On Memes and The Fall Of The Republic

BOOKSThe epithet, “traditionalist” is often used like a slur. This strikes me as a hopelessly moribund attitude fueled by mistaking educational authority with authoritarianism. One is the kindling of a fire so that the next generation may warm themselves; the other is the worship of ashes.

People in the United States of America are too often sozzled by entertainment masquerading as news. Being informed takes slow work. It requires us to listen, to comprehend, to study, and to then come to a conclusion. Why bother to do all of that work when the LCD teat we suck every evening will simply tell us what our opinions are? Newsertainment peculates our reason with smooth talk and sly assurances: we’re just concerned about crime! Aren’t you? Never mind that we just distracted you from the real problems of police brutality, redlining, and the selective enforcement of drug laws.

News-as-entertainment is necessarily authoritarian. By the power of suggestion, viewers are led to a certain point of view that is shrouded in plausible deniability. These views are cemented by just enough pandering: We report, you decide. The thrill of an opiate without rolling a joint. Anyone who disagrees is just biased! Living in such insulation impairs the inner ear, which ought to be turned toward the truth no matter its source. But when the ear is willfully stuffed, plurality of views is denied access and the duped will insist that since they do not hear the opposition, it must not really exist.

I remember reading Das Kapital in college. One of my colleagues gasped when she saw it in my bag, and acted like I’d brought a loaded gun to work. It was when I realized how puissant the LCD teat was. I was pretty sure I wasn’t a Communist, but how in the world could I purport to have an opinion on the matter without reading the sources? My colleague was convinced that she was a traditionalist when in reality she was a jingoist. This is because she did not know what a traditional education was, or even what it entailed.

Internet memes have ruined us. Why come to an actual opinion about policies and politicians when you can share a meme showing POTUS holding a phone upside-down?

Modern schooling that is obsessed with testing instead of teaching induces a laconic attitude toward actual study. Argumentation is perceived as negative: sit quietly in class, say nothing provocative. Fade into the background or be ridiculed. This is detrimental to knowledge, because only when we know things can we claim opinions. The person who insists that they “won’t argue” is not a person with an actual opinion, just someone who has been fed a line.  Fragile. Weak. Much like a cow stuffed with feed before the sledgehammer beats in its brains. The more fragile the opinion, the more defensive the holder. This is because truth can be painful. Following the truth requires a willingness to be wrong.

Admitting fault is difficult. That’s why humility is a virtue. It’s the difference between ignorance and outright stupidity.

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