Have you noticed how awful everything has become? Pop music is awful, movies are awful, most TV is awful, novels are awful, the New York Review of Books is awful, the universities are awful (students, administrators, professors), politicians are really awful, comedy is awful, art is awful, academic philosophy is awful, world politics is truly awful. Whence this epidemic of awfulness? People have just become a lot more awful than they used to be. There are some isolated exceptions: Abbot Elementary, Abby Phillip, Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner.  But you have to look hard—the wall of awfulness is high and wide. When will it end? We are living in awful times.

4 replies
  1. Giulio Katis
    Giulio Katis says:

    The current state is presumably a function of the values, motivations, reference frames of the preceding decades. If one was to look at the questions and problems that have been the primary concern of philosophy, say, over the last 20-30 years, can one see a link? (I don’t mean to imply that philosophy drives broader culture; just wondering if it has reflected it, as a leading indicator of sorts.)

    • Colin McGinn
      Colin McGinn says:

      Ironically enough, one of the main culprits has been the rise of (American) academic feminism, a psychotherapeutic culture, and rampant capitalism in all sectors of life (e.g., popular music). Oh yes, and the internet as it interacts with mob psychology.

  2. Mark L
    Mark L says:

    Far too much to write about, but just some initial thoughts (assuming it’s not just us being a product of our times):

    George Lucas made star wars in 1977 – huge hit (if you like that sort of thing). Wind on 20 years and we get the special editions where he reworked the original films by adding lots of CGI. They made lots of money, but they (and the prequels they funded) were critical disasters. He had previously said that the original films were only 30% of what he actually wanted to achieve. A possible take on this would be an artistic obsession for control – fully enabled by computers to somewhat less than dazzling results – happy accidents, randomness and team ingenuity overridden by an all controlling individual vision.

    I’ve been reading biographies and watching “making of” videos lately, generally including people who were brought up in the 40s to 50s. They extol a time when one could speak to a bank manager and get a mortgage on the same day. In work or university – they were thrown into the deep end with very little experience and somehow (with very little resources) cobbled together successful projects and achieved amazing things. They weren’t micromanaged, they were left to get on with the job. You could pop into Lew Grade’s office and get a TV show off the ground – no committees, no executives interfering. Glen A Larson apparently sanctioned the TV series “The Fall Guy” because somebody came into his office with nothing more than the theme song. Harry Saltzman and Cubby Broccoli got millions from Universal to make the first Bond without any written contract – the word of the boss at Universal was enough to get the money to flow.

    Yet it is the same generation and their children who have created the modern word, where everything is corporately controlled with endless systems and procedures and using the computers they helped cobble together. We can rail at them, but today’s teenagers did not invent the iphone, the internet or the computer nor are they manipulating themselves in order to part with their own money.

    The older generations learned how to control things from the chaotic environments they were presented, but they have ended up stifling future generations imo.

    It also follows that corporate thinking only promotes like minds, only those that play the game will get on and so, in many walks of life, the wrong sort of uninspiring greasy pole climbing half-wit is successful. It is a system that is self-sustaining as more psychopaths are brought into replace the previous ones who had to resign in ignominy.


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