The new Dunciad

I’ve published an analysis of the growing stupidity of Western public life at Crisis Magazine. The topic was the theme of a recent meeting of the New York meetup group.

Basically, I say the problem is the technological attitude toward human life. If thought is reduced to pure formal expertise and made a sort of industrial process it stops being thought. The more impressively it’s organized, the less like thought it becomes.

9 thoughts on “The new Dunciad

  1. Great read, well said. Jean B. Elshtain has a lot to say about this, her ideas fall in line with a diagnosis of this Westernised crisis as being one that moved from the ”secular” ‘divine right of kings in the 1400’s to the divine right of self in around the time of the enlightenment.

    • Sounds like Hegel: the orientals knew that one man (the emperor) is free, the Greeks and Romans knew that that some men are free, we moderns know that all men are free.

  2. I cannot help but wonder whether the (at least) 500 year-old leftist juggernaut cannot be traced to the evolution of politics, specifically the view that problems can be solved by dividing sovereignty. The Western Church had gotten pretty bad. Solution? Divide up the power into competing fiefdoms to curb its excesses. Monarchies, off and on, had been pretty bad. Solution? Either form representative bodies to compete with the Monarch for power, or just chop off his head. The most liberal commonwealth in the history of mankind not liberal enough for ya? Just secede and dare King George to fight a war staffed with Whigs.

    I mean the overall trend, from heirarchy to anarchy, is very nearly monotonic and asymptotically trending toward zero.

    Of course to progressives, believers in the arc of history, liberals of every sort, this trend is nothing but goodness and light. But for those brave enough to believe their lying eyes about just how bad things are getting, like for example:

    • women are less attractive/feminine;
    • men are more wimpy and immature;
    • social pathologies such as divorce, single-parenting are sky-rocketing;
    • higher education costs sky-rocket even while it buys ever less competitive advantage;
    • we’re all getting fatter (Dennis Mangan linked to this earlier… absolutely astounding);
    • we’re giving powerful stimulants to an entire generation of boys just to make them docile, with little apparent care for the long-term effects;
    • residents of newly “independent” and “free” developing countries are far worse off than under (eeevil) colonialism;
    • mass media entertainment is crasser than ever (70’s porn, for example, is positively genteel by today’s standards);
    • America is imprisoning a larger fraction of the population than any “free” western society in history;
    • assortive mating along IQ-lines coupled with inflationary monetary policy is rapidly stratifying this nation (middle class shrinking, real wages for most stagnating or in decline);
    • America hasn’t actually won a war since WWII (not that we should have been in any… but still);
    • Oh, and we have absolutely unpayable government debt (present value of unfunded federal liabilties $123 trillion, that only ends one way folks).

    Didn’t mean to go on that long, but that’s just off the top of my head… Yes, we’re getting stupider in every way EXCEPT (as far as we know) our IQ tests. And I know, I know, Mr. Progressive, murder rates are going down, yada, yada, yada… but not in proportion to technological achievements which should have long ago made it absolutely impossible to get away with any personal or property crime.

    So for those of us who believe our lying eyes about all that stuff and a million other things I forgot, this whole Politicization of Everything has worked almost perfectly wrong. Spent a bit of time reading Krugman’s blather about bitcoin over at NYT and all the idiotic (sometimes merely sophomoric) comments of all his sycophantic fans. You know? They, almost to a man, blame politicization too… except only one side of it. If Our Side, they think, could just rule unencumbered, then all our problems quickly vanish. They are only half wrong: You see they love democracy… but they hate politics. They don’t notice that that’s a bit like loving to swim but hating the water.

    You see, we can all pretty much agree that there are these problems out there. Liberals won’t really disagree with much of the above laundry list… They’ll only disagree on the prescriptions. But problems like these are inherently solvable… they have been solved, more or less, for all of human history. And since we all have this infinitesimal packet of sovereignty, we think we have a right to say just how to fix them. Consistent with the prescription: Heirarchy is to blame, tear it down and spread the power around. Politicize Everything.

    And so to a degree unimaginable to liberals of barely a century ago, we have Politicized Everything, not merely legislation, but policing (protest Stop-n-Frisk, TSA), money (Krugman, Bernanke), obesity, soda, smoking, healthcare, disequal outcomes in employment, education, arrests, and convictions. You name it, whatever problem you see: the solution, contra human reason, the visceral learned response: Politicize everything. Make a loud enough noise with your fellow lemmings and Obama might give you a shout out. Can’t you just feel the power… Spread around homeopathic doses of political power to everyone to get them to feel that they somehow are sacrementally participating in “Solutions” to all our “Problems”, which at best do nothing and usually compound them… All this while the average mid-witted Yeoman of a century or two ago could have easily seen through all the bunkum and prescribed a real solution to any number of them. Obvious stuff like: whatever you subsidize you’ll get more of.

    Meanwhile, all of the above with no end in sight. Someday the 1%-ers will ride their helicopters over the heads of the teeming masses… and I wonder will it bother them a bit… will they feel guilty for the great land they’ve destroyed.

    So it is not so much that we are, genetically, or phenotypically getting stupider… it is that our society is addicted to Politics, and tho’ we all, everyone of us, right or left, liberal or conservative, hate politics as the “Devil’s Brew”… we just cannot quit the stuff.

  3. As a Buddhist, I believe our world to be nothing but the externalization of our ignorance and sin, so it is no wonder that those who have chosen to become overly involved with worldly concerns should embrace lives of ignorance and sin. Since what good there is lies beyond this world, and since human birth is so difficult to obtain, the truly intelligent man will expend his time and energy in planning and executing his escape. To this end, I agree with Porphyry that “education does not consist in the absorption of a large amount of knowledge, but in casting off the affections of the soul.” I would say that a man who believes that good as he understands it can be found in the world if only he works hard enough, might be characterized as clever, but surely not intelligent. He has chosen to remain trapped by Marapapiyas, the Devil, held in the grip of the Devil’s servants, the passions.

    • What we call “education”, especially “higher education”, is totally divorced from that ideal. With a few tiny exceptions, it has become merely a very expensive credentialing machine. At best, a college student today can hope to get a valuable credential (any degree from a hard-to-get-into college, or a degree in a hard-to-get-out-of major) and keep his faith and his sanity. One has to work with the machines one has.

      In the main, however, higher education is not merely soul sucking, but money sucking. There are only as many valuable credentials as there are smart, hard-working people to get them. [Hint: college rarely confers any additional real-world skills.] The rest are likely not worth the paper they’re printed on, and certainly worth less than the $50k-$200k they cost, to say nothing of the potential debt burden that many of the gullible are sucked into.

      One ought to pursue “casting off of affections of the soul”, the bad ones at least–just don’t plan to do that “in college” anymore.

  4. “(…that only ends one way folks.)”

    All of a sudden we have a massive creation of (government stimulated) new wealth, and simultaneously the “workforce” rejects government subsidized … everything … opting instead for Christian self-government? 🙂

  5. Pingback: The Beat Goes On | The Orthosphere

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