50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
tough on sentimentality, tough on the causes of sentimentality,
This review is from: Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality (Hardcover)
This is an excellent book on a very important subject. Most people are unaware of the all-pervasive nature of sentimentality in the modern world -- because it is so all-pervasive. It is also insidious and dangerous and allied to many kinds of evil, as Dalrymple demonstrates.
It is difficult to define sentimentality. One could say it is insistence that one's feelings must be beautiful, and that this matters above all else. So, compassion for a large number of people one knows nothing about -- 'the poor' , say-- is very beautiful, and gives one a warm glow of self-satisfaction. The fact that these feelings have no use for 'the poor', and are indeed only of use for making me feel good about myself, is irrelevant to the sentimentalist. It is not the truth of his thoughts that matter, but the beauty of his feelings. Sentimentalists tend to be utterly ruthless and unscrupulous. They are as dishonest and manipulative with others as they are with their own all-important feelings.
That is only a starting point, of course. There is so much to say on the subject.
One very interesting question, which I wish Dalrymple had said more about, is the historical context. Is there much more sentimentality than there was, say, in Shakespeare's time (an author entirely untinged with sentimentality) and if so why? One reason is the decline in Christianity. Dalrymple is not a believer but the doctrine of Original Sin certainly kept one is a state of healthy distrust of one's feelings, although of course that could turn into unhealthy self-flagellation. Second, the rise of the mass media, and films and pop videos which convey ultra-simple emotional instant gratificaton. Third, the rise of overall wealth and comfort certainly has something to do with it.
Certainly, in my travels to third world countries, I did not spot huge levels of sentimentality amongst poor and religious people.
Dalrymple's savage treatment of modern Britain will make many people -- myself included -- ashamed to belong to such a degraded country. Let us only hope the tendency towards emotional honesty and integrity that he represents regains some ground.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Feb 2011 13:26:10 GMT
Bodhi Heeren says:
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Aug 2011 22:15:20 BDT
Isaac E. Schwoch says:
Do you have anything constructive to say or are you just ranting? Do you have any specific criticisms of the book, or of the original review? Or did this book offend your emotions, causing you to lash out in an emotional rant containing no facts or logic (thus proving the entire point of the book)?
Posted on 17 Mar 2012 22:15:29 GMT
I can't remember where I heard that the English were once the "cry babies" of Europe - with men much more emotional before the idea of the stiff upper lip came in (whenever that was!)
As you say it is hard to define sentimentality - and this makes me doubt the author's claims a little.
Anyway I will post a review when I've finished the book
Posted on 5 Jan 2014 21:12:42 GMT
This review draws together ideas from the book that have all sorts of links and I find it really interesting when people relate sentimentalism to evil. I remember a friend who is a Canon in the Church speaking disparagingly of sentimentalism and taking a while to work out why. In the Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis, (very funny/pointed/clever) a senior devil gives advice to a junior. He advises the junior to encourage his 'mark' to give to people in far flung places rather than to 'love his neighbour'. Not that it's bad to give to people in need in developing countries (that's another question). but it detracts from the challenge of real relationships people have in communities and contributes to the delusion (get that Dawkers! - sorry to rant) that we can occupy a bubble where we have control over our relationships with others. Sentimentalism distances us from our true reactions and thoughts and I see it everywhere; at work (in the NHS), in friendships (especially amongst women) and in 'parenting'. As the reviews say, people are coerced and manipulated by it. Real reactions pale into comparison beside larger than life sentimentalism making it difficult for normal people to be seen and heard.
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