Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Bill Kristol has a conversation with David Gelernter — who doesn’t mention surviving a mail bomb from Ted Kaczynski, by the way:

Gelernter describes America-Lite, where the past and future are blank and there is only a big now:

I’m a teacher of college students. I’m lucky to be at one of the best colleges in the world, at Yale. Our students are as smart as any in the world. They work very hard to get here. They are eager, they’re likable. My generation is getting a chip on its shoulder, we always thought we knew everything about every topic, our professors were morons, and we were the ones who were building the world.

My students today are much less obnoxious. Much more likable than I and my friends used to be, but they are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. You tell yourself stories; it’s very hard to grasp that the person you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, advisable, interested, and doesn’t know who Beethoven is. Had no view looking back at the history of the 20th century — just sees a fog. A blank. Has the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. And maybe has no image of Teddy Roosevelt, let’s say, at all. I mean, these are people who — We have failed.


They know nothing about art. They know nothing about history. They know nothing about philosophy. And because they have been raised as not even atheists, they don’t rise to the level of atheists, insofar as they’ve never thought about the existence or nonexistence of God. It has never occurred to them. They know nothing about the Bible. They’ve never opened it. They’ve been taught it’s some sort of weird toxic thing, especially the Hebrew Bible, full of all sorts of terrible, murderous, prejudiced, bigoted. They’ve never read it. They have no concept.


  1. Bomag says:

    In other words, the current plan to shelter kids from unpleasantness has succeeded.

  2. Mike in Boston says:

    Apparently when Trotsky described the New Soviet Man, he was just ahead of his time and on the wrong continent.

  3. Slovenian Guest says:

    The scary part is how ignorance is worn almost as a badge of honor; it’s now cool to be a mindless cog. And if they are liberal, enlightenment is just assumed.

  4. Slovenian Guest says:

    Still Grey Enlightenment is bullish on millennials:

    A recent example is a 2014 discussion on Hacker News about investing plans, which got very heated, with everyone having an impassioned opinion as if it were a matter of life or death instead of just money. And the story had nothing to do with computer science, either. Personal finance has become something of religion among smart millennial 20 & 30-somethings, whereas older generations don’t seem to care as much, merely viewing money as a something that has utility, not the Catechism. For older generations, talking about money is considered ‘rude’, almost taboo, whereas having open opinions about religion and politics is not. For the millennials, it’s flipped the other way around: It’s rude to talk about your religion (or lack thereof), but millennials talk freely about wealth & money, how to get it, and who has what ‘net worth’.

    Your typical 20-something Reddit/4chan user is a veritable expert in finance, history, syllogistic reasoning/rhetoric, theoretical physics, political science, sociology, and economics. Compare that to many generations ago when a typical 20-something was mostly well-versed in the latest happenings in sports and entertainment and not much else, and typically didn’t hold strong opinions about much of anything outside of the purview of popular culture and possibly some politics, and such opinions when they seldom were expressed tended to be blunt and unsophisticated. Fifty years ago, to be an exert in economics or finance meant you had to study it college; nowadays, it seems everyone is an expert. These smart people, many of whom more fit the ideological mold of a pragmatist or utilitarian than a welfare liberal, can carry on an intelligent discussion about efficient markets, the merits of free markets, or the workings of the US economy – all without having studied it in college. You have a story on Reddit about a dart-throwing chimp beating fund mangers, and in the comments everyone is suddenly an expert in finance – but not faking it – but citing real jargon, studies, and statistics. Then you have the unending online debate between millennials about Automation, Jobs, Wealth Inequality, Basic Income, and Post-Scarcity.

    Personal finance is how the smartest generation, in rebuking the collectivism of liberalism, prepares for an economic future where the social safety-net may be non-existent. As the economy becomes more competitive, you have to take matters, including finance, into your own hands and not rely on others, and many millennials know this. This is also why STEM is so important to millennials because finance, which has math, pays well, and plays an integral role in the economy, could be considered STEM. Older generations still want to ‘rock out’, their minds stuck in the 60?s and 70?s; millennials want to read physics, code, and make money. This is why, despite being on the ‘right’, I have faith the in millennials because, as I explain above, they have this congenitally ingrained ‘savvy’ to all issues pertaining to finance and economics that is less prevalent in older generations. Millennials understand that personal finance isn’t a choice or merely a hobby – but a necessity, even a way of life.

    I highly recommend this Grey Enlightenment blog for a rare view opposite to ZeroHedge, because it can’t be all doom & gloom all the time, right?

  5. R. says:

    Your typical 20-something Reddit/4chan user is a veritable expert in finance, history, syllogistic reasoning/rhetoric, theoretical physics, political science, sociology, and economics.

    I have no words for that. Has the person who wrote that visited reddit in the past five years?

  6. As one of the Millennials in question (b. 1988) I can’t say I find that description of my peers to be terribly accurate. I have noticed an odd duality, though, that might be responsible for Grey Enlightenment’s take. Most of my peers (East coast US) have “get blind drunk” as their primary hobby, with Tinder-facilitated hooking up as a close second. There is a large subset, however, that take things very seriously and show an obsessive focus on their career and/or education. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle-ground, in my observations at least.

    Obviously this spectrum is present in every generation, but I’m curious to hear if the sharp, middle-less bivalence has been a characteristic of prior cohorts.

  7. Jeff says:

    They know nothing. And to top it off, they’re on his lawn.

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