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Monday, March 4
The Indiana Daily Student


COLUMN: Shocked out of life's meaning

Artist Milo Moiré protested the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, by posing naked and holding a sign that read, “Respect us! We are not fair game even when we are naked.”

She believes using art to shock an audience could attack the tender issue, reported Ivan Hewett of the Telegraph.

And she’s beating a dead, meaningless horse.

In the past, shock art, from surrealism to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” has successfully made statements about society.

But Moiré‘s nudity was superficial in approaching the complicated issue of assault. If her unconventional protest is art, then one might think art is meaningless.

This nihilism, meaning the loss of an objective meaning in accordance with rules, norms or truths, has been with us for a while.

Punk rock and metal declare there is no future. In “Pulp Fiction,” Jules’ Bible verse doesn’t mean anything. And the Joker doesn’t want money or power. He just wants to watch the world burn.

News outlets replace reality with entertainment or what makes us feel good. Advertisements rely on short-lived feelings rather than virtues and judgments.

It becomes a sentimental nihilism, wrote Kit Wilson of the magazine Standpoint.

As philosopher Cornel West put it in his book “Democracy Matters,” sentimental nihilists are “willing to sidestep or even bludgeon the truth or unpleasant and unpopular facts and stories, in order to provide an emotionally satisfying show.”

While Moiré used the emotional shock of nudity in this way, we college students are no exception.

We use safe political correctness, safe spaces and microaggressions on grounds of emotion, not reason. We coddle ourselves away from ideas we don’t like to hear through protests and activism.

Our social media uses the folly feelings as well. We like to think we can change the world with a hashtag, an online petition or anything similar.

Research has shown those who use social media are more likely to censor themselves than those who don’t. People with dissenting opinions don’t speak out due to fear they’ll be dismissed or isolated.

I don’t have an easy answer to all these issues. But we need to be more critical and reflective. We need to embrace free thought and recognize the reality of the world.

Essena O’Neill has talked about using social media to show our true selves. The blog-publishing platform Medium encourages lengthy, immersive stories, rather than short, context-less pieces of information.

Moiré‘s work was shallow, but we can create works of art and media that are more meaningful. We need to engage disagreement, not ignore it.

If we don’t, we’ll wake up in the same tomorrow like in “Groundhog Day.”

Don’t bother trying to fight the rules. There aren’t any.

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