By Tami Klein
Posted in books
Posted in books | 13 December 2022
Popular content in the media has lost value, because nonsense has been freed from all restraints, and is often accompanied by other serious diseases, such as distorted reality, abusiveness and even violence.
For several generations, young people have been growing up in a climate unable to distinguish between content that is trustworthy and content that is “fake.” As one young woman told me, “It’s confusing, even scary.” Loosening the reins of credibility takes on various forms according to the circumstances – from gentle blurring disguised as political correctness to blunt, violent statements.
This is not a decree of fate. We can identify ways to reverse the trend, although it is partially intentional and partially – most unfortunately – a matter of fashion (because some people don’t know that there is any other way).
People are material that can be “kneaded” wisely; therefore, reality transmitted in writing can be both a cultural contribution and redirect the detrimental spirit towards a respectful, uplifting and calming environment.
People deserve trustworthy, well-written and interesting content on varied subjects.
During a conversation with a friend who was describing her friends in Russia, who believe the content in the local media, we recalled an unusual book – first translated into Hebrew in 2001, more than 60 years after it was published.
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Kathrine Kressmann Taylor
“Address Unknown“ was the first book by American writer Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, written under her pen name Kressman Taylor. The complete version of Address Unknown was first published in Story Magazine in the US in 1938, a year before the outbreak of World War II. Only in 1959 was it published in the US as a literary work – a novella the length of a short story – written in the form of letters exchanged between the two main protagonists. The book excited readers in 1938, 1959 and 1992, when it was published in Europe. This small book is indeed genuinely exciting. Why?
How an ideology can be inculcated into a person’s spirit is neither simple nor clear. Several intellectuals have identified characteristics worthy of consideration: George Orwell, an English writer and journalist, identified the power of totalitarianism first of all in the corruption of language.
Hannah Arendt, a philosopher and writer of Jewish-German origin, who survived the Holocaust and settled in the USA, wrote about how the “banality of evil” comes into being. “The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil, except for the extraordinary activism needed to win personal promotion. The inability to speak is related to the inability to think, meaning, to think from the other’s point of view.”
“The banality of evil is now found in social media.”
Bernanos, a French writer and priest, contended, “The average man is in the clutches of evil.”
In 2021, Jean Birnbaum, the literary editor of the French newspaper Le Monde, discussed the corruption of language at length in his book Le Courage de la Nuance (yet to be translated), “The fine distinctions between words, their precision and the context in which they are expressed, and especially the danger when nuances disappear, and especially when muted.”
I will add a personal memory from a radio broadcast, in 1992, discussing the civil war in Yugoslavia. In Bosnia, conflict between the Muslim majority and the minority Orthodox-Christian Serbs led neighbors to slaughter each other. A foreign journalist interviewed an elderly man from one of the villages about the interpersonal cruelty that was manifest. Asked how he could explain these events, the man stated simply, “‘Evil’ is by its nature unsatisfied, therefore it is constantly active; conversely, the ‘good’ is satiated and inactive, with a knife between the teeth.” This popular explanation may open another perspective on human behavior.
Kressman Taylor’s Unknown Address is “the story of two friends, an American and a German, who conduct a fascinating correspondence, from which emerges the story of ideology’s poisonous effect… on the common man.”