Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Today's Culture of Ranting

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
All over I hear (and read) people venting, ranting and whining about their sentiments, disappointments, resentments, and anxieties in life. I admit I’m at times guilty of it, too. Ranting against ranting, Michael G. Aurelio, a former philosophy teacher wrote in the Penman’s blog:

When I was a teacher (philosophy for third-year college students) I was confronted by the same problem of students going on and on about their anxieties and how the world conspires against them; their “feelings” or “emotions” (“I feel that...”); their supposed opinions which were merely appropriated as their own from newspapers and television shows; and how there was no “meaning to life,” no hope, no God.

It is on the one hand understandable for them to go through that “existentialist” phase (as appropriately depicted in the illustration of “The Scream”)—perhaps we all go through that sooner or later or in one way or another. But on the other hand, what strikes me as more “problematic,” if I may use the word, is what seemed to me an absence of reflection or thinking on their part that would naturally be expected to go with the tide of their doubts and the vicissitudes of their emotions.

I am in danger of generalizing here but I say that they do not think anymore, or better: no one thinks anymore. We no longer try to make sense of the world; we merely criticize it, expose its lacks, show its imperfections. And the one who rants the best, that is, the one who rants in the most “eloquent” (cursing) and “popular” way (to which others can relate) is thought to be the herald of our times but in reality is the oracle of doom. It is no longer fashionable today to think through the problems, reflect on the imperfections, or imagine a world other than this. After all, perhaps, that is the call of the poet, the problem of the philosopher and the cross of the Church. It’s not their “thing”; and so they (we) rant.

If I may be allowed to speak for myself, I think the problem behind this culture of ranting (and therewith all pessimism) is that while it may be successful in bringing everything down to the ground, it can never produce something or improve anything. Ranting, like evil, can only destroy; it can never build. It shouts out loud and in its shouting it is never able to listen. It pretends to speak to another whereas it is a monologue that never ends because it never begins. And if there should be any good to ranting, perhaps, it is that it can expose our vanities to ourselves and from there it may then be possible to finally begin to think, speak, and listen.

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