Friday, September 25, 2009

Review of The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein (Part 3)

In closing, a bit of a stream...

There are certain passages in this book that were odd. For instance, the author castigates the results of a poll in 2005 where young respondents stated that they believed the political system was broken and corrupt. He seems to think that they are not informed enough to make this determination. Does he really think cynicism is only a pose? I would argue that it really isn't that tough. In 2005, Bush was still president because his opponent was an even bigger loser, and Iraq was descending into absolute chaos. It looked apparent that the political system is hollow. (It still does.) It isn't just the youth.

He also seems to be fixated upon the classics as a guide for everyday life. Although I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment regarding culture and humanity, I does very little for coping with the technological society as a whole. He does not seem to see that if it were not electronic diversions it would be something else--like hard drug abuse. At least, in general, the youth are not out on the streets victimizing each other. On the other hand, it does not prepare the young for hard cold reality when and if it occurs. Even if relatively sheltered, the classics will convey lessons that can be invaluable far beyond the intellectual plane. Culture is shaped and reflected by these works, but it has been eclipsed for decades to diversion and decadence. The next stage is cultural nihilism. Why the author would think technological and internet use along would be anything other than the symptom of a disease appears to be his fixation with youth even as older people do the same thing and now have passed it down.

I do agree that today's youth do have a tendency to exist in a bubble. Although anecdotal, I will illustrate my point with an example. One night, a friend once witnessed a 20 year old "kid" pull out a brand new IPod, which was predictably taken out of his hands by thugs. His response, "Hey, that's not funny." He seemed to believe it was a joke. Being knocked to the ground probably made him change his mind, but it need not have come to that. It isn't just intellectual development that is consumed by the machine. Maximum Advantage is not conducive to individual survival. It only cares about the heard. Paradoxically, it can make one feel more connected if only to keep out the cold. (And so, you pull out your toys at night at a downtown bus stop...)

The author does not obviously relate to the human need to feel connected. To him it's just texting and social networking. He does not seem to see is as just a narcotic for the physically unconnected even as he describes the disease. Why study the classics, when humanity seems a distant thing?

Also, there was a passage that made me fall off may chair will laughter, (P. 234):
The ramifications for the United States are grave. We need a steadt stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise politicians,...
Wow. What's he smoking? "Replenish?" If this is what passes for deep thought among public intellectual these days (and it is), then no wonder there isn't much excitement about reading. True intellectual leaders need to be organic. Technology does not promote that sort of growth. The mentors have failed because they helped create this system.

In closing, I recommend this book for its well researched case concerning the rising dumbitude. I just don't agree that it applied only to the youth of America. At least this book is well written. Who cares about the author's reasons for writing it?


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