I remembered how my mum used to reprimand me for making careless mistakes in my school examinations. As a child, I didn’t think of such admonitions as criticisms to my aptitude or attitude. Moments after some tears and mucus, I would simply move on and ponder over what Lego structure to build or what cartoon to watch. Such is the carefree life of a boy; sometimes I envy Peter Pan.
No matter how much I’d wished for Neverland to exist, there is no escape from the ruthless passing of time. We age, and we grow dreary as we trudge through the trials and tribulations of life. Soon enough, we will learn how to look at ourselves in the mirror and see the greatest critic of ourselves.
Most unfortunately, that mark of self-awareness comes all too late for some people, and I don’t know if it’s pity or envy that predominates when I encounter them. Instead of reflecting upon the validity and coherence of their own thoughts first, and how their opinion affects others, these people vent their human love for criticism upon the world, the system they reside, and the people around them. This leaves people hurt, and themselves regret.
Over the past few years of conscious reading, I have come across, much too often, writers of all forms dispensing their criticisms with an almost comical lack of thought. These “writings”, more often than not, come under the limelight of social media, and it ends up in a vicious cycle, when people start to write ridiculously to gain attention. I am doubtful of this conclusion, because the capacity to conjure such an idea is an insult to the human mind – an organ that we pride our species on to great extents. In the context of Singapore, as we recall recent examples of “impassioned expositions” directed at prominent individuals or political parties, the prognosis becomes increasingly negative. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise, considering how a ritual dance of Golding’s savages led to the murder of Simon. On a positive note, many are not drawn to the fire; instead they undermine such baseless criticisms with much civility.
Nevertheless, there is nothing inherently uncouth about making criticisms, but only with the right intentions. When we voice criticisms for attention or votes, we undermine our opinions. Falling back on our instincts to nurture our young, our parents criticise us because they wish for us to be better people. That should be the underlying reason behind most, if not all, of our criticisms, towards others, and self. For the self-critical, like myself, understanding this rationale makes it easier to look at ourselves in the mirrors of judgement.