Criticism–and it’s noun “critique”–is frequently understood as negative, that its only existence is to be oppositional to the dreamers and the optimists. Criticism is also seen as an enemy to progress, or the mere pessimistic expression of despondent peoples. Criticism is rarely seen in positive light. In fact, many delight in proving the critic “wrong.” This is, however, a misunderstanding of the value of criticism in our developing and advancing culture.
The goal in our discourse is not to wager whether or not the criticism was “right” or “wrong.” The value of criticism is not found in what it denounces or condemns. Criticism’s value is found in its being imaginative and prophetic in its evaluation of our possibilities.
Our advancing cultures, achieved through technology and science, are fundamentally founded in what is possible. Criticism ensures that possibilities are seen in full light, and it empowers us to choose possibilities that are most beneficial to our existence. Silencing the critic is to suppress our freedom to choose, and to choose consciously, conscientiously, and wisely. The goal of criticism is to ensure that we are fully aware of the outcomes that we intentionally desire to pursue.
We all have a responsibility to be critics, and to listen carefully to critics; of technology, government, power, cultures, theologies, ideologies, laws, systems, and even virtues. It is perhaps our greatest humanistic endeavor. It is through our criticism that we benefit humanity, establishing that we are the masters of our fate, rather than victims of unintended consequences.