Just Walk Away: On Cynicism and Subjectivity

I was at Tramlines music festival in Sheffield at the weekend. There was sunshine, there was music, there was booze. Lots of good times were had. One of the bands I was most looking forward to seeing was Public Service Broadcasting, who did not disappoint.

I think the band are really something special, with a unique blend of live music and retro samples. However, I can appreciate they are not for everyone. They were oddly scheduled as well, on the main stage before the headliners Catfish and the Bottlemen.

 

The band were really great, but it was marred somewhat by a group of lads near me, who constantly harped on about how much they disliked the band at the top of their voices. At one point they started booing whilst everyone else was clapping. We were a little far back in the field, but it was distracting to the point where we moved positions just to get away from them.

I found it odd that at a festival, where by definition there is a huge variety of choice, that anyone would choose to stay at something they were not enjoying. Even worse, their loud disdain was impacting on everyone else’s enjoyment.

In the past, I’ve certainly been guilty of the same sort of thing. When I was younger, I used to be a music snob and insult any music I didn’t deem worthy. With programs like The X Factor, I would watch them and make sneery, sarcastic responses on Twitter. I’ve changed my view since then and got rid of a lot of cynicism and anger. A few years back i realised that if I didn’t like something, there was no obligation to actually engage with it. It’s a simple realisation, but one many people don’t seem to heed. We often follow what is popular or what other people tell us to watch. Social pressure does not mean you have to engage in art you don’t enjoy. It’s possible to just walk away and go find things you like. Say ‘this isn’t for me’, instead of saying ‘it’s terrible’.

All art is subjective. What works for me won’t work for someone else. Similarly, someone else may really enjoy something I think is a bit cheesy or rubbish. This doesn’t mean my opinion is superior. It’s just my subjective view, which is different from others. However, we constantly fall into the trap of thinking that our opinion is the only one that matters, or is the only correct one. It’s the problem of having a single viewpoint. At the moment, this is compounded by a mood of relentless cynicism and attention grabbing. We end up in a bizarre situation where thousands of people hate watch the new Sharknado film.

There is so much amazing art out there, so many interesting books, fascinating films and wonderful music. You can engage with as much or as little of it as you want. We live in a golden age where you can find any sort of culture at the click of the button. If you aren’t enjoying something, it’s fine to walk away. It’s fine to dislike something. Maybe it’s not for you. But you shouldn’t expect everyone to share your view. I think you should also remember that some people are enjoying it. Criticism is useful if well thought out and argued well, but if your response is just ‘it’s shit’, you can ruin it for others. Go find something you enjoy instead of being cynical. Those people at the festival marred the experience for me, just as my sarcasm may have ruined The X Factor for others.

I’m certainly guilty of all of these faults, even on this blog. In future I’m going to try harder to focus on the things that bring me joy. I’m also going to try not to argue with people who have a different opinion to me. If you focus on the negatives, it can bring you down. Go focus on the positives instead.

Tangentially related reading at Junkee about people insulting popular culture.

Let me know what you think