Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Criticism

Rereading Real Presences, George Steiner's probing essay into the metaphysical underpinning of aesthetic expression, reminded me why I'm doing this blog.

"All serious art, music and literature," Steiner wrote in 1989, "is a critical act." It is critical because it makes a statement that runs counter to the usual way of the world. Art offers a critique of life; "it says that things might be (have been, shall be) different."

So true! American incarceration rates have not always been so stratospherically high. They will probably not be so high in the future. They certainly do not have to be so high. They should be lower because, as Senator Jim Webb says, we are not such an evil people that we need to keep over two million of our fellow citizens in jail or prison at a given time.

If, then, incarceration rates should be lower, what should they be? And how do we get from here to there? To my mind, the answer that could be taken from the title of an old REM song - Can't Get There From Here - simply will not do.

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