TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

The Changing Face of Radicalism

Writing at The Inside Agenda blog, Wodek Szemberg examines contemporary radicalism through the lens of Milan Kundera’s notion of “political kitsch”:

Here is another way in which Kundera describes the essence of political kitsch: “Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!”

It’s the second tear that is at issue. It’s one of our fundamental individual rights to be moved by children running on grass, or by puppies or kittens. The problem arises when predilection for all things sweet, cute, and peaceful is turned into political action.

The key to recognizing kitsch is contained in the phrase “together with all mankind.” Dreams of order, oneness and harmony are where the danger always lies. For that reason, the sin of political kitsch is by no means limited to the Left. Nothing says political kitsch as the Acadia Tea Partiers dream about when America will have found its way back to living in accord with the inviolate perfection of the Constitution. With a few Kinkade paintings thrown in for a good measure.

Why does kitsch matter? Because it’s a gage of emotional manipulation to which one is subjected or, what is more often the case, to which we readily subject ourselves because we all like a story that ends well.

Read the full essay here.

Comments are closed.