Obscene Desserts

Life. Death. And many things in between.

History, religion, the present condition, Uncategorized

Tolerance and outsiderdom

In reading through some Christian social commentary from the 1950s and 1960s for my current project, I ran across Daniel Jenkins’s book Equality and Excellence (SCM, 1961).

It offers several interesting perspectives on post-war society, but I struck by this passage:

That modern technological society has produced great evils is undeniable; it is also undeniable that it has made possible a vast increase in education, a greater availability of the finest products of the human spirit in every area of life, the improvement of powers of criticism and discrimination for all who care to exercise them, and, because of these, the extension of true equality.

It is time that the bluff of some of society’s most gifted critics was called. The hardships and limitations under which cultivated minorities labour today are greatly exaggerated, as a way of evading more down-to-earth responsibilities. “Outsiders” have to strain very hard to dramatise themselves as “outsiders” because modern society is so flexible and superficially tolerant that it can easily find room for them inside. Indeed, if an eloquent and attractive “outsider” happens to appear at a moment when the mass media of communication are looking for something new to exploit, which means nearly always except at times of grave international crisis, he can quickly become one of society’s most pampered children. (45)

Very interesting.

Also a striking comment:

We do not only need work on the level of [F.R.] Leavis and [Denys] Thompson’s Culture and Environment in criticising advertising and the mass-media; we also need that of the brilliant American Mad magazine. (57)

This all still seems relevant.

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