Mar 28, 2012
Crisis: The Age of Ignorance
The title and the theme are from the New York Review of Books, where folks also seem to have noticed a theme that occupied me quite a lot since 1965, as I explained in my last Nederlog and quoted above:
The article is by Charles Simic, who teaches - tries to, I suppose - English at postmodern university level, whose first paragraph is this:
Yes - I think that is about it, and indeed that "new national goal" is the goal of the majority of politicians who led the United States and the Netherlands the last 40 years, for the simple reason that they understood in majority very well that only dolts would elect men and women like themselves, and so they needed a democratic majority of dolts and nitwits, played by conmen on the media, in the pay of politicians and corporations. And thus it happened, though there are more reasons than the active disinterest of politicians in a nominal democracy in an educated, competent and informed public.
What amazes me somewhat is how few saw it as I saw it. Then again, possibly it requires a really high intelligence to see many issues clearly and face them squarely, while it's also probable that more saw it than said it, because - at least if one was not already an acclaimed and accepted genius, with secured tenure for life - saying it generally meant discrimination, job loss or removal from the university, as happened to me, three times no less.
Then again: The vast majority of the - so called - "intellectuals" of the last 40 years have been very willing and eager betrayers of the ideals of high civilization, which indeed they all actively opposed and disbelieved, and have for the most part embraced, or have pretended to embrace, educational and social ideals they knew were pure propaganda or delusions, and that consisted of levelling and more levelling and yet more levelling in all institutes of public education - schools, colleges and universities.
Thus, in Holland the public theme that ruined the schools, ruiined the colleges, ruined the universities, and deserves to rule the country ever since the 1960ies was the completely dishonest lie every Dutchman knew to be a lie:
Therefore even the most stupid deserve access to grammar schools and universities, for denying them access would be "discrimination": The professed ideal was no longer equal chances for all in Holland, but equal treatments for all, which means that all must be treated on the level of the very and plainly mediocre at best, and therefore schools, colleges and universities were levelled so that even the stupid could finish them with a diploma or degree, which the Dutch insisted in vast majority was "their democratic right", regardless of the consequences of whoever would be exposed later to major incompetents with university degrees.
It was all dishonest hypocristy and social lying and posturing for personal advantage, for at the very same time, millions of Dutchmen believed they "KNEW" that the soccerplayer Cruyff "is a genius", while all Dutchmen discriminated all Dutchmen actively on the basis of their looks, wealth, social status and background, as all men and women seem to have done since the birth of the species.
Yet again, noting that Mr Simic is not known to me, and noting that while I much appreciate his article, I have read these last four decades very little like it, although I am one of the very few who has published in this vein since the 1970ies, and indeed I also note the theme is not completely knew, also not in the US. Here is a link to
that I wrote and had published in November of 1989, that reviews Allan Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students."
Bloom also taught English literature at university level, and at the time I wrote his book was new, well-known and was fairly widely discussed, though clearly to little effect: It changed nothing in the ongoing process of educational levelling in universities and colleges, nor in the systematic dumbing down of schools.
To return to Mr Simic. Here is his second paragraph:
That is mostly true, if perhaps a bit idealistic, while it also does not address the real problem, which is the death of the intellectual: There are far fewer people with good to brilliant intellects who succeeded in getting a proper school and university education, such as were available in Holland, England and the US from 1865 to 1965, indeed mostly only accessible for bright students of middle class background, if they could get a scholarship, and the children of the upper class. It was economically and socially not fair, but it did provide good education to those who had access.
Secondly, the real problem is not that there are more stupid people: It is that there are far more undereducated people, and that most persons with degrees have spend at most half of the time on the subject than was common 40 or more years ago, and learned less than half, for the standards have all been levelled and levelled again, and levelled anew, for decades, all to make it possible for almost anyone, whatever degree of mental dimness and active disinterest, to get some sort of university degree, because that was supposed to be "democratic" and "fair", though really it was all about chances on highly paying jobs, and not about education, science or civilization.
Now to Mr Simic's third paragraph:
It follows from this that Mr Simic is about my age, and hence must be one of the last of that virtually extinct class of real intellectuals - and in case you might worry: The term "intellectual" will be maintained, as will be the nominal "universities" and the gowns and mortar boards - except that "intellectuals" with brighter intellects than Sarah Palin and similar "democratic leaders" will be found undesirable in most of society and nearly all the media, and will only be tolerated, humorously perhaps, in a few institutions were physics, mathematics and computing will still be taught to a few gifted ones, who then also should know their proper places: Tolerated, but neither admired nor listened to nor read by the democratic majorities.
Next, I skip a paragraph of Mr Simic, that I summarize (possibly not as he would do it) as: Postmodern white trash in the US don't read or talk: They watch TV and believe Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News are reliable sources of information and for moral teachings. If they have computers, they use them to track football and porn, and not to develop their minds. And since these kinds of folks are much of the solid democratic majority and the solid consumer majority, their outlook and their taste crowds out anything else, in a society where markets and crowds rule what are to be the central norms of civilization, just as bad money and bad persons tend to drive out good money and good persons.
Mr Simic then has this:
That seems to be correct, and something similar is the case in Holland, where the Dutch white trash, formerly mostly voters for Labour (that in Holland these days is the party of the drugs mafia - Holland's largest, most profitable and most dangerous business, actively protected by Amsterdam's mafia mayors since the 1980ies - and of the top bureaucrats), now vote for neo-nazi populists, and proudly insist on the xenophobic bullshit that always has been close to "the hearts and minds" of the common people, namely that everybody who is not from their most wholesome properly Dutch kind with properly Dutch family names, must be an inferior alien, who is fit to be locked up in camps, so as to be "put on transport", or otherwise mistreated and discriminated, also by ministers, parlementarians, policemen, bureaucrats and judges: Foreigners are inferior, is the populistic sentiment all cater to, proudly, since that is what Our People want (misled by the local Glenn Becks).
Also, again rather like the US, where most politicians play up to the propaganda trash of Fox News (*), almost all Dutch politicians try to out-nazi their local neo-nazis, so as to remain voted in by the democratic majority of morons they have created on purpose, and indeed may genuinely love and admire, belonging themselves to the class of undereducated morons, as most do.
Here is more of Mr Simic:
Again, I see the problem a bit differently, though I mostly agree: There are hardly any more real intellectuals, though there are very many pop-intellectuals and "media-celebs" who bullshit the nation as "public intellectual", but who can't talk, who can't reason, and who have no real knowledge - all of which makes them hugely popular with the democratic majority: "Look, one of us! That one we can trust! That is no egghead! That's One Of The People!" (**)
Then there is this:
Again I agree and disagree, and the problem again is the lack of real intellectuals and also the combined lack of good journalists and of independent media, much rather than that forty or more years ago, as Mr Simic wrote: "if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him": Not so.
There was a lot of nonsense, bullshit and baloney then as well: There were the Vietnam War, the Cold War, abd McCarthyism, to name some, that came each with diverse lots of propaganda, misinformation and bullshit from various sources and directions, but the real difference between now and then is that there was then a far more layered society, with a working class at the bottom, a middle class and intellectual class above it, and on top of that the ruling class of rich businessmen, politicians, and leading religious folks, while everyone, on all levels, was considerably better educated and also better informed by the media.
Now it seems there is hardly a middle class left, except in name, and as defined by income: If you are a success, you are or will be a media-celeb or sports' hero or a politician or commentator of the Palin or Beck level, and else you are a failure, a nobody from the democratic majority of purposely miseducated morons and from the ignorant class of degreed "intellectuals" with an average IQ of around 100, who are the postmodern educators of the democratic electorate with IQs under 100.
Then there is this by Mr Simic, following upon the last quotation, that ended "The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:"
Indeed - but then where are the left-wing politicians? The atheists? The skeptics? The scientifically oriented? There are some, but they are crowded out, and again, they too have for the most part been under-educated.
Also, Mr Simic seems to miss the real problem, which is that ordinary men and women just are not rational nor reasonable, and have never been, and have always been the tools, toys, victims and willing executioners of those who did lead them in politics or in religion.
I have discussed these briefly in my democracy and bureaucracy plans - for my American readers, see my: Democracy-plan: Mark Twain was there first (and better) - but these eminently sensible ideas will never be realized without a revolution or a collapse of civilization as we know it in the West, a West that has spectacularly declined over the last 40 years, and has been moronified, and seems ripe for embracing authoritarian regimes or dictatorships, indeed because the democratic majority does believe bullshit of the kind Mr Simic listed, and does have the vote and owns a TV that is crowded by professional liars and deceivers, while most elected politicians seem bought by lobbyists and corporations.
Here are his final lines:
Hook was a US philosopher, and he has a point: If folks had been a bit more intelligent, there would have been no Russian October Revolution, no rise of Hitler, nor of Mao, nor indeed of most other political or religious leaders - ordinary men and women have all through history been the willing executioners and eager dupes of political and religious leaders who abused them for their own purposes.
Also, I agree that much of the motive power of the ordinary men and women who believe the list of nonsense Mr Simic quoted is "the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect". But then they have been manipulated to feel and think as they do by able propagandists, such as exploit Fox News, and there have now passed something like forty years of successive levelling of all education in the name of equality, which has resulted in a nation where nearly all have been mis-educated and under- educated, and are continuously being lied to by nearly all of the media they watch.
So I agree my readers and I live in the age of ignorance, and I see this as probably the main problem of the age: Everything has been dumbed down; real intellectuals - the folks who are at home in both literature and maths; who know history and read 3 or more foreign languages; those who still can do mental arithmetic and write without a spellchecker - are elderly or old; while the bright minds of the generations after them - who still get born, of course - have nearly all been systematically mis- and under-educated, and excel only as specialists, in limited fields, and without any social standing comparable to "media-celebs" who have a following of millions because they may bare their vagina or excel at gangsta rap.
Is there any hope, my readers may ask. Or, if my readers are younger than me, they may think I am mistaken or exaggerate, and may feel - who knows! - looked down upon. So let me answer these points, in reverse order:
I am not looking down on people who have been much worse educated than they could have been through no fault of their own: I have protested this for 45 years know because I saw and see it as a major danger to real civilization, and as a force towards dark ages and authoritarian and dictatorial government. In fact, I think it is and has been a major theft of the human rights of what may meanwhile be over a billion folks who could and should have been much better educated than they were and are. (See Article 26 in the last link!)
Next, you can only fairly judge whether I am exaggerating if you have had or provided yourself with a good education, have at least a bright mind, and also are no spokesmen for existing governments or "educational" institutions - and in any case, all the evidence favours my and Mr Simic's readings of the situation: Those younger than us have been systematically miseducated, and have had their chances for a high and demanding education stolen from them.
Finally, as to such hope as there is:
First, Western societies may soon collapse, largely because the leading politicians are a bunch of careerist, incompetent, lying fools, deceivers or idiots, with a few exceptions, that will probably make no difference. If Western societies collapse, all bets are off. (***)
Second, the evil that has been done, mostly by my generation of leftist careerists, at least in Europe and in Holland, will take generations to undo: Those who did have a decent education are 60 or older, and all of the rest has been educated on postmodern fare, to the effect that truth doesn't exist, and that all morals are wholly relative, so there are few who can explain the virtues of real civilization and a proper education, and they risk being persecuted by local Glenn Becks e.g. as "elitarian weirdos" who do not love The Common People (Of Good Ethnicity, of course).
Third, for the really bright and dedicated there is an alternative, though it is more difficult to profit from than from a good education at a good university: The internet. This offers - while it lasts, and has not been made subject to a state's thought police and censorship and control as to what one reads, as I think is likely to happen if the present political and social climate endures or worsens - many possibilities that were until very recently undreamt of.
The problem is that it requires a good intellect and some knowledge to use well, and it also requires rather a lot of effort to give oneself the sort of education one might have gotten at Harvard or MIT, if one had had more money. Then again, it exists, and as is it offers excellent chances for the intelligent to learn things of many kinds. (And in case you're interested: There is the Khan Academy, and there are quite a few good videos and teaching materials from Stanford and MIT on quite a few topics.)
Fourth, there still are and probably will remain some university studies that teach real science - physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, medicine - on a high level, to the happy few who can afford an enormous study loan and are willing and able to work hard. Then again, this is unlikely to have major social consequences, apart from guaranteeing there will be a small elite that can keep technology working and to assure Our Beloved Leaders longevity and health.
Fifth and last, the damage has been done: A good education for all has not existed for at least 30 years now, and what exists as school or university education is for a considerable part instruction in posturing, rituals and propaganda, and is taught by persons who in vast majority are not qualified to teach their subjects on any high level, if at all.
And that is why Mr Simic is right: You and he and I live in the Age of Ignorance, where the Revered Worthies - the Masters of Thought, the Real Wizards Trusted by Ordinary Men, the Oracles and Augurs of the Age - are folks like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, and all questions of policy are precooked by professional propagandists to be "democratically decided" by the majority of the clueless, the stupid, the prejudiced or the ignorant.
It will not last long, and may soon be replaced by an Age of Terror, I'm afraid. As often, I hope I am mistaken, but then again I have often been right while in a very small minority, usually of one.
P.S. From Guiccardini's "History of Italy" ("Storia Italia"), reporting on what was being said circa 1495 in Florence concerning democracy:
As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):
Short descriptions of the above:
1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understa, but nds ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
7. A space-
and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources
The last has many files, all on my site to keep them accessible.
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