Sentimentality creates the CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] farm – the sentimentality that says we are too weak to bear the pain of knowing animals and watching them die. This is what turns our food into Styrofoam packages and allows CAFO agriculture, where animals are carefully hidden from our view, and the relationship of our purchases carefully concealed. Sentimentality allows us to care about the extinction of the preferred charismatic mega-fauna of our choice [...] but that we see no connection between our purchases, our acts and the habitat destruction of the animals in question. Sentimentality enables us to care about the child Pakistani-flood victim on nightly TV enough to send some money – but not enough to try and reduce the number of climate-related natural disasters by giving up some of our privileges. Sentimentality enables the patriotic fervour that allows us to not know how many Iraqi or Afghani civilians die in the interest of our national "greater goods." Sentimentality is the emotion that emerges from the condition of not knowing – and it is what you have left in a society that conceals at every level real knowledge. It too is both cause and effect – it permits great evil, and it facilitates lack of knowledge of the real.
Sentiment – love, anger, attachment, affection – real emotions – these derive from knowledge, and they can't be faked. And when you know things, the choices you make get more complex. The realities you live in get harder and greyer. Sometimes love means you have to kill something. Sometimes one love means that another loved thing get sacrificed. Sometimes you have to go against your feelings. But the only way that never happens is when you substitute sentimentality for real feeling.
We live in a world where sentimentality poses as real emotion, where we are often actively discouraged from understanding consequences, from developing real love for people and things, and from paying attention. It is easy to miss the distinction between the two entirely – because we have blurred so many things together.
[Sharon Astyk at Casaubon's Book Weblog]