Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Idiots Will Win Regardless

As a nerd, I owe it to my own kind to mention once in a while my overall pessimism about the grim prospects for civilization, regardless of whether some short-term political skirmish is won by my favorite faction (libertarians, some of them picking a presidential candidate in Denver this weekend).

I mentioned seeing Read Schuchardt, a religious critic of commercial culture, speak Thursday, and his fear is that the future is one in which we’ll all be reduced to icon- and logo-loving Pavlovian dogs.  Advertising veteran and fellow libertarian Joy Bergmann, far from countering with a rosier scenario, predicts a future much like the dystopian film Idiocracy.  And if all goes according to schedule, this weekend I’ll visit with Dan Greenberg, long ago one of my fellow Brown philosophy majors, who at least shares my amusement at that movie.  Our perspectives vary — Schuchardt dislikes commercialism, I like it, Dan is more wary of biotech than I — but any way you slice, long-term victory for stupidity seems to haunt our dreams.

(Schuchardt’s lecture invoked philosopher Charles Taylor, incidentally — himself a moderately religious Canadian communitarian who fears modernity leaves us without some shared standard of the good — and it just so happens that Taylor’s Sources of the Self will be my Book Selection of the Month for June in a week and a half, so stay tuned.)

My meta-concern about civilization is that the idea of being civilized may itself become passe, with the young increasingly seeing as archaic things like:


•quiet reflection

•industry (it seems counterintuitive to the older among us to consign it to the past, but it’s increasingly despised, along with global commerce, which is opposed by the antiglob, nature buffs, local-food nuts, and various neo-agrarians)

•science (opposed without reflection, in almost any of its new manifestations, by the masses — some 30% saying in surveys that they’re against nanotech, which surely can’t be for any reason other than it being some new thing they don’t know about)


•significant legal consequences for real crimes

•standards for gauging sanity and insanity


Well, no time to explain my thinking on all these things now — I would if I were smarter — but today I hang out with the parents and with their dog Jaycie, thinking occasionally of departed family dog Uber, who was a mutt but looked a bit like the puli disguised as a Rastafarian hairdo in this ad.

1 comment:

Jake said...

Well, Todd, we may be old and useless in the face of this horde of unthinking and ignorant youth, but we’ve still got our tricks. One trick is to tell stories that don’t go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for m’shoe. So I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt. Which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ‘em. Gimme five bees for a quarter, you’d say. Now where was I… oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion tied to my belt, which was the style at the time. You couldn’t get white onions, because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…