There’s the military, there’s ESPN, and there’s the Life of Julia generation. We don’t know if the country can survive the media and tenured Boomers’ invention of the Julia generation, and we won’t live long enough to see what the generation after these youngsters is like. But some generation along the line is going to be pretty angry about all the good that is being destroyed.
Archive for the 'art, culture' Category
Bowdoin’s curriculum is frequently incoherent and trivial. One course that was ultimately cancelled because of lack of student interest was entitled “Queer Gardens,” a survey of the horticultural achievements of “gay and lesbian gardeners” and a rereading of literary works on gardens from a “queer” perspective. Aside from being a course that, in all likelihood, neither cultivates the principles of critical thinking, nor possesses a canonical set of texts to explain the human experience, it sounds altogether trivial. The authors show that Bowdoin’s faculty members in the “studies” programs are often appointed more for their skin color, gender, and highly specialized research interests than their ability to teach. The advising system is dysfunctional, and students are generally left to piece together their own educations out of the jumble of courses and ideological themes on offer. History majors at Bowdoin, for instance, are not required to take a single course in American history.
The academy today is apparently a Bizarro World version of America. The history majors are fortunate that they don’t have to take a course in American history. They’d only learn the Life of Julia version of America, a strange and detestable place where nothing much good happened prior to when they showed up. The tenured Boomers have wrecked the academy for two, maybe three generations. Thank goodness that the education bubble is now bursting.
The 2010 mid-term elections presented one paradigm. R and D parity and I’s siding R. Exactly what you’d expect given the profound economic mismanagement of the administration. So people with long and excellent track records of predicting things electoral predicted that a decent R would win in 2012. Wrong!
R’s won the over 30′s but lost the under 30′s very badly, by 5.4 million votes. We now live in two separate countries, the oldsters and the youngsters. The oldsters were brought up in a nation that was changing from It’s a Wonderful Life and Father Knows Best but was still rooted in that basic ethos.
The young have the internet, vulgar music, political insight from Comedy Central, TV shows about someone’s 11 baby mamas, and the profound insight that something that didn’t exist 20 years ago anywhere on the planet is the civil rights issue of our time.
This is not entirely their fault. Education today is shocking in its one-sided political indoctrination. The popular media reinforce this, and trends in the culture, such as the uncriticized explosion of illegitimacy, support it. Perhaps most of all, the young have direct experience that change is good, since they have lived in an age of technological miracle after miracle that they can hold in their hands. Pretty much each and every young person — unprecedented in human history.
So America’s young voters have grown up in Utopia, and they believe, by a wide margin, that they are the cat’s pajamas. It’s understandable that politicians would want to chase after these youngsters and create clever phases and positions to accommodate them, but it’s a fool’s errand. Reality will catch up to the know-nothings soon enough. Age has a way of doing that, and so does the unsustainable debt that the country is taking on.
What’s unknowable at this point are a few things. Just how many will wise up? Just how many will realize they’ve been lied to by politicians and the media about nonsense like catastrophic climate change, gender sameness, government benevolence and spending, and so forth? What catastrophes will happen due to the ruinous policies of the government, or due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control? And how will the children of these young see the world?
Our advice to those wanting to chase after the fashion of the day is to stop. Stick with first principles. They have a way of coming back, and we shouldn’t underestimate that the America of 50-100 years ago, superior in most cultural ways to today, is instantly available to anyone who wants to learn about it.
Mark Steyn has a nice piece on Fred Ebb and John Kander, who wrote New York, New York. In it we learn that the Yankees played the Frank Sinatra version when they won, and the Liza Minelli version when they lost. Funny stuff. We also chanced to watch the original Arthur the other night on TCM. (We’re only half joking when we say that the salvation of the increasingly idiotic USA just might come from the young discovering The Great American Songbook and 31 Days of Oscar.) John Gielgud and Dudley Moore have some very funny dialogue, and we assumed we’d recognize the writer of the screenplay. To our surprise it was a guy we had never heard of, Steve Gordon, who also directed the film. It was a breakthrough for him, the 4th highest grossing movie of the year, and Gordon was nominated for an Oscar. We had never heard of him because he died the next year at age 44. Here’s a scene that never made its way into the film, as recorded by a colleague of his.
Thomas Kuhn quotes Darwin and Max Planck on the difficulty people have in accepting a new paradigm, which we noted some time ago when thinking about the catastrophic AGW religionists who can’t bear to question their faith:
In a sense I am unable to explicate further, the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds…The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced…Darwin, in a particularly perceptive passage at the end of his Origin of Species, wrote: “Although I am fully convinced of the truth of the views given in this volume…, I by no means expect to convince experienced naturalists whose minds are shocked with a multitude of facts all viewed, during a long course of years, from a point of view directly opposite to mine….but I look with confidence to the future, — to young and rising naturalists, who will be able to look at both sides of the question with impartiality.” And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”
So faith remains but the faithful die out. That’s kind of what’s happened today with the cultural shift on SSM. The oldsters have suddenly become dead, irrelevant to the world of the young. Something that did not exist twenty years ago and for all of preceding human history (see Iowahawk’s humorous take) is suddenly conventional wisdom among the young. They live in a parallel universe that their celebrities and media have created (see Wretchard).
What comes next? Assuming that SSM goes ahead, no doubt in short order you’ll have California textbooks pretzeling themselves to deal with terms like mothers and fathers, which might now be politically incorrect; and red state religions might be in for a rough ride. The young have stood history on its head in no time flat. But going from zero to Warp 9 and beyond had a way of working out badly for the Enterprise. So what comes after Warp 9 for the USA?
Large parts of the Great American Songbook, and many of the films on TCM, are good art, uplifting and family-safe. And things with greater complexity and darkness, like The Searchers, can still be watched with the tykes nearby. In contrast, much of today’s music is vulgar and degrading, and the films are mostly witless. Nonetheless, the young think they are at the pinnacle of American culture, and what came before was RSBHH (racist, sexist, bigoted, homophobic, heteronormative). Some days we wonder if the westerns on TCM and TV shows like The Rifleman will be illegal to watch in a decade or so. But there’s also another thought: what American “art” will a 25 year old view nostalgically when he is 50 or 60? We ask this in all seriousness.
Maybe we are. When we read things about portions of the GOP rushing to embrace comprehensive immigration reform (all things with “comprehensive” in the title should be voted down) and other fashions of the moment, we wonder what just happened. And then there are issues same sex marriage, a thing that didn’t even exist twenty years ago, and is now apparently the most important issue for large portions of the electorate. The electorate has changed, we must change too!
The electorate has indeed changed. A majority of those over 30 favor the GOP, and a larger majority of those under 30 do not. But why pander to the young, who believe all sorts of rubbish? They will get older after all, and some may even grow up. Once some of them break free of the utopian bubble the media creates for them, hard realities and common sense sometimes prevail, sometimes in the strangest places. Those who are 18-30 were born from 1983 to 1995 or so. Not one of them has been drafted, and their lives have been filled with amazing technological innovations year after year. Calm down, we say. Life will catch up with them soon enough. But maybe we are missing the point.
Iran will be permitted to go nuclear – followed shortly thereafter by Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and anyone else who dislikes being conscripted under the Shia Persian nuclear umbrella. North Korea and Pakistan both anticipate a lively export market. Pakistan has a nominal per capita GDP of about $1,200, with North Korea’s barely detectable. By comparison, Sweden’s is about $58,000 and the Netherlands’ about $50,000. But North Korea is a nuclear power, and the Netherlands isn’t, and has no plans to become one, and any party so minded to propose otherwise would soon find itself out of power. The assumption that developed nations will get richer under Washington’s defense welfare has been the central tenet of the American era. So now the wealthiest countries in history cannot defend their own borders, while economic basket-cases of one degree of derangement or another are nuclear powers. Perhaps this improbable division will hold. Perhaps the Axis of Crazy will be content just to jostle among itself, leaving the Axis of Torpor to fret about lowering the retirement age to 48 and mandatory transgendered bathrooms and other pressing public policy priorities. But, even under such an inherently unstable truce, the American position and the wider global economy would deteriorate…There are many on the left for Obama’s drone-alone definition of great power. But there are ever fewer takers for a money-no-object global hegemon that spends 46 percent of the world’s military budget and can’t impress its will on a bunch of inbred goatherds.
It’s kind of hard to believe that Iran isn’t already nuclear, but doesn’t yet have effective and accurate delivery vehicles. After all, it’s been 70 years since the US figured this out, and basket cases like NK have done so as well. Indeed, Pakistan is already onto NexGen plutonium weapons. We’re living in a pre-WWI mindset — people can’t imagine the old order passing, but it has already passed. The fuse just hasn’t been lit yet. The Axis of Crazy versus the Axis of Torpor is unsustainably unstable. Tick Tick Tick.
Related: counselors are on stand-by to assist grammar school students suffering from PTSD (that’s Pop Tart Stress Disorder). No nation can survive this level of stupidity and loss of common sense.
The last 140 years in three paragraphs:
Here is the signal fact of our progress in the last century. If you were born in 1900, your life expectancy was in the forties, and GNP per capita was about $4000. If you are born today, your life expectancy in over eighty, and statistically, as an average American, you are more than ten times richer. In reality you are a hundred or a thousand times richer, if you factor in your ability to be in Paris tomorrow for $1000, your ability to watch events from fifty years ago as they actually happened, etc. – not to mention that your toddler’s severe pneumonia can be reliably cured in 48 hours or so. Only a little of this has to do with government.
Mostly it is because far more than 50% of everything ever invented in the history of humanity was invented in the last 140 years, and more than 50% of that was invented in the English-speaking world. Milton Hershey invented the candy bar, Carrier invented the air conditioner for a tire plant, Sears invented catalogue distribution, Henry Ford invented cheap cars, some guys from Texas Instruments invented the transistor. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of the invention and wide use of brand names, which communicate the quality and dependability of every product we buy. This alone deserves the Nobel Prize. And it was a large and growing market, the availability of risk capital, the development of standardized accounting principles, and protection of intellectual and personal property by the courts that made this possible.
Moreover, in the years since we first wrote the paragraphs above, the following inventions and innovations have appeared on the scene: the iPhone, the iPad, YouTube, the World of Google, ubiquitous wireless, texting, twitter, tumblr, the cloud, and the entire universe of real-time, mostly inane interconnectedness
No one in America remembers what life was like without telephones, running water, indoor plumbing, cars, airplanes, central heating, or electric lights. A quote from Henry Adams is apt: “The American boy of 1854 stood closer to the year 1 than to the year 1900.” No one in America has a visceral understanding of what 1854 was like, and what the heck Adams was talking about.
It is even worse than that. The under-30′s who voted for coolness and more government in such large majorities (5.4 million votes or 60/40) in 2012 mostly don’t remember life without the internet or a smartphone. They have been taught that the ideas of the oldsters are pernicious rubbish coming from the heteronormative white male privilege world, and they are here to change all that. In a way it’s hard to blame them. They’re parroting what they have been told by their teachers, but more importantly, the outside world tends to confirm their foolish thinking. The last 140 or more years have been magical, at least in a technological sense. Constant improvement every generation: so why shouldn’t they believe that they are the apotheosis of America, rising up as one to do away with the reactionary views of the prior generation. What goes in technology goes in morals as well. Who needs a God if the new Samsung Galaxy is coming out in a few months. “We’re immortal and improving — the best of all possible worlds.” Look at the harm the unmoored are doing in the world.
It’s a hard time for those who come from the world of old, traditional values. But it’s not going to be made better by the oldsters pretending they now respect the New Wisdom of the young and foolish. We’d be surprised if even the current economic woes are enough to wake the kids up (though we hope!). So what will it take to break the powerful illusion that technological progress has a parallel in the advance of human nature, that near changeless thing. Cataclysms do that; wars, famines, epidemics, a breakdown in the global supply chain, etc. Let’s hope none of those things are necessary — but the young and their enablers are sitting way out on the branch of a tree, sawing like crazy.
We’ve observed that the term “civil rights issue of our time” has been degraded, at least in the sense that the victim groups have gotten ever smaller over time. We have a question for those who believe that this matter is in fact the civil rights issue of our time. Let’s suppose they are successful in their quest. Why then should polygamy be illegal? We ask the question in all seriousness. To limit marriage to two people is clearly discriminatory, and in this case, there would be tens of millions of people being discriminated against. Forward!
As a young lad we had a Fanner 50 and everybody had a BB gun. Now if you have a photo of the offending instruments, you get harassed by teachers and kicked out of school. And the 3R’s have been replaced by the 3X’s in kindergarten. The world has been stood on its head.
There are limits to this foolishness (we keep hoping there are at least). As we were saying the other day, the young have been taught that they are the apotheosis of America and all who have gone before have been terribly flawed. The proof of this is that some form of discrimination still exists that went unchallenged by the prior generation. But has anyone noticed that whatever counts as the “civil rights issue of our time” has almost no actual victims anymore, indeed, in some cases, there might not be a single one, except in theory.
We reached a very strange place in this nation’s history. Very strange.
The kids today think they are the apotheosis of American history. After all, they have been taught that America has been defined by a journey to wipe out the wickedness of discrimination, and all previous generations are inferior. (Exhibit A: Sandra Fluke is agitating in favor of the transexual army.) It’s not entirely their fault that they think this. After all, each generation for quite a while has seen technological innovations unimagined only a short while before, so a metaphor of continuous moral improvement seems somehow plausible. More importantly, this has been what they have been taught throughout their lives (pity each child taught by someone with a graduate degree in education).
This moral smugness is abroad throughout the land. We see it in on the left coast, and on the editorial board of the Crimson. (We wonder what the Harvard boys think of Richard Lindzen down the street.) It’s all very depressing to think that the next generation of children in America will be raised, standing on the shoulders of pygmies.
Now of course it’s not impossible for things to change. 40% of children are born out of wedlock, which is a disaster for the continuation and right ordering of any society, but who’s to say that that won’t change after the massive inflation undertaken by the Fed at some point to devalue to Treasury’s debt. Who’s to say that a campaign to ostracize the irresponsible fathers, as proposed by Charles Murray, might not gain some footing. Changes do happen after all. The temperance movement got alcohol banned for 14 years throughout the entire United States. Everyone used to smoke and now few do. So changes happen.
Perhaps the most important change is to break the metaphor between technological progress and moral improvement, which so well serves the left and its utopian fantasies. In that regard, we have a modest proposal. The young prattle on about how every group was oppressed in previous generations. Life was horrible until today, and anyone that was happy only had false consciousness. Really? Let the youngster skip that women’s studies course until next semester and watch TCM for a bit, with a phone or a tablet to cross-reference what they’re watching. The Oscar films or perhaps Spencer Tracy’s rather remarkable pre-Hays films or other pre-code selections — again, with google available to supply the subtitles and add richness to the experience.
Was Hollywood wicked too? Were the actors possessed of false consciousness? Was the suffering and poverty sometimes on display in those times inauthentic and inferior to the majesty of being 20 years old today? None of this is a panacea, but it’s at least in a media format that the young understand. Next stop: replacing the appalling, vulgar, morally degrading music of today with the Great American Songbook. Dream on!
This shows pretty much everything that is wrong with getting a graduate degree and having tenure.
Groundhog Day passed by without our noticing. Indeed, we didn’t stop to think about why a certain motion picture was airing. Well, it turns out that there are quite a few people who have spent a lot of time thinking about Groundhog Day and how long Phil Connors was stuck in that loop. Estimates include eight years or maybe much longer than that.
From the early days of the Vietnam War, there was a real, if small, anti-war movement. It included people sincerely troubled by the war, but as David Horowitz said, was led by “Marxists and radicals who supported a communist victory.” Until 1967, the Vietnam anti-war movement was something of a sideshow — in that year it began to grow significantly in numbers and organization. The growth of the Vietnam anti-war movement was in large measure grounded in self-interest. It became intense only after conscription expanded substantially in the young adult population (first to 29,000 a month and then to 42,000 a month by spring 1968), and after the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1967.
That Act made it more difficult to get a draft deferment, and in fact created the violent and intense war protests at elite institutions, since it cancelled graduate school deferments, beginning with the fall 1968 student year. As contemporaneous reporting in the Harvard Crimson demonstrates, the end of the deferments threw elite university students and professors into the frenzy of sit-ins, takeovers, and demostrations that began in 1968. Graduate school deferments channeled the anti-war cohort into academia, and many of the war protesters became tenured professors who chaired departments and promoted younger faculty members. In 2012, 96% of all political contributions from Ivy League professors went to the president. The sixties have cast a long shadow.