— Gustav Le Bon
What did we expect when we started mass producing students and people using mass-produced standard tests and exams that do not help us develop as human beings but instead make us [in most cases] masters of trivia and mini-masters of other people’s ideas and dogmas without the critical ability, the real critical ability to think for ourselves? Did we expect intelligent discourse? Genius? Logic? Thoughtful respect for other perspectives, the ability to play devil’s advocate in order to probe? Well, we got what we set into motion and absorbed. We got a nation, from K-12 up to the professors working in colleges and the people throwing themselves willy-nilly into the political fray, of narrow-minded thoughtless morons.
You’re welcome [or in some places, Your welcome, UR welcum…]!
For love of ease, for love of numbers and stats, we sold our youth, we sold our nation to the lowest bidder [in education]. I’ve said it before, but Challenger didn’t explode because we put the best machinery and parts up there. It exploded because we cut corners, and sooner or later it explodes and goes sour. Witness, my friends, the so-called United States of America in the year 2012… Exploding all over and wondering why [blaming all sorts of people, parties, systems, races, creeds, regions…].
Every blog comment, every media blurb, every personal statement frothing forth from the mass-minds, well these bear witness to the lack of understanding and critical thought - few, if any, think in the terms of media and information, education and knowledge, as the causes of our present insanity. Again love of ease [and the ability to promote self, promote image, and deflate others without a care or thought] causes us to ignore the deeper causes, not ask these questions, the real questions or to deny the complexity of the problem… In the meantime - BOOM!
Things like this take time. Here we are!
— Northrop Frye [1961 and DEAD-ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!]
Often, in the past, America was accused of being anti-intellectual. This was arguable at some points in our history, but not so much since WWII, and less since the 1990s. We have grown into a nation of dogmatic, misinformed, narrow-minded automatons. This is who we are…
Hear me out… Please.
There was a time when could read Karl Marx, Mao, Engels, Lenin or some similar character/persona without thinking we would be transformed into Marxists. When we believed we could read opposing views without having to attack them or be absorbed into them. We used to be able to read about atheism and agnosticism and not fear that we might fall into it and be forever atheists or agnostics. We have become a people of little faith and little belief in our own concepts of reality, so much do we fear the shallowness or superficiality of our beliefs and personal understanding today that we cannot accept even a glance at an opposing view, even a sliver of questioning or thinking. We have become a people, apparently, so weak we fall for whatever is shown to us, whatever we read, and whatever someone tells us. If this is us, then I suppose we have a need to fear, to shun, and to retard our perspectives [we are simply too weak and stupid to venture outside our small little bubble of mass-minded and microscopic existence].
We are limiting our futures in this, narrowing our perspectives, and expanding our stupidity factor exponentially.
One of my favorite thinkers, writers and theologians is Thomas Aquinas. He was a gifted thinker, and one who permeates many aspects of modern Christian ideals and focal points, but one who was NEVER afraid to look closely at opposing views, to analyze others arguments, and to think for himself. These other views strengthened and expanded his faith, helped him formulate more ideas and proofs, generated more ideas and arguments, but never ended or came to vitriol and idiocy, defensive rhetoric and lunacy [like today].
Today’s obvious lack of real religious faith, intolerant of questions, intolerant of other ideas, attacking in many cases, others who are different, is problematic. Today’s attacks on thought, on critical thinking, on questioning and posing theories to be analyzed and explored is anti-intellectual and, I believe, anti-God [who gifted us with thought, with the ability to use our mind and spirit to discern things]. Oh, we of little faith who will not even peer slightly at something that might seem initially counter to our dogma but might in fact grow our understanding, strengthen our faith, and build our character… yeah, us… The US of A…
We are bullies who attack intellectuals, attack critical thought, and fall back into shells of narrowed thought for protection from those evil ideas… God Himself is offended by us when we do this, because we limit Him and the gifts He gave us. If you don’t necessarily believe in God, that’s okay… Then you know you are limiting yourself when you do not even explore possibilities of things outside our basic understanding, and we promote this thinking in our political idiocy, our negating education system, and our nationalism that borders on vacancy.
One final thought… “Oh ye of little faith…”
Jacques Ellul, one of a handful of commonsensical people [his politics would likely put him a little right of center, but he was a firm believer in common sense, knowing why you believe what you believe, and seeing past propaganda and the technique as he called it - this requires tons of explanation, but you can look it up in his bio], stated the following regarding this commonplace:
“The government is trying to get something and the people refuse; the government is trying to convince the people of something and the people do not believe it; the government is trying an experiment and the people are not cooperating, etc. The people have grown up: that is they are no longer in tutelage, they are thinking for themselves, they are capable of making informed decisions, you can’t deceive them politically any more or pass them a constitution as if it were a football. [here he goes into the reality and attacks this commonplace] It is true that this assurance is contradicted by the very writers who proclaim it. And the writer who makes the strongest case for the people’s wisdom, majority, and independence will explain a few months later that we are facing a possible fascist dictatorship that would inevitably be followed by a communist dictatorship.”
Assuming you can read for yourself, and think without the aid of a dogmatic leader or system [party, agenda…], you would easily be able to infuse the words ‘media icon’ in place of writer [and you would fall easily upon Bill O’Reilly, Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Howard Stern, and John Stewart to name but a few, but the former are the more relevant to this case I suspect, because they cry the loudest, the most aggressively, and have large audiences of idol worshippers behind them]. Then our modern era, its insanity, lack of vision, lack of common sense and so many other things, makes perfect sense. We wallow in a delusion of this commonplace, and several others, and follow the leader [media icon]. Case closed.
— Jacques Ellul [He asks what is a people and what is self-determination, and in the end there is not a good, right, true answer. Each potential answer fogs truth, builds something that we would potentially term evil or bad, and this is where we are - there is no real self-determination. It is a ghost in our machine of life. It is the few that have grabbed hold of something they want who carefully, and in some cases violently and aggressively, steer the people along the lines they desire, and declare victory for the people] Originally published in 1966 and translated in 1968, he knew well how the world works…
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Vision of the Past, pp. 59-60 - Perhaps the most pivotal quote that connect the ideas and research of Pere Teilhard with those of Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan was one of the people who “tries to put together the general design of human movements” and was extraordinarily adept at seeing them. This is likely why he spoke and thought the way he did and why so many people had difficulty comprehending him: his probes, his comments, his perspective was wayyyyyyyyyyyy outside their ability to separate themselves from the “absolute division” of what Teilhard speaks of and what has become more entrenched since then.
— Louis Antoine de Saint-Just [and our native land of the good ol’ US of A could not be more an illusion wrapped neatly in the idea of freedom that we really don’t have but love to think we have, and honestly, thank God we don’t have]
The GOP is the prime example, but not the only example, or rearview mirror thinking and looking backwards for the good old days that never were or trying to bring back a day in the past to the present and for the future. These are idiotic in the extreme. The recent Texas Republican Party committee findings and report is a microcosm of this national “circle the wagons” mentality than beckons the past come forth to the future and save us from ourselves. Not going to happen [it will simply lay waste to what’s left of our culture and continue our national suicide].
Consider education with a return to the ideas of reading, writing, and arithmetic. These sound great and hearken upon the days gone by when they never really worked back when. Here’s the problem facing modern educators and education: the amount of information [views, perspectives, challenges or supports for personal or regional world visions, whatever you might call knowledge…] available OUTSIDE the classroom far outweighs the information available INSIDE the classroom. With this simple fact, and it’s been a fact for over 30 years but more so in the last 15, the old testing, the old methods, the old ways of approaching education [like the standardized tests, the short reading passages, and the old styles] simply cannot reach the population. Students may pass tests, but not out of interest or enthusiasm, but because it is a hoop to jump through on the way to some ethereal target out on the distant and fuzzy horizon. The failure of our schools is a failure of understanding at the highest level all the way down to the parents in the home and the teachers in the classroom.
Politicians do not want to rock the boat and do not know the slightest thing about education unless it comes from their personal experience [which, given the progress of technology and the shifts in culture is prehistoric] or because of some study conducted a year or two ago which does not deal with this vital issue or does so in a cursory fashion [and the study, as soon as it is printed and studied becomes obsolete in today’s lightspeed media and pseudo-culture].
If this is the quandary, what are we to do? Do we regionalize? Turn education over to the parents and regional chieftains? Do we turn it over to political parties to throw in their rearview mirror thoughts, their prehistoric thinking and backwards looking methods and styles? Do we replace questioning and informed knowledge with patriotism and simplicity because we lack the vision and are afraid of what is happening?
Modern education has to be dynamic, consider a world vision, look closely at the questions of who and what we are so we can figure out how we will be and what we can do to be here and build the country we want [actually so the children can build the country they want, not one we force upon them – our codes]. We need to show them the past, but allow them to question, to probe, to solidify their understanding and be as close to 100% certain of their vision as they can. We need to open minds and perspectives and show children how to discern information, how to separate fact from fiction, to explore the imagination, the see through the gloss and glitter of the modern advertising and political spectrum and see a deeper meaning and truth, one that God himself teaches us He wants from us through his own book of questions, the Bible [a great book of questions and ideas, but not a rulebook or series of laws and steadfast principles].
We are, in my estimation, in the New Dark Age in America. We are heading backwards in our thinking [or at the very least floundering desperately to maintain a form of status quo while we plod around trying to find our bearings in an ever-changing world], preventing and restricting thought and questioning, picking sides in a battle of idiots [fact-knowers and pushers vs. critical thinkers] one of which screams louder than the other and both of whom tend to claim the other is not patriotic [when neither really is because waving a flag and supporting troops, valuable though those might be, are not deepened and powerful signs of any ism other than politicism].
— From the 2012 Republican Party of Texas Report of the Platform Committee and Rules Committee [So education of citizens is not a national interest or concern? Each state or region to its own, and whatever happens, happens?]
So here I sit reading Julien Benda’s now obscure piece, The Treason of the Intellectuals [which could easily be translated The Treason of the Influential or Seemingly Intellectual - those with degrees on the walls, positions of power and authority, and positions wherein they might instruct or teach others], and the introduction to the most recent translation and publication is by this fellow named Roger Kimball. Okay, maybe I am stuck in the 1920s thru 1980s in my present reading binge, but I did not know Mr. Kimball from a hole in the wall.
My first impression was that he wrote a fairly instructive introduction, highlighting aspects I hoped to read and a few that seemed a tad puzzling, given what I had experienced of Benda from three other contemporaries of his. However, I did not give it much thought, but I did note a distinct and somewhat lengthy blurb in Kimball’s intro about multiculturalism and its deadening divisiveness and form of nihilism. Okay, I don’t disagree with a lot of that idea, and I have some views on the separate issues created by it, but in Benda, at least for the first two-thirds of the book, I have seen little of this and little to support what Kimball thrusts as almost one-fifth of the Introduction.
After reading about 120 pages, I got to wondering about Kimball, so I searched him out, and then it hit me… This guy is cherry-picking tidbits and morsels from Benda and throwing them out there as it they were the gospel according to Benda and his wondrous critique of the intellectuals. The more I absorb of Benda, the more I look at what Kimball has mass-produced in various media, the more I realize that if Benda were alive today, he would probably attack Kimball as exactly the type of person he was talking about in The Treason of the Intellectuals. At best, Kimball has simply misread or read with a serious bias Julien Benda’s work and life, but I suspect it is much deeper because Kimball attacks modern education and the university system, but promotes aspects of somewhat questionable media conglomerates, so at worst I think he is bending Benda to fit his own ideals and forms of nationalism and patriotism [things Benda would find offensive in this method and spectrum]. Perhaps Kimball is just oversimplifying Benda for his own designs or maybe he just takes what he wants. I’d like to give the man the benefit of the doubt, but there are some problems with what I see on the surface [I guess I’d have to read actual books by Kimball and not the briefs and tidbits available here and there, but there’s a drift to them that says I am not spending my hard-earned money to support him, so me reading his work anytime soon is unlikely].
For years and years now, dating back to the first television shows and the most interesting and benign offender, Sesame Street, people have been learning from television. TV shows, news or things passed off as news, so-called investigative shows, and simple talk shows have been “teaching” the general public, the masses, for over 60 years. Recently, this has taken some interesting and twisted turns, with the likes of Glen Becks [he appears in many forms, all of them passing themselves off as authorities helping America by teaching citizens things they need to know, things from their “educated” perspective, yet in the end it is politics, and nothing but politics, an agenda that is Germanic in its origins] dragging out a chalkboard and going crazy in front of it trying to teach Americans the evils of various things. Nightly, various television folks, in the guises of benign news folks, working for the good of the people, commit the very treasons Benda spoke of in his work [and he’s 100% correct by the way, and his work is from 1928]. Walter Lippmann, writing in almost the same time, would look upon these so-called purveyors of news and information as the farthest thing from journalism, true journalism, as is possible. He would be aghast, as would Benda. They would see a propaganda machine based upon the late 19th century Germanic or pangermanic model, and they would see national particularisms all over the place, news people [hard to call some of these people news folks - they are entertainers really, circus clowns and diviners of sorts, snake oil salesmen and saleswomen] and see they were trying to shape the world, for what they deem the better, through their efforts.
Maybe I am missing something, and if someone has read Kimball’s works and can tell me he sees this, he assaults modern media moguls and the modern press, all sides of the political spectrum, with probing non-partisanship and reasoned disinterest, then I would admit my error and move along in my studies. However, if Kimball does not, then I suspect Benda is rolling in his grave that this man wrote the Introduction to the latest version of his wonderful critique.
H. Ickes [The New Republic, 1950], and not much has changed because, “Militarism becomes a necessity for the continued export of goods and for continued employment.” - Harold Innis, 1952, and we are experts at militarism for those very reasons [the screams you hear whenever we talk cutbacks, base closures, program reductions, or that we are not going to purchase the latest military toy or gizmo]…
H. Ickes [The New Republic, 1950], and today we have been subjugated by terrorism because of our fear of terrorism [in the guise of certain countries, perceived enemies, people, and states] - “What? Frightened with false fire?” to quote Shakespeare, we created the Red Scare, Lenin should have been afraid of us [from his first seeming success, we kept supporting various and failed attempts to usurp the new government in Russia, and we had two bases with US troops on the ground in their country… Have we had occupying force troops from Russia within our national borders? Who should distrust who and who started all this?]
— Julien Benda [he understood that our intellectuals, slyly and adroitly donning political clothing, were shifting away from culture and into new arenas of pseudo-cultures, multicultures (that demand obedience and service to the group) and more divisionist thinking and manifested behaviors - forms of isms]. Oh, and this was 1928…