“Smoke where you want, drink what you want, whenever you want. Get the age of consent down. Legalize drugs. Kill all the people who like grunge music. Kill all surfboarders. Melt the snow. Anybody who wears a cowboy hat should get the electric chair”
Noel Gallagher, in top form (via “Oasis 20 years on: the two brothers at the birth of lad culture”)
Few things transport me back to my youth as swiftly and as pleasingly as the Gallagher brothers. Any mid-’90s time capsule would be incomplete without mention of their incomparable personalities and their blowhard antics. They owned that moment. Give me “Cigarettes and Alcohol” or give me death.
The reigning style of music criticism today is called “poptimism,” or “popism,” and it comes complete with a series of trap doors through which the unsuspecting skeptic may tumble. Prefer Queens of the Stone Age to Rihanna? Perhaps you are a “rockist,” still salivating over your old Led Zeppelin records and insisting that no musical performer not equipped with a serious case of self-seriousness and, probably, a guitar, bass and drums is worthy of consideration. Find Lady Gaga’s bargain basement David Bowie routine a snooze? You, my friend, are fatally out of touch with the mainstream, with the pop idols of the present. You are, in short, an old person. Contemporary music criticism is a minefield rife with nasty, ad hominem attacks, and the most popular target, in recent years, has been those professing inadequate fealty to pop.
Poptimism now not only demands devotion to pop idols; it has instigated an increasingly shrill shouting match with those who might not be equally enamored of pop music. Disliking Taylor Swift or Beyoncé is not just to proffer a musical opinion, but to reveal potential proof of bias. Hardly a week goes by in music-critic land without such accusations flying to and fro. In one particularly ugly contretemps a few years back, led by prominent critics, the indie hero Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields was accused of being a racist for expressing his appreciation for the song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” from the (actually racist) Disney musical “Song of the South,” and his general dislike of hip-hop.”
- Saul Austerlitz, “The Pernicious Rise of Poptimism”
I appreciate the spirt of Austerlitz’s critique. When a quasi-ideology like poptimism becomes entrenched among the culture’s leading tastemakers, pushback is natural and often salutary. But is the portrait of contemporary music criticism that Austerlitz paints actually rooted in reality? Does there really exist such sweeping antipathy toward anything that a rockist might embrace or call his/her own? I detect more than a few strawmen here. Just look at the coverage on high-traffic sites like Pitchfork, Stereogum, The A.V. Club, CoS, Paste, Tiny Mix Tapes, and others. These aren’t outlets that actively shun guitar-rock or spotlight Rihanna over QotSA in knee-jerk fashion or swoon over all things Taylor Swift or avoid “knottier music that might require some effort to appreciate” (which encompasses wide swaths of indie rock). Not even close, in fact. It seems that Austerlitz installed some of poptimism’s more belligerent voices and lesser moments as a proxy for the movement as a whole and raised the pitch of his rhetoric accordingly. The outcome: an argument that’s well intentioned but too broad and too defensive. Again, I just don’t think the climate is as heated and punitive as Austerlitz imagines. Oh, and I’m sorry, the music/film/literature comparison holds no water. What goes into each and what each aims for and the experience of each are all completely different. Thus, separate rules of criticism apply.
(Source: The New York Times)
But we should also recognize that the kind of moral calculus about killing that just war theory recommends and exemplifies — especially when it comes to the decision to initiate military action (ius ad bellum) — has no plausible connection to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Christ taught us to love our neighbors — and nowhere does he indicate or imply, as Biggar (following Augustine) claims, that it’s possible to express that love in the act of killing them. Christ also taught us to turn the other cheek, to forgive our enemies for their transgressions against us, and to refrain from responding to an attack by taking a perfectly proportional “eye for an eye.”
And then there’s Christ’s willing acceptance of conviction, torture, crucifixion, and death — a chilling indictment of the horrible deficiencies of the worldly order of things and the injustice that so often prevails within it.”
- Damon Linker, "Why Christianity demands pacifism"By and large, I think Linker’s right. Only by twisting and mangling Christ’s teachings beyond recognition could you arrive at a Christological rationale for war. As a general rule, the Son of God and statecraft do not belong in the same conversation. The disconnect couldn’t be more stark: one operates through self-sacrificial love, and the other through coercion. One is a Lamb, the other a lion. One is the Cross, the other a sword. But, for a Christian, does it then follow that all armed hostilities must be viewed as illegitimate and immoral? I couldn’t make that jump with much confidence, and I’d cite the Romans 13 defense. Paul writes that governments exist for a reason: to maintain law and order (“for he does not bear the sword in vain”). It’s a necessary function in this broken world of ours. However, returning to the original point, that doesn’t mean it’s holy. That doesn’t mean it’s Christ-like. A vexing and tangled subject.