A Shocking Lack Of Self-Awareness

Why is self-awareness so hard to attain in our present world?  To be sure, it is not only a problem in our times.  Nearly two thousand years ago it was said:  “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”  And yet many of us live without any such awareness that in our effort to ferret out the specks in the eyes of others that there are in fact beams and planks in our own eyes that others can clearly see but that we choose not to see.

At least from my own observation, it has become very evident that to the extent that one is focused on getting rid of the specks in the eyes of others, one will become largely blind to one’s own, and to the extent that one has spent a great deal of time examining the beams and planks in one’s own eyes that one will greatly mourn the barriers to sound wisdom and judgment that are so present without a great feeling of superiority about one’s own efforts at self-improvement.  All too often it appears that people minimize their own flaws out of a belief that those shortcomings and weaknesses would ruin one’s ability to proclaim oneself as a suitable person to point out others’ problems, instead of using the open admission of their struggles as a way of building empathy with others who can relate and who would also feel less necessity in hiding reality about them out of fear of judgment.

This lack of self-awareness is particularly irritating when one is dealing with people whose lack of self-awareness leads to gross hypocrisy.  I find this problem to be particularly problematic when it comes to the community of people who try to make a living reviewing music.  One would think that a community of people who try to monetize their videos and are always shilling various products like thin wallets or trying to encourage people to sign up for patreon would be somewhat favorable towards career-minded musicians.  After all, they are seeking careers as critics and frequently complain about copyright strikes and other ways that their income as critics is hindered by overly aggressive claims of others.  But not, by and large, this community of people, despite being career-minded and continually acting in ways to pander to a community in order to get more views and thus more money, is really hostile towards music that is judged as being commercial in nature.  It is almost as if to be a hipster critic is to be a hypocrite by definition because one cannot empathize with those who are trying to make a good living through content that appeals to others.

It is interesting to see what music draws the ire of these people.  Since it is the season for year-end chart reviews, it is interesting to see songs that draw the ire of many critics for the same kind of reasons.  And I must admit that the songs that are criticized for reasons of being overly commercial are songs I don’t happen to mind at all, although that is helped by the fact that I watch so little television that these songs do not appear as commercials and thus do not bother me.  Three examples from this year’s charts, two of which appeared on the 2019 Billboard Year End chart [1] and the other of which will almost certainly appear on the 2020 one, should suffice.  “The Git Up,” by Blanco Brown was clearly a label-endorsed cash grab made in the follow up of the massive success of “Old Town Road,” and the fact that it was transparently so is not something that bothers me.  The same is true with the obvious commercial indie pop of “Trampoline” by Shaed, which I enjoyed even if it had a lot of cliched elements.  Even such a tired song as Maroon 5’s “Memories,” with its super basic use of Canon In D, is something that I can listen to without being annoyed by even if it is terribly unoriginal.  When I am listening to music in the car in between audiobooks, I have little problem with cozy and familiar and not particularly original tunes that are pleasant to listen to, even if they borrow lyrical and musical elements from other songs.

Yet this does bother people who themselves are engaged in similarly unoriginal endeavors of trying to make a living as online personalities who critique music.  This puzzles me.  Again, I do not approach my writing about music with a great many commercial ambitions, but I can certainly understand that my own creative and critical endeavors may in fact reach such a point where it comes worthwhile to seek some sort of commercial value for the writing work that I do.  I view artists who seek a great deal of commercial success for their music as being on the same level as critics who desire to make a living through their critiques, and see those careerist ambitions on the part of a would-be critic as making it impossible to avoid mocking the careerist ambitions of artists without being a hypocrite.  I find it difficult to understand why this is so hard for other people to recognize.  People who struggle to make a living out of their talents, whether those talents are in the performance of art or in the critiquing of art, should be natural allies in recognizing how much of a challenge it is to make a living in such a fashion and in encouraging others in how to make a living as honorably as possible.  Is it so bad to be in commercials?  I don’t happen to like watching commercials very much, but I don’t see a problem with people making money that way.  And if one makes a song knowing that it is the sort to be turned into a commercial by Apple, why not rejoice in that fact, as Apple has brought a lot of quirky indie pop to my attention that I would likely not know as well otherwise.  Is such criticism based on hypocrisy or envy?

[1] See, for example:



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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