IPFS Menckens Ghost

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He Who Reads History Is Doomed

Millennials are blessed.  Thanks to social media and the duopoly of Google and Facebook, they have the attention span of fruit flies, but, thankfully, without the same urge to procreate.  As with the huuuge fruit fly in the Oval Office and the smaller ones at the top of the Democrat Party, they don't have the attention span to read history, especially scholarly history books.

Why does this make them blessed?  Because they are not doomed to a life of frustration and unpopularity.

They don't know enough to be frustrated.  Not knowing history, they are not frustrated over the sorry state of politics, movies, the media, and the zeitgeist, where so much of what is presented as absolute truth is actually counter to historical facts.  Nor do they know enough to become unpopular in their social circles by correcting acquaintances who say something that is not historically accurate.  They can immerse themselves in the popular culture and social media without feeling conflicted, manipulated, and propagandized.  

Ignorance of history is bliss.  Knowledge of history is torture.  The same with knowledge of literature and philosophy.

This explains why so many deep thinkers throughout history have been tortured souls with strained relationships.  Socrates, for example, so offended the establishment of his day with his thinking that he was forced to commit suicide.  In the modern era, examples of tortured or disliked thinkers include Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger, among many others.     

In fairness to millennials, older generations were also deficient in history.  For example, if America's leaders and followers in the 1960s had known the history of Indochina, 55,000 Americans might not have died needlessly in Vietnam at the hands of the former Ford CEO Robert McNamara and the former elementary school teacher Lyndon Johnson, neither of whom understood the resentments and aspirations of the Vietnamese. 

Likewise, if older generations had known the history of the Middle East, America might have continued to be seen by Arabs as their friend—as it had been seen over the first half of the 20th century—instead of being seen in the second half of the century and into the 21st as a successor to the hated imperialism of the French and British.  Maybe at the cost of a couple of history books for American political leaders, 9/11 wouldn't have happened, and American treasure and lives wouldn't have been wasted in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At least some segments of earlier generations had an interest in history, literature, and philosophy, unlike what is seen in the millennial generation.  The Beat generation comes to mind in this regard.  And larger cities had bohemian cafes where people with intellectual interests would gather for debate and discussion.  Even many members of the working class in my parents' and grandparents' generations debated politics in corner taverns, had access to two competing dailies in most cities, and subscribed to the Book of the Month Club or the Readers Digest.

Tellingly, there is a complete absence of books or intellectual content of any kind where college-educated millennials and others gather today, whether the gathering place is a Starbucks, a craft beer bar, a gastro café, a green grocer, a hip urban scene, or some social justice event, where beta men in scruffy beards engage in piety preening to get in bed with confused women, who probably fantasize about being carried off by a burly, clean-shaven fireman in Duluth underwear who has old-fashioned values about fidelity and marriage.  Instead, to conform to hip social norms, the women mix their DNA with effeminate guys in skinny jeans who write code at Google and parrot programmed pieties about diversity, global warming, social justice, and sustainability.

Even in the rare instance when millennials and older Americans try to read or watch something with intellectual content, chances are it has been mangled beyond recognition in the propaganda machinery of one or both political parties, or twisted to the left by academia and the liberal media, or twisted to the right by the conservative media, or hidden in the lower intestines of a Google search, due to Google's algorithms and human intervention giving prominence to easily digested pabulum for the masses, so that its advertisers can sell crap to the masses.

Not to turn this into a rant about Google, but the worst aspect of the tech behemoth is not its size or progressive bias; rather, the worst aspect is its questionable ethics.  Specifically, it's not uncommon for disreputable businesses to appear at the top of the first page of sources when conducting an Internet search via Google or other search engines, nee, advertising platforms. 

For example, if you want to change the address on your driver's license, as I recently did, enter into a search engine the name of your state followed by the words "drivers license change of address."   Chances are, the first several entries that pop up will be websites masquerading as your state's department of motor vehicles.  For a fee paid via credit card, the bogus businesses will send you information in the public domain from the MVD instead of changing your address.

Google apparently aids and abets such deception.  This would be akin to a major newspaper running a full-page ad for a business that pretends to be a government agency.  The difference is that there would be a public outcry if a newspaper did this, but for some inexplicable reason, there is no public outcry when Google does it.  Instead, millennials think highly of the company.   

There is even less hope for the generations coming behind the millennials.  Teenagers today are even more addicted to smartphones and social media than millennials.  As reported in the January 13 -14 edition of the Wall Street Journal, reputable studies show that today's teenagers unlock their phones 95 times a day, on average, and stare at smartphone screens and TV screens about nine hours a day.   Google and Facebook have strategies to increase the usage even more and to get children addicted at an even earlier age.

If I were a kid today, I would not have the time or interest to read the 900-page Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, as I did on my own over the summer between grade school and high school, after taking an interest in history when my parochial school showed a documentary on the Nazi concentration camps to me and other eighth graders, complete with scenes of burned bodies in ovens and scores of emaciated victims.  If an elementary school did this today, parents who let their little darlings watch anything they want on their smartphone would call for the principal's head and demand that the school provide counselors. 

The Internet was supposed to make information free and widely available.  But, ironically, with the Google and Facebook duopoly, the near-monopoly over information is beginning to resemble the near- monopoly that existed prior to the advent of the printing press, when monks in isolated monasteries would copy books by hand and thus control, limit and filter what was disseminated. 

The likes of Mark Zuckerberg are the new monks, but dressed in T-shirts instead of robes.

But what do I know?  Not much, but at least I know enough to realize that the nuns doomed me when they showed that documentary long ago.  

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