Am I a sourpuss?

12 April 2008 – My own English translation of a Dutch original

Self-knowledge

‘He finally gets it himself too’, many readers might think. But of course I have a rejoinder to that! What we have here is a distorted view. It depends a lot on the subject.

Negative and critical

On some subjects, like (largely Dutch) politics or mass media, I nearly almost write negatively. It's always the others who do it all wrong, and I always know better. But there's a simple reason: about the many good and reasonable matters, I simply don't write! Examples: in a democratic society the interaction between citizen and authorities is usually conducted in a reasonable manner; legal security is rather good; freedom of press is reasonably operative; people do not land in prison because of their opinion.

Only when I see things that are not OK, like self-censorship, shallowness and a lack of objectivity in mass media, miscarriages of justice, a government that doesn't listen to its citizens, a house of representatives that does not pick up signals from society; then I respond.

That means it is always negative and critical. But that is the consequence of my choice of topics.

Jubilant

With music, which is also a pet subject for me, it is exactly the other way round. Music I find horrible, I will simply turn off. Music that leaves me cold, but which is bearable, I often leave on, as background music while working or driving. Or after a while I may look for something else. But I don't write about it. So anything I write about music is rarely negative.
On the contrary. Music I think is fantastic, that affects me emotionally deep inside, music of which I feel it makes my whole life worth while, even if nothing good or pleasant or enjoyable is ever to be expected: that's what I like to write about.

Neutral or positive

Intermediate situations exist. I also like to write about language phenomena. My inclination to write then springs from enthusiasm, but it doesn't ring out. I write about languages I find beautiful or interesting, but then I describe things as they happen to be, how things are structured, function or came to be. The tone is fairly neutral.

Conclusion

I felt it was important and useful to point out this distorted view. And I did, so this article ends here.


Addendum 18 June 2008:
As a result of this Usenet posting by Reinier Post I add a link to this view held by Bob Sutton, entitled Strong Opinions, Weakly Held. I feel a strong affinity with that idea.


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