Line drawing in black ink on white background of two gooseneck barnacles, one small and one big, in a garden.

The power of criticism

It is very dangerous not to critizise. In fact, lack of criticism is one of the reasons why there is so much racism, xenophobia and general hatred towards groups that are different. Here, I am talking about constructive criticism, done with the wish to improve things, not just moaning or insulting.

When I talk with someone that is terrified of criticism, whether because of their age or low self-esteem or for any other reason, I normally say they should be grateful to get criticism. It is the only way to grow. We don’t criticise just anyone. If we believe that someone or something is hopeless, it makes no sense to criticise. If we don’t care whether a situation or a person improves, it makes no sense to criticise either. 

Moreover, when we criticise someone or something, we expose ourselves to the reaction of the criticised. They can feel hurt or be angry, and we can get entangled in an unpleasant situation that ends badly. Constructive criticism requires courage and is done for love. It is always more comfortable to remain silent.

There is always going to be disagreement, and it should be welcome. If everything and everyone agreed on everything all the time there would be no evolution. Artistic creation is born out of the tension and disagreement between what is and what is thought should be. If we didn’t think that the world is missing something without what we create we wouldn’t do it. And to say that the world is missing something is to criticise the way it is.

Gentle and constructive criticism is the only way forward. When I hear somebody say about a group that they should be able to do as they wish because their beliefs are that way, normally applied to something perceived as negative, I am always left in doubt. I am not sure whether the person who says it has really understood that the freedom of one person ends where the freedom of another person begins, and that it applies to everyone. Or whether they think that the group is subhuman and has no hope. Or whether they hate that particular group, and don’t want to waste one minute on the subject. Or whether they are just cowards who don’t dare say what they think. Or whether they even think.

Not talking about subjects that bother us with honesty and without fear is what has put us in this mess of cultural and religious hatred. When one says: “I disagree”, a dialogue opens. If we don’t speak, the same old ones will win, the ones that want to divide and conquer.