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Culture & Religion

How Irony Corroded the American Culture

The ironic disposition of today’s youth is a response to excessive material wealth and excessive choice, argues Princeton’s Christy Wampole, arguing a better civic life is within our grasp.

What’s the Latest Development?

The popular way for today’s individual to relate to society is irony, argues Princeton’s Christy Wampole, alleging that (young) people show their concern for civic life by outwardly exhibiting their kitsch and insincere selves. The problem is that irony itself is an insincere response to the world: “As a function of fear and pre-emptive shame, ironic living bespeaks cultural numbness, resignation and defeat. If life has become merely a clutter of kitsch objects…a competition to see who can care the least (or, at minimum, a performance of such a competition), it seems we’ve made a collective misstep.”

What’s the Big Idea?

How does one begin cultivating a more sincere self? Surely humility, self-effacement and lowering the value of kitsch on our scale of values are important qualities. Wampole offers her own guidance: “Look around your living space. Do you surround yourself with things you really like or things you like only because they are absurd? Listen to your own speech. Ask yourself: Do I communicate primarily through inside jokes and pop culture references? What percentage of my speech is meaningful? How much hyperbolic language do I use? Do I feign indifference?”

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