Criticism often says more about the critic than the person or idea being criticised
Every now and again it doesn’t do any harm to examine the reasons for what one does, in other words being self-critical. This then caused me to think of criticism in the round, and one of its attributes is that it is judgemental. I therefore wondered if I had a right to be judgemental about politics, about politicians and their reasons for the way they conduct themselves. I’m not really a political animal, and I’m certainly no politician, but I generally preface my comments with a get out clause, like, ‘it is my belief’, or other phrases to provide a context within which I write. When I listen to political speeches, or read the utterances of politicians, I wonder whether some of them are as self critical as they should be. For example this business of leaking purely to find out how acceptable future legislation is likely to be, can be a search for criticism, and thereby to legislate in such a way as to avoid criticism while achieving the same objective, – or, of course, abandoning the project altogether.
I’m sure at some point you have met a ‘know-all’, someone who is so assured of their own tastes, their own knowledge and their own position, they will correct someone’s statement, almost as a knee-jerk reaction, whether justified or not, and character assignation has become second nature. Most of the time, and especially in the matter of taste, the critic is making a personal statement, not just a criticism. The strange thing is that the criticism doesn’t have to be spoken, it can be done purely with the eyes raised to the heavens, with an oblique tilt of the head, or the raise of a hand like a defence. Done a few times it is amusing, on a regular basis it becomes a bore, and depending upon the person subjected to it, it can be quite damaging.
When I was 17, working for an august Company in Westminster, I was allowed to dictate my own letters. Fifteen years later, having run large contracts, including running an amateur in-office newspaper, I entered local government at which point I was put under the control of somebody only one step ahead of me in authority. In that job I had to write letters, but I had to get them approved by this other person, who made a point of invariably changing some part of the syntax, rather than the contents. I suppose this is a form of criticism, but really I think the man had a need to justify his position, which in turn showed a lack of self-confidence. As criticism, according to the thesaurus, can be interpretation, what I have written here in this paragraph is interpretation, and could be totally wrong, my letters might have needed the syntax changed, perhaps, I was too big headed.
In all of my career, apart from my first month in the navy, I think that the elementary school I went to in London, held a few teachers who were more speciously critical than anyone else I came across, and demonstrated it on the seat of my pants, or palms of my hands. As an adult I believe they were bored, frustrated and disappointed with life, and we were handy. In the Navy, in those first days, the old retirees who had been brought back to fill the ranks were reliving the treatment they had had metered out to them in the late 20s, ‘when men were really men’.. They simply couldn’t be pleased. It was unbridled criticism taken to its vicious limit – it wasn’t pure chance two men were in jail for trying to stab the same Chief Petty Officer, on different occasions.
All the same, it’s really quite amusing to sit with a pint in a pub, and criticise to your heart’s content about everything.