Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bad Taste Leads to Crime

Bad taste leads to crime (le mauvais goût mène au crime) wrote the famous French critic Sainte-Beuve. The remark was probably intended as a mere boutade--a quip that amuses by its unexpected juxtaposition of concepts--but there is a very real sense in which bad taste does (or at least can) lead to crime. This is so because people who lack discernment about what is appropriate in given situations (i.e., who do not have good taste) might very well, in careless abandon, fail to judge good from bad not just in art and fashion, but also in moral/ethical matters. It is not difficult to see that, given power or authority, such individuals might, as Sainte-Beuve predicted, blunder heedlessly into criminal behavior. Consequently, I suspect that America's cavalier attitude toward esthetics might be at least a partial cause for our usually makeshift and frequently disastrous foreign and military policies. Please, America! Civilized, discerning people must exercise judgment and restraint; they can't just don't do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, however they want. Behavior unchecked by common sense is mere license, not liberty.

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