namrekeya: Over the years, both through blogging and by sitting in classrooms, I’ve noticed this tendency to write off a scholar or writer’s work because they are in some way “problematic” or overall “not worth your time.” This piece of advice, I’m guessing, is passed around to save us the time of reading something we might not agree with, when we could be spending our time reading something “better” / more aligned with our current worldview. But this kind of thinking always leaves me with four main questions:
1. How in the world did you formulate your current convictions if not through trial and error?
2. How well-grounded are your perspectives if you cannot identify, in detail, why you disagree with something?
3. What benefit is there in branding an entire corpus (that intrigues you) “problematic” or “stupid” instead of potentially engaging with what is useful while being aware of its limitations?
4. Do you think you’re ever really done with the hard work of learning and evolving emotionally/intellectually?
I ask these questions so often because I grow increasingly disenchanted with and suspicious of a trend I’m seeing where certain people (self-chosen authorities) tell other people not to read or “bother” reading something because it doesn’t reach a certain standard of Ideological Purity™. My favorite thinkers and even friends hold an intimate understanding of everything they reject – which oftentimes requires long periods of serious and honest engagement with a subject before reaching a conclusion worth mentioning. (Marx would not have written three volumes on the mechanics of Capital – in such anatomical detail, equations included – if he did not take it seriously.)
I’ve said this before, but I’ll mention again that this is why I don’t answer questions on this blog along the lines of, “Your thoughts on ______?” Nothing worth engaging with is ever that easily digestible. And if I suggest a reading to you after you anonymously ask me for suggestions, and you come back with “I heard that it’s problematic” or “someone told me it’s not worth my time” I really don’t know how to respond. (Maybe this post is a start.)