Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Examples of social decline, especially in the UK

Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Connor » 11 Jan 2013, 19:34

Dalrymple often writes about the excessive "sentimentality" that pervades our society - most notably in Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality. However, I've noticed that this is an aspect of his work that we don't often discuss on the forum.

For me, it's one of the most important themes in his writing. I've always found stoicism and reserve to be virtuous, and the public, melodramatic display of emotion strikes me as downright offensive. Yet, I don't think I was able to even fully articulate that position until I discovered TD's essays online. For that, I will always be grateful to him.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to start a thread where people can post real-life examples of "toxic sentimentality."

These examples can come from anywhere in your life: some feel-good news story that you read today, some trite expression you overheard on the bus, some sappy scene you watched on television...I'll let you come up with your own inspirations.

I'll begin with my own example:

The lobby to my office building has a monitor on the wall that displays a "Quote of the Day" each morning. Well, here was today's quote, courtesy of the poet Maya Angelou:

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.


Reading this made me wince, although I guess I expect this sort of thing from Maya Angelou. But really - what purpose was this quote supposed to serve? Was it meant to inspire me? I assure you, it had quite the opposite effect. Who would want to live in a world where everyone forgets what you did and what you said? That sounds like a living Hell, actually. I can only imagine the horror of living in a society populated solely by emotional wrecks, interested only in how things make them "feel."

That's enough venting for now. I'll allow others to post their own examples. Happy hunting.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Heather » 11 Jan 2013, 20:02

I wish I had a link for this, but I read a couple of weeks ago that the city of Newtown had to publicly request that people stop donating teddy bears, flowers, and paper hearts and snowflakes. The city was simply overwhelmed by the items they were receiving and couldn't do anything with all of them. I understand that people feel helpless in cases like this and want to make a show of support and solidarity, but sending thousands of teddy bears isn't quite as useful as, say, donating blood to the Red Cross.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Andreas » 11 Jan 2013, 23:55

After reading Spoilt Rotten, one’s gaze becomes Dalrymplean and one begins to see examples of toxic sentimentality and theatrical victimhood wherever one looks!

One irksome example is at UC Berkeley. As you walk onto campus, you are greeted by a series of banners with photographs of current or recent Berkeley students, most sporting trite or inane statements.

http://www.zombietime.com/zomblog/?p=37

http://www.fredascott.com/#s=0&mi=2&pt= ... 3&a=7&at=0

(The photographer is Christopher Irion, the series is called the “Thanks to Berkeley” project).

“I’m exploring the world, diversity, and myself.”

“Berkeley allows me to learn about others’ cultures and become an open-minded thinker.”

“I learned that re-imagining the world begins with re-imagining yourself.”

“I discovered that we are all connected.”

“At Berkeley, I can LIVE what I STUDY.”

“Mind-expanding, fun, entertaining, and never a dull moment.”

“You can NEVER be bored at Berkeley.”


The fact that universities must advertise themselves with slick campaigns is bad enough, but is this really the image that a major American university wants to project to the world at large?

Are these witless comments supposed to be inspiring? What attitude is the university promoting here? Self-absorbed, shallow narcissism, the idea that college should be “fun” and “entertaining” and fill us with a self-indulgent warm glow. The university should make us feel good about ourselves. There are almost no statements on any of these banners having anything to do with learning, studying, working hard, or even participating in music or athletics while at the university.

This advertising campaign is a sure sign of the decline of American academia.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Elliott » 12 Jan 2013, 01:01

Andreas wrote:“I’m exploring the world, diversity, and myself.”

Ironically, this is perhaps the least objectionable of the lot! I would say only that "exploring the world, diversity, and myself" sounds like something you would do on a self-help course for people who have been emotionally devastated by some trauma. It doesn't sound like education, rigorous or otherwise.

“Berkeley allows me to learn about others’ cultures and become an open-minded thinker.”

I think we all know what this really means. It teaches you to freeze in front of other's cultures like a rabbit in the headlights, and to despise your own culture.

“I learned that re-imagining the world begins with re-imagining yourself.”

That is the kind of drivel I used to come up with when I was 15. What does "re-imagining yourself" actually mean? Drawing up a blueprint? I don't believe anyone ever really does that. These are just fluffy words.

“I discovered that we are all connected.”
We're all connected. We're all disconnected. Take your pick. It's a statement with no responsibilities, no provisos. You can never prove or disprove it. What does being "connected" even mean, really?

“At Berkeley, I can LIVE what I STUDY.”

Again, it's just meaningless. But, it is interesting that Berkeley sees itself as a general lifestyle provider, as opposed to an education provider. It's not enough just to educate someone; you actually have to provide them with a funfair of cultural distractions.

“Mind-expanding, fun, entertaining, and never a dull moment.”

“You can NEVER be bored at Berkeley.”

Well that's good, because education in your chosen field does tend to be boring, doesn't it.

All in all, I would surmise that this is the kind of place that Islam will just bulldoze over. We have made ourselves so airy-fairy, pliant and culturally non-committal that anyone who believed in their culture could just walk all over us. Talk about decadence! Berkeley sounds like a creche for children who have the inconvenient burden of hormones.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Elliott » 12 Jan 2013, 20:03

This is an example which some might find offensive. You might think it is not an example of toxic sentimentality. It really depends on whether you think the tears are there and genuine, or, as I believe they are, non-existent.



Actually, just about every single time I see Obama speaking, it is another example of toxic sentimentality. He seems incapable of ever speaking logically or plainly; he constantly uses emotion and mawkish sentiment to "make" a point.

But this example is certainly the worst. I could go through and count the number of times he supposedly wipes away tears, but let's just say he does it a lot. Other people pointed out that tears come from the inside edge of the eye, not the outside. What's more, the way Obama does it is very theatrical and exaggerated. It's almost as if he is daring gun enthusiasts to claim he is faking it. Well, I'm not a gun enthusiast but I do think he's faking it, and I think that to use the deaths of children to advance a long-cherished political agenda is absolutely disgusting.

Even if he was not intending to capitalise on this politically, his performance here is still an example of the way that politics nowadays has to be personal, emotional, touchy-feely and feminised. This is not a man I would want leading an army. In fact I doubt he could lead a group of cardboard boxes unless he could make them feel guilty about not being black.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Mike W » 13 Jan 2013, 08:17

One especially offensive example occurred about 15 years ago. A child finds a wallet on the sidewalk, and returns it to the owner, who thanks the child. The child's teachers, believing the child to have been wrongly denied a cash reward, take up a collection for him.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Mike W » 13 Jan 2013, 09:10

Connor,

Great topic from a great book, but I would point out one thing. Maya Angelou's squishy prose is what defines her, but that sentence is a truism in modern politics (one reason things are as bad as they are). Bill Clinton was a successful politician because of how he made people feel. I've heard accounts about people who met him. He would take their hand, smile, and touch their forearm in a way that made it hard not to like the rotten SOB. Similarly, Obama's success is due largely to white liberals and moderates getting a "warm fuzzy" over electing the first black president. It's the feeling that counts, not the reality.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Connor » 16 Jan 2013, 03:58

Mike W: Yes, that's another interpretation of the quote that I considered. One could almost interpret it in a Machiavellian sense and apply it to modern politics.

Your example of Bill Clinton is fitting, for his entire political career was both Machiavellian and gushingly sentimental. After all, what was his phrase "I feel your pain" but the ultimate battle cry for Toxic Sentimentality?
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Andreas » 17 Jan 2013, 22:57

Another textbook example of toxic sentimentality:

http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/ ... e-18231244

I haven't watched this and don't intend to, but merely seeing this situation makes me wonder which one of these two, Armstrong or Winfrey, is the parasite and which one the host?

In a more sensible time and place, someone who had lied, cheated, been exposed, and brought dishonor on himself like Lance Armstrong would quietly disappear and not try to show his face in public.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Andreas » 05 Apr 2013, 17:26

A travelogue with Joanna Lumley was shown on television here (U.S.) last night, Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey. It was beautifully filmed and enjoyable if a bit shallow.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/ ... ek-odyssey

Lumley visits sites and cities I hope to see some day, the Parthenon, Epidaurus, Olympia, and Delphi.

In Epidaurus Lumley stands at the top of the remarkable amphitheater and listens to Nana Mouskouri, standing far below in the stage area, singing. Lumley tears up at the beauty of the place. Her reaction seems contrived and overdone.

In one town she speaks with a Greek man in his 90s who experienced forced migration from Turkey as a young child, when the current borders of Greece and Turkey were drawn in the early 1920s. The man tells his story, including the fact that the Turks murdered his father. Certainly a sad story, and any ordinary person would of course feel sympathy for him. What is annoying, though, is that for long moments the camera focuses on Lumley tearing up and wiping her eyes. As though the point were not to inform viewers about this sad episode in Greek/Turkish relations, but to show what a compassionate person Joanna Lumley is.

Would a British actress of yesteryear have behaved the same way in those situations? I doubt it. I imagined Joan Hickson, who played Miss Marple in the 1980s, in the same setting. No doubt Joan Hickson would have had as much appreciation for the beauty of Epidaurus and for the tragedy of the man's story as Lumley does, but she would have responded tactfully to the situation and not tried to draw attention to herself by crying.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Elliott » 05 Apr 2013, 18:28

I agree. It's a shame because I otherwise quite like Joanna Lumley. She seems sensible in other ways.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Caleb » 06 Apr 2013, 00:44

The trouble is that that's what the viewers -- not us, but a lot of people -- want or even expect. Someone who reacted with stoicism would be regarded with great suspicion or openly derided.
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Gavin » 06 Apr 2013, 01:04

I haven't done my research on this one so am just posting "blind" but I assumed J Lumley was a committed liberal. Thespian, starring in Ab Fab, the crusade over the Gurkas etc. The classic case of perfect RP diction, a person you would hope would be a conservative but is actually a guilt-ridden raging liberal? Hopefully not! :)
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Gavin » 24 Mar 2014, 09:12

A British teenager and her boyfriend apparently commit suicide after murdering an American police officer. Friend writes:

"So horrible knowing a very close friend from primary Alex Hollinghurst sadly got taken from us in such horrific circumstances. RIP lovely xx.”
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Re: Examples of "Toxic Sentimentality"

Postby Grant » 24 Mar 2014, 10:57

I don't know if this has been mentioned as an example of sentimentality but one example of collective slop is the mission statement. If employees need constant reminding of what they're trying to achieve should they be there? Most of the "statements" are trite and/or meaningless, cobbled together by PR firms big on style and lacking in substance. Corporate direction is communicated by actions not words. Leadership is ensuring the little things count as much as the big ones. This is achieved by special people who bring out the best in people, recognize talent and share the acclaim when it comes.
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