acccustomed, traditional, and hallowed,—that is still more excellent and constitutes what is really great, new, and amazing in our culture, the step of steps of the liberated spirit: who knows that?”—Friedrich Nietzsche, “The Gay Science”

We would simply note that over a century later the Tarot community does not know nowadays “that the ability to accept criticism and contradiction is a sign of high culture”.

ALSO—note below how "negating" is held to be a necessary support of our need to "live and affirm"—

“In favor of criticism.—Now something that you formerly loved as a truth or probability strikes you as an error: you shed it and fancy that this represents a victory for your reason. But perhaps this error was as necessary for you then, when you were still a different person—you are always a different person—, as are all your present "truths," being a skin, as it were, that concealed and covered a great deal that you were not permitted to see. What killed that opinion for you was your new life and not your reason: you no longer need it, and now it collapses and unreason crawls out of it into the light like a worm. When we criticize something, this is no arbitrary and impersonal event,—it is, at least very often, evidence of vital energies in us that are growing and shedding a skin. We negate and must negate because something in us wants to live and affirm, something that we perhaps do not know or see as yet!—This is said in favor of criticism.” Nietzsche, “The Gay Science”

FINALLY—

“No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity. Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.” Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism”

(jk)

Comments

Steven said…
Something tells me nobody would have had any interest in your "qualifications" or your "attitude" if you had given her concept unqualified praise. Actually, it's possible you might have become more of a "recognized authority on Tarot" by turning off your brain and turning in a good book report.

It always makes me chuckle that the New Age movement(s) supposedly come from a rebellion against the rules, dogma and superstition of "organized" government/religion, towards understanding, acceptance, and enlightened self-determination, yet so many New Age practitioners are just as intolerant, dogmatic, and hostile to differing views as any preacher.

Of course, that's arguably what Christianity was supposed to be all about too, and look at all the good it did the Christians.

Now all we need is the New Age version of the Council of Niacia so we can get some Newsades going. They can hold it at the United Nations in their little meditation room.
Owd Scrat said…
I've read almost all your blogs and have long enjoyed your website.

I am a reader of around 20 years and HAD belonged to Aecletic for a couple years. What was refreshing and VERY eye-opening to me was readng your numerous comments and views on AT.

I was one of those "types" on AT they hate so much. I was real. I could not believe the massive censorship and structured BS. It was like a Nazi forum! I have been online since '94 and have belonged to many forums.

Never in my life online had I ever seen such BS and complete fake shit. So many of my early posts were deleted or asked to be modified. And I was NOT being rude or disrespectful. They just were too real for them I suppose.

It started me wondering if maybe there was something "wrong" with me? Anyways, the real kick in the teeth was that after 2 years of posting and sharing, I was banned....for NO reason!

I sign on one night...and nothing. Solandia never responded to my inquries about what was going on. I was frankly shocked and ANGRY. What forum does that?! Most the time they would give you a warning, or even tell you WHY.

Then I found out from others how they had been banned and not told why. What the hell?

That place though, it's so fake and plastic. No real emotion is allowed or truth. They just want everyone happy with a plasterd positive smile.

Sorry this is so long, the whole banning me at AT was extremely hurtful. I felt vindicated and had an "AHA" feeling coming across your mentions of AT. LOL.

You have that forum pegged 100% perfectly. As a once long-time member, I know a few a things about that pile of crap.

Your comments about reviews are right on as well, I can't believe the ridiculous responses you've received about it!

Thank you for being a person who speaks truth.