Friday, October 20, 2006

The Times They Are Confusing

Hysteria is mounting as the final run-up to the US elections continues. Such is the immediacy of today’s communication systems that the impression is given that every event has two outcomes: dire and worse. Taking time to think things through, at least among the general population, is not something that people enjoy.

George Will recently noted this trend and described it as an entitlement syndrome. He seemed to be saying that the current crop of US citizens is so used to instant gratification that almost nothing can really satisfy them. He posits that this is the reason for discomfort in times of great prosperity; essentially the attention span of three year olds. This is a good way of looking at the situation.

What else can explain the childish behavior of ultra liberals and ultra conservatives? For example, the Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas is certainly not representative yet they are convinced that all but they are going to Hell (and the sooner the better). The leftists have the same attitude without the religious overtones. This view of “my way or the highway” limits discourse in a way that Bill Clinton gave lip service the other day at Yale.

It is commonplace that everything is about the “Gotcha” and very little is about the substance of debate. This is partly due to the very poor US public education system, and partly due to the self-indulgence made possible by the incredible prosperity of the last 40 years. Bigger houses, cars, vacations, wardrobes, and sexual excesses have society spinning, looking for stability which is rejected when found. One solution for the future, as the present is lost, may be home schooling which is a growing phenomenon. Should this trend continue the Education Lobby, and Teacher’s Union will strive for legislation outlawing learning at home.

The outlandish always gets attention if only for prurient interest making watching news broadcast an intellectual challenge. The ability to cipher what is actually important is a skill that today’s children must develop if they are to have any hope of critically analyzing their circumstances.

It is paradoxical that demagoguery is actually easier in times of prosperity and good communications systems.

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