The New Sincerity

I’m preparing the speech for a presentation I am doing in a couple of weeks, and the temptation, given the subject matter and audience, is to go in for point scoring. However, now I’m thinking I will try the sincere route instead. We shall see what happens.

A few things that I have been reading and listening to recently have got me thinking about sincerity.  Here’s Hopi Sen, talking about the Labour Party Conference, and channelling David Foster Wallace in the process:

The next real literary “rebels” in this country [USA] might well emerge as some weird bunch of anti-rebels, born oglers who dare somehow to back away from ironic watching, who have the childish gall actually to endorse and instantiate single-entendre principles. …

These anti-rebels would be outdated, of course, before they even started. Dead on the page. Too sincere. Clearly repressed. Backward, quaint, naive, anachronistic. Maybe that’ll be the point. Maybe that’s why they’ll be the next real rebels. Real rebels, as far as I can see, risk disapproval. The old postmodern insurgents risked the gasp and squeal: shock, disgust, outrage, censorship, accusations of socialism, anarchism, nihilism. Today’s risks are different. The new rebels might be artists willing to risk the yawn, the rolled eyes, the cool smile, the nudged ribs, the parody of gifted ironists, the “Oh how banal.”

Every time I read those closing lines, I think that he could just as easily be talking about modern politics, and that to succeed, to connect with people once more, politicians will have to tear away the protective masks they’ve placed on themselves … if the mask isn’t working any more, then the cause has to be worth risking the shame and embarrassment that will ensue when seen without it.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the triumph of hope over cynicism can be found in Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, too.  Matthew Baldwin writes:

Infinite Jest provides is a 13 week irony detox program, designed to reduce the cynicism in your system at a slow enough rate that you don’t go all P.T.-Kraus-on-a-subway. …

As we reach the end of Infinite Jest the question becomes: can we retain the message that DFW struggled so mightily to impart, or is a relapse inevitable?

Hopi Sen goes on to suggest that David Cameron and Tony Blair are Martin Amis type politicians, and notes the emergence of Brett Easton Ellis types.  When will we see the rise of the David Foster Wallace-type politico!?  Could such a person exist?  Who comes the closest in the modern era?

Meanwhile at the Free Word Centre, we’ve been treated to the talent of two poets-in-residence, Ray Antrobus (@theeducatedfool) and Joshua Idehen (@benincitizen).  They’ve been writing poetry in the cafe and performing it at our desks.  What was especially striking about their performances was the sincerity.  We heard poems about despressing relationships with parents; expressions of love; and brutal break-ups with lovers (Ray’s “Hit Me” is particularly challenging).

I’m preparing a speech for a presentation I am doing in a couple of weeks, and the temptation, given the subject matter and audience, is to go in for point scoring.  However, now I’m thinking I will try the sincere route instead.  We shall see what happens.

Poet Joshua Idehen gives a farewell performance of his poem "My Love" at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon.
Poet Joshua Idehen gives a farewell performance of his poem "My Love" at the Free Word Centre, Farringdon.

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