Evolving Criticism: Changing the Trend from “Screw You” to “How Can I Help?”
Counteract the trend of criticism without insight
The trend is criticism without insight. Deconstruction without reconstruction. Tearing down without building up. Ranting without proposing an alternative. Criticism can be healthy—it is what I am doing right now—because it often is offering a much needed alternative perspective. Many of the videos criticizing the government, for example, represent minority views. But without proposing a solution, it only breeds cynicism and unhappiness.
The solution I propose, to follow my own advice, is that whenever you criticize some societal problem, system, culture, or institution, propose an alternative and suggest a path to get there. The alternative and the path can be wacky and weird; it is only the first step. Hopefully those that criticize it will propose their own alternative to your alternative and eventually we can hammer out a decent solution, wiki-style.
What I suggest is nothing short of crowd-sourced societal problem solving, every time we communicate something that we dislike around us. It would be wonderful to have a wiki or some other system to cull the best solutions to the problems we complain about—environmental problems, corruption in congress, the best women’s health policies; an infrastructure that can better represent the complexity these issues and the diversity of stakeholder groups affected by them—but in the interim we start with ourselves and the groups in which we participate.
We forge the path by remembering to propose some sort of solution, with humility and a willingness for it to be improved, every single time we criticize something. We offer some meager attempt at reconstructing for each deconstruction we levy against others or ourselves. This is a form of taking responsibility, of empowerment, of saying I am willing to go further than the average person who sees a problem and throw in my two cents on how to make things better.
We cannot simply do this in our own conversations if we expect change to take place. Like explorers hacking a path through the jungle, I propose we wield machetes of compassion and hack through the cynicism of pure critique and deconstruction.
It will be difficult sometimes, but it will be so rewarding. I commit to stand up against the absurdity of pure finger pointing when I see it in myself and others, demanding to know what the criticizer might do instead—not to shame them, but to coax out the wisdom I know they possess. For they must feel some sort of passion to bother bringing up the critique in the first place.
This passion is what I want to know! This passion is what will improve the world and the well being of the humans living in it. This is the passion that will take some frustrated complaint and turn it into a beneficial action.
Every day’s Hap: find the passion behind blame, transform the condemnation in yourself and others into a tangible way to improve your well-being and that of those around you.