Sunday Curiosities: The Obscenity of Twitter Activism and the Catastrophe of Losing the Classics

Sunday Curiosities is the weekly series in which I share interesting, controversial, or thought provoking things that caught my attention from around the web. Do you have any suggested content for this series? Do you have a blog you’d like me to check out? Please email me.

It is Obscene

Renowned Ethiopian feminist author Chimamanda Adichie unleashed her fury on twitter activism in an essay titled “It is Obscene”:

There are many social-media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion, who can fluidly pontificate on Twitter about kindness but are unable to actually show kindness. People whose social media lives are case studies in emotional aridity. People for whom friendship, and its expectations of loyalty and compassion and support, no longer matter. People who claim to love literature – the messy stories of our humanity – but are also monomaniacally obsessed with whatever is the prevailing ideological orthodoxy. People who demand that you denounce your friends for flimsy reasons in order to remain a member of the chosen puritan class.

People who ask you to ‘educate’ yourself while not having actually read any books themselves, while not being able to intelligently defend their own ideological positions, because by ‘educate,’ they actually mean ‘parrot what I say, flatten all nuance, wish away complexity.’

Cornel West and Jeremy Tate on the spiritual catastrophe of removing the classics from universities

From an opinion column in the Washington Post titled, “Howard University’s removal of classics is a spiritual catastrophe“:

The removal of the classics is a sign that we, as a culture, have embraced from the youngest age utilitarian schooling at the expense of soul-forming education. To end this spiritual catastrophe, we must restore true education, mobilizing all of the intellectual and moral resources we can to create human beings of courage, vision and civic virtue.

Students must be challenged: Can they face texts from the greatest thinkers that force them to radically call into question their presuppositions? Can they come to terms with the antecedent conditions and circumstances they live in but didn’t create? Can they confront the fact that human existence is not easily divided into good and evil, but filled with complexity, nuance and ambiguity?

What are your thoughts on this week’s curiosities? Do you agree? Disagree? Please let me know in the comments. And to quote your English teacher: don’t forget to do the reading.

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2 thoughts on “Sunday Curiosities: The Obscenity of Twitter Activism and the Catastrophe of Losing the Classics

  1. The ‘related’ articles linked me to “Social Media: Where Cruelty is Easy and Kindness is Hard” from 2020, and I think that’s the core of what’s described here. The reward system is based around short-term hits instead of long-term efforts; the posts that get a lot of likes and retweets are often pithy insults or sweeping declarations. Similarly, classic literature is a lot of work, and often only yields meaning and insight after years of study and careful teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are absolutely right. Our current digital system is designed to bypass challenging work. But the problem is that we can’t get to wisdom, truth, or compassion without a fuckton of work. There is no other way.


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