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O Tempora

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O Tempora

There is no shortage of cultural commentators out there. One is Jonathan Haidt and he writes in The Atlantic: WHY THE PAST 10 YEARS OF AMERICAN LIFE HAVE BEEN UNIQUELY STUPID

It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.

One blogger comments that Allan Bloom was saying something similar back in the 80s. I have a weird perspective on this because I moved to Mexico over 20 years ago so I have only been seeing these trends from afar. Mexico seems on rather a different path, though influenced, of course.

Social media has both magnified and weaponized the frivolous. Is our democracy any healthier now that we’ve had Twitter brawls over Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s tax the rich dress at the annual Met Gala, and Melania Trump’s dress at a 9/11 memorial event, which had stitching that kind of looked like a skyscraper? How about Senator Ted Cruz’s tweet criticizing Big Bird for tweeting about getting his COVID vaccine?

I notice this trend on YouTube where the presenters seem to get more and more ridiculous all the time, mugging for the camera and dumbing down their content. Even a very serious fellow like Samuel Andreyev puts up clips like this:

There are music clips like Sonata Form, explained in ten minutes:

There are music theory courses in ten minutes or, a more expansive one, in sixteen minutes. These are from other authors. It reminds me of guitar courses from decades ago: learn guitar in ten easy lessons! Back then I used to laugh at them. We're not laughing any more.

Samuel Andreyev is a brilliant presenter on music who really knows his stuff, so he must be looking at his traffic and concluding that this is the only way to go.

So it seems that there is a whole trend towards, well, can we call it stupidity like Jonathan Haidt? I don't know. Is it lack of attention span? Is that just a different kind of stupidity? I read a study from a British university years ago that concluded that being in the typical interrupt-driven work environment with various phone lines, text messages, emails and other interruptions knocks about 10 points off your IQ--about the same as if you have smoked marijuana.

Some other things I notice, but I'm not sure of their significance. When I was young it was not uncommon for people to write poetry. It was a fairly normal thing to do to get out your angst or whatever. Also, a lot of people played musical instruments fairly casually. These things seem to have dwindled precipitously. These days it seems that everyone is headed for business school as quick as they can. But as I say, I have no data on this, just a few personal impressions.

Some music to inspire your thoughts. Silvius Leopold Weiss:

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