Negative Criticism and Our Fears; Solving 99% Problems With Words From An Avid Blogger

Since I started writing this blog, my reasons for doing so have constantly changed. I began, quite honestly, because I wanted to complain about a Taylor Swift song (I’m not joking, by the way; You Belong With Me is still my least favourite song of all time) and soon it grew into more than just a hobby. The blog became a kind of therapy; I wrote about things that bothered me, or made me smile, and it brought a sense of closure to the matters. As time continued to pass, however, I found that writing for the blog was more than just a strange method of therapy, but a way to let my opinions be voiced and, more importantly, a way for them to be presented in a reasonable manner.

It’s specifically because of this reason that I feel that negative criticism towards the blog is infinitely more important and useful than positive criticism; when someone says they disagree with the blog, or that it’s uninteresting, I find that I don’t get disheartened as much as I get ready to write. That being said, I also find that negative criticism is helpful in that it allows me to fix the way I write, to make sure that it’s more logical and that there’s a better flow, or that my opinion is more thorough and strong. To this day, when I read the Taylor Swift article I get goosebumps, not because the words I used were educated and introspective, or even because the subject matter was powerful and thought provoking, but because it amazes me to think that using all-caps in an article was once a reasonable thought in my mind.

I’m not joking when I say that my first article, even though it helped me start writing, is perhaps my weakest yet. However, when people tell me that, I don’t disagree with them and I always nod and smile because I know that I’ve learned to be a better person and writer than I once was. Oddly enough, however, not everyone takes negative criticism like I do, though that isn’t fair to say; I’ve found that to some people negative criticism isn’t a way to fix themselves, but a way to attack the critic (please, for reference on the difference between criticism and attack, read this article here) and to challenge not their opinion, but their very being.

Ever since they started, I’ve used the Occupy Protests as such an example. In case the readers of this article have been in hiding, the Occupy Movement has been a series of protests in North America and Europe by the proverbial 99%; the number of the population that has no control over the way their countries are run and, most importantly, the group of people without the money to do so. Moving forward, the 99% feels that the 1% that does have the money has acted irresponsibly (which is an understatement all to itself) and that they should be held accountable for their actions. Suffice it to say, this is a matter of accountability for responsibility and the 99% feel that’s the 1% has been responsible for most of the problems and have been held accountable for none.

Despite this clear belief, the 99% has faced severe criticism for not providing a solution to the problems they have outlined; news agencies, government officials, and even those part of the 99% who haven’t joined the protests have yet to find a clear underlying solution to the problems the protestors have agreed upon. Furthermore, different protests around the world have raised different issues and it’s become evidently clear that if the movement is to gain any true momentum, it will require fervent doctrine and leadership. I must be allowed to state that, despite the fact that the Occupy protests lack leadership and ardent organization, they are simply carrying out the universal right of freedom of speech. Interestingly enough, however, I can safely say that, if all else fails, the protestors will not feel that they have wasted their, or anyone else’s time specifically because they’ve used their voices and proven that there is a problem that is worth fixing.

That, however, is clearly not enough as merely stating a problem is incredibly easy (for example, I feel that Michael Bay should not be given funding for anymore of the travesties he calls films), but providing a solution is difficult (for example, I don’t have a solution to my Michael Bay problem. Actually, that’s not fair, but building a lunar colony for him to inhabit is both illogical and unfeasible, and while I feel that space agencies all over the world would work faster and produce better results just to make sure he can’t make anymore movies, my local representatives have all agreed that my idea is hokum and lacks reason). For a moment, however, allow me to discuss my blog once more. When I first started writing, the greatest piece of criticism I received was from a writer friend of mine. He said that my work wasn’t interesting and that, if I truly want to get better, I’d have to make sure that my readers were emotionally invested in my work. I’d like to point out that, despite my doing so, he never really told me how to make it interesting; the only advice he gave me was “Make sure that while you’re writing, you don’t fall asleep.”

Suffice it to say, after hearing from him, I did everything in my power to make my work interesting and, one day while vacationing in Vietnam, I discovered a problem (quite possibly the largest, I might add): my writing lacked organization. I would jump from topic to topic all the while claiming that my next discussion point would be the final one I’d be making. The memory is foggy, but I once managed to link the sea breeze (not the alcoholic beverage, but the actual breeze of the sea caused by rising air pressure) to Tamagotchi’s (a toy created by Bandai, a Japanese toy company, in 1996). My writing, and my blog, the two things that I cared about more than almost anything else lacked organization and doctrine (again, not unlike the Occupy Protests). To this day, I still have no idea how to make my articles interesting, and I still refer to the advice I was given because, quite frankly, it holds true to absolutely everything, especially tackling and understanding negative criticism in regards to problems and how they can be solved: make things interesting and people will listen.

So long as the topic can catch the interest of even one person, it is worth discussing. I’d like to bring up the Occupy protests once again, though I’d also like to discuss a Canadian film released in 2009, The Trotsky. The film stars Jay Baruchel as a Canadian student who believes he is the reincarnation of the Marxist leader Leon Trotsky. Hilarity aside, the film raises a stellar point about civilization by using modern public schools as an allegory; things are bad, but they don’t need to be bad. I’m not joking when I say that of all the themes the movies brings to the attention of its viewers (including romance, death, life, the state of the government in modern society, Communism vs. Capitalism, Socialism and its application in real life, the correlation and comparison of Apathy and Boredom, and even, at one time, Jewish mentality in a Christian world) the film hammers in the fact that things are bad when they don’t need to be.

The interesting point about the movie is that it raises no real solution; over the course of its 120 minute running time, the film tries to get across two main points: things are bad when they don’t need to be and we are not inactive because we are bored, but because we are apathetic to the things that happen around us. We don’t care when we need to care and when someone genuinely raises a concern, we hide behind a veil of disinterest because that person hasn’t proposed a solution to the problem they brought up. Therein lies the worst part; we don’t act because we know things are bad and everyone knows things are bad, so how do we fix things? I think that’s the thing about negative criticism: it’s not that we don’t want to hear that something’s wrong. We want to hear that something’s wrong, but that it won’t be wrong for much longer. Of course, then there’s the fact that we want the easiest possible solution, but I’ve learned (and yes, I learned this through my blog) that sometimes, there is no solution.

Sometimes, it is enough to say that the cafeteria food tastes bad, or that the principal isn’t doing a good enough job, or that the 1% of the population with the money has absolutely screwed up, or that the way the McRib is released is great for PR but bad for those who love the sandwich because when it all comes down to it, even if nothing is accomplished or proposed immediately, at least the problem has been brought to the attention of the general population. Even though we’re nowhere near reaching our expected goals for reducing Carbon emissions, at least we’ve gotten somewhere further than we were when no one knew about the problem. Even though we know jail time does nothing but increase the probability that an offender will be jailed once more, at least we’ve gotten somewhere further than we were without this information. Even though we know that protests almost always lead to no success, at least they do something.

I think (or believe, or feel, whichever makes you pleased in a literary way) that’s the thing about negative criticism; even if you don’t like it, at least one person is trying to change or fix the problem. I’m not saying that one person can make a difference; then again I am saying that all it took was a single voice to make one person grow to one million people in Egypt in early 2011. I suppose what I’m trying to say with today’s article (the main point, if you will) is that negative criticism scares us the most not when someone brings it to our attention, but when they don’t have a solution. We don’t want a problem without a solution because the possibilities scare us. Quite frankly, I refuse to stop bringing up small problems and I refuse to stop writing about the things that upset. Mainly because it’s an odd form of therapy, but because I know that even though I don’t have a solution to Taylor Swift’s lyrics, someone else does, and that someone else will invariably find a way to fix the problem, and include me in the writing process (I hope).

It sounds selfish and privileged of me to say that someone else will solve my problems for me, but the truth is that someone will always solve our problems for us. We just need to make sure that we speak up and, most importantly, stand up with them and for them.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

  1. Well it looks to me like you have improved pretty well over time. But I’m not an english teacher

  2. You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however I to find this matter to be really something that I believe I might never understand. It seems too complex and very vast for me. I’m taking a look forward in your next post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

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