Wednesday, June 15, 2005


When i started this blog i made a conscious decision to be relatively sincere, which is hard for me because sarcasm is encoded in my DNA. I've become so practiced and effortless at sarcasm in my speech that many people are unaware that i'm attempting it. But sarcasm is to humor what the National Enquirer is to literature, and ultimately it's as tiresome to produce as it is to read.

The problem with sincerity is that it requires knowledge, both of the world at large and of yourself. With sarcasm i can expound endlessly on things about which i know nothing, and i don't have to ever reveal anything precise about what i think and feel. It's trivial to accomplish, but also trivial period. It seems that quite a few bloggers, especially of the political sort, can achieve the same effect without sarcasm, but that's beside the point. Attempting to be sincere is hard. Even a minor confession or opinion must expose something about how you think and what you know. If i make a completely non-controversial statement like, say, "I really like the early music of REM", reactions might range from "Who gives a shit?" to "What a surprise! A middle-aged guy who likes inoffensive alt rock" to "Listen to Velvet Underground or Big Star or Television to hear where those guys stole all of their ideas". But the truth is, i really do like the early music of REM (from Chronic Town through Document). It might not be an opinion that is original or interesting or informed, but it's sincere. Sincerity requires that you both expose yourself to criticism and that you confront your own peculiar mind.

I still resort to sarcasm when i can't figure out how i feel about something. For example, there's been a lot of press recently about the Kansas debate over teaching evolution in schools, and about intelligent design more generally. My reaction to evolution opponents and ID proponents tends to be more visceral than it needs to be. I really want to call these people stupid, willfully ignorant, or worse (like, while making the rounds of my favorite blogs i somewhere learned the pseudo-word "fucktard"). But the reluctantly sincere part of my brain knows that most of these folks are moderately intelligent, well-intentioned people whose profound wrongness is a result of either failing to grasp a fairly difficult concept or desperately attempting to find flaws in something that is opposed to their world view. They piss me off, a lot, and to some extent it's because i grew up around similar people and i know that their opposition to the teaching of evolution is just a tiny part of a regressive agenda that would oppose anything (art, music, literature,speech,behavior) that's not of Biblical origin. Still, i don't want to simply call them idiots though that might be my sincere feeling, so i might borrow phrases such as that they are "people who understand the 10 Commandments but not the Second Law of Thermodynamics" or that "the monkeys are not so crazy about being their ancestors either". Sarcastic, still cruel maybe, but not quite so blunt.

Another problem with being sarcastic is that nobody can take what you say seriously. Of course, in the vast majority of cases nobody will take anything you have to say seriously regardless of how earnest you might be. But sarcasm announces to the world that no matter how extreme or vitriolic is the statement you want to make, you don't expect to ever have to defend it. Both Al Franken and Ann Coulter suffer from this. Though i agree with Franken most of the time and i find him to be funny, it's no easier to discern sincere from glib than it is with Coulter's yappy chihuahua act.

So, no sarcasm here. I might occasionally try to be funny, but it'll be in a completely honest and forthright manner. No really, i'm being totally serious. Really. I swear.

No comments: