Any thinking American has surely observed that our culture and society are growing more and more immature, childish and unthinking with each passing year. In previous articles I’ve noted this immaturity, as well as the tendency (neither coincidental, nor accidental) to make Americans more and more dependent upon the government for even the most basic needs of life.
There are several interrelated cultural and political agendas at work which have systematically worked to create this state of affairs among the American people—and these are largely the work of social and political “progressivism,” the handiwork of the Left. Let’s face it—it is to the benefit of left-wingers to cause as many people as they possibly can to be dumb, distracted, and therefore destitute of the ability to think for themselves or to successfully reason their way into informed opinions about complex social and economic issues.
One of the major ways in which the Left dumbs down the American population is through the public education system. I’ve observed previously that the Left is not genuinely interested in our children receiving a thorough and useful education, no matter how much they may squawk about “funding” and whatnot. For the Left, publik skoolz are merely a means by which to propagandize children to a leftist worldview while simultaneously rendering them unable to question the unreality they have been taught. The Left has absolutely no desire for children to grow up into college students, and then into full-fledged adults, who can think for themselves, using logic and reason to assess what they see and hear and to come to their own conclusions.
This is why I was interested to see Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s recent article in Forbesmagazine about the need to put the liberal arts back into the center of American educational curricula. By this, he means the restoration of the great books of Western civilization, the accumulated wisdom in the sciences and humanities that our culture has built, and the ideological underpinnings upon which Western notions of freedom, liberty, citizenship, responsibility, and the rule of law are based. In other words, all of the things that the cultural Marxists have spent the last five decades systematically expunging from the American educational system, from top to bottom. Things like Cicero, de Tocqueville, the Federalist papers, Shakespeare, Herodotus, Montesquieu, the Founding Fathers, and so much more that I could not possibly list in full. No—these have been purged, replaced by Heather Has Two Mommies and Why Are the Ice Caps Melting?: The Dangers of Global Warming. Liberals want young people (who will then grow up to be old people) who are in the dark about the whats, hows, and whys of our cultural underpinnings and what they all mean for liberty and freedom. This explains why liberals are so irate about the proposal in South Carolina to require teaching the Constitution at certain public universities.
WHAT CONSTITUTES OUR ENTERTAINMENT AND MEDIA ESTABLISHMENTS IS, SHALL WE SAY, LESS THAN CEREBRAL
However, I don’t believe we can place the blame solely on the education system. It surely has not escaped the attention of intelligent Americans that most of what constitutes our entertainment and media establishments is, shall we say, less than cerebral. In fact, much of what is on television, in the movies, and on the radio waves is downright stupid and distracting. It is literally distracting. The content of these media, as well as the advertising regimen by which television viewers are presented with five minutes of show, then three minutes of ads, then another five minutes of show, then another three minutes of ads…it is all designed to train people toward short attention spans that are easily distracted by shiny baubles and other mindlessness. A person who has their brain trained by modern television programming is going to be someone who will not have the patience to sit down with a book and read it. They’ll literally be uneducable beyond simple repetition and mindless obedience.
The state of American journalism is no better. This is illustrated by Gobry’s article above, in which he addressed the attacks upon Republican nominee Dave Brat, an economics professor who overturned Eric Cantor in the recent GOP primary, and who is a genuine libertarian-minded intellectual who stands on the fundamental principles of our society and constitutional system. Brat remarked that government has “a monopoly on the use of force.” For this, he was attacked by nimrods in the news media as some kind of crazy, wacko extremist. There’s just one problem, as Gobry points out,
“What’s wrong with this picture, America, is that the concept of the state having ‘a monopoly on the [legitimate] use of force’ is a quotation from the highly reputed and important German sociologist Max Weber, and is a concept that is absolutely basic to our modern understanding of the State. Anyone who has taken polisci 101 or sociology 101 or political philosophy 101 or history of ideas 101 ought to have encountered the phrase. It is about as offensive as saying that donuts have holes…
“Here’s the thing. In the understanding of both the great Ancient philosophers and, taking after them, of the thinkers who gave us the Enlightenment and the intellectual scaffolding for our prosperous liberal-democratic society, including the Founding Fathers, democracy did not simply happen. Democracy depended on a robust citizenship, and this citizenship, in turn, was a struggle of all the men (and, now, women) of the polity; it conferred rights as well as responsibilities. In particular, two of the most fundamental requirements of citizenship were virtue and a liberal education.” [ed. note: keep in mind that Gobry means the term “liberal” in the sense of “classical liberal,” i.e. the ideology of our Founders, and of modern-day liberty lovers.]
In other words, journalists—who are supposed to be educated, and who, if they are dealing with the political circuit, should have at least some sort of basic education in political science to go with their typewriting skills—had no clue what Brat was talking about. They didn’t recognize Weber’s (very commonly quoted) dictum; most of them probably don’t even know who Max Weber was. All they saw was what they thought was an opportunity to play the “Tea Party wacko extremist” card because somebody used the words “force” and “government” in the same sentence.
The sad part is that it probably worked with a lot of the low-information voters out there.
This shouldn’t surprise us. Most of the news that people get on a daily basis is either banal, slanted, or both. There is very little reporting that actually deals with facts and genuine analysis about the important issues of the day. As an experiment, while I was writing this article, I pulled up Yahoo News to see what constituted their rotating headlines. The majority of these stories were, quite frankly, mindless fluff: stories about America’s least favorite fast food restaurants; J-Lo finalizing her divorce; Stephen Colbert using a squirrel to make fun of Hillary Clinton; a woman who lost 160 pounds; a “Transformer’s star” who was “dazzling on the red carpet,” and so forth. Even the “real” news stories were written in such a basic, non-explicative way as to be useless to anyone who actually wanted to learn something about the subject of the article. This is the level that journalism is, and it is the level that said journalism has brought millions of our people down to.
AGE OF THE FEUILLITON
Hermann Hesse’s book, The Glass Bead Game, written in 1943, includes an interesting concept about “the Age of the Feuilliton.” This book is set in a fiction European region called Castalia, roughly 500 years from the present, but existing in a period of technological stasis such that the “feel” of the culture and society is similar to that of the mid-20th century Europe in which Hesse lived. In contrast to this stable and introspective future (exemplified by the eponymous glass bead game, a deep intellectual exercise that operated on the principle of synthesizing all human knowledge and finding parallels between disparate fields of understanding, which was restricted to highly-educated scholars, and was treated something like professional sports are today), the current age in which we now live is referred to as “the age of the feuilliton.” The term “feuilliton” refers to inserts that used to be placed in French newspapers and which carried stories about fashion, movies, gossip, celebrities, and other frivolous topics. The term is used by Hesse to describe our current age as one in which rapid change occurs (just look at the fashion world, as an example), but in which the intellectual and moral interests were shallow, degraded, and generally pointless. It denoted a society more interested in mindless entertainment than deep consideration. Our current age was looked down upon by many in that future—our shallowness and distraction were the cause of so much violence and so many wars and other disturbances.
WE FOCUS ON THE “CELEBRITY” OF MOVIE AND TV STARS, PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ATHLETES, AND DEMAGOGIC POLITICIANS
I can’t think of a better description for American popular culture today. We focus on the “celebrity” of movie and TV stars, professional sports athletes, and demagogic politicians. We have a president who epitomizes the “celebrity” mentality, having a huge following for essentially nothing more than making empty promises and being crowned as “cool” by the media. MTV, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central inform more Americans than the great books of Western civilization, and more people learn from a nincompoop like Jon Stewart than do from Aristotle, Cicero, or Jefferson. And we wonder why the whole tenor of our civilization is one of frivolity, thoughtlessness, and ignorance.
So what do we do about it? Unfortunately, there’s not much that we can do for society at large. People who want to imbibe garbage are going to do so. Ultimately, it comes down to those of us who still care about where America is headed to refuse to participate in it ourselves. Stop going to the movies, watching the TV programs, and everything else that are tearing American intellect and culture down and turning us into mindless zombies. Start reading books, start engaging each other in conversation, let actual face-to-face talking being your primary mode of interaction with other people, instead of texting them on your smartphone. Make learning and study fashionable, if not in society at large, than at least in your own life (i.e. stop caring what the shallowness around you thinks). Learn and come to your own conclusions about things of importance instead of just letting some talking head on the tube tell you what to think. Frankly, I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me, so long as they reasoned their way to their point of disagreement. If their cause for disagreement, on the other hand, amounts to nothing more than, “Dur dur, Stephen Colbert said so,” then I have no respect for that at all.
I hate to say it, but even many conservatives need to take these steps. I have to say that the most consistent criticism I get for my writings is that they are “too long.” “Nobody will read three pages,” it is said. To this I say, “then they ought to learn to do so.” I actually had one website associated with a major conservative print newspaper tell me that they wanted me to write for their op-ed blog, but that I would have to simplify my articles down to around a 9th-grade level. This I refused to do. If we care about liberty, if we want to revive the traits of “virtue” and “good citizenship” that Gobry wrote about, if we want to have the truly informed electorate upon which a consensual form of government must rest, then we have to resist the spirit of our age with all our might. Sitting down and reading John Locke may not be as interesting or fun as vegetating in front of a television for six hours a night, but in the long run, it’ll be a whole lot better for you, for your society, and for the world you and I profess to want to preserve for the next generation.