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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Future Imperfect

A lot of people use the quote "Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it," attributing it to 19th/20th century Mexican General George Santayana, which is all well and good until, ironically, a little research reveals the phrase formally originated with British statesman Edmund Burke back in the 18th century.

Funny how those things happen.

Regardless, the sentiment is as true as it is profound. You really can't tell where you're going until you know where you've been.  Everyone needs a point of reference, which is why if you're intelligent enough to be reading this, you should be frightened to death of the Millennial generation's inheriting the earth.

Seriously.

Hear me out on this, because this is not the usual rant of some troglodyte bemoaning the loss of his traditions of romance and exotic nobility. This is a guy who calls 'em like he sees 'em, and what he sees is unlike anything anyone has witnessed in the course of western civilization:

Millennials are the first generation whose future is compromised not just by its lack of education, but by a complete lack of interest in its own history.

Go ahead and ask any Millennial about the Age of Reason. The Renaissance. The Dark Ages. The Middle Ages. The Industrial Revolution. The Age of Enlightenment.  See if he can explain Greeks and Trojans as anything other than college fraternities with the best parties. Then watch for his two reactions:

1.  A glazed look in his eyes.
2.  A grab for his iPhone to Google it.

I'm not even going into the catastrophic impact that "information" services like Google and others practice by distorting their search results via their own personal and political agenda. If you really want to delve into what mind control is all about, you can read all the George Orwell and Aldous Huxley you please.

No, the real issue lies in the fact that for the first time in history, education (or what's left of it) is undergoing a lethal, quiet transformation from an active to a reactive process.

The broad acceptance of simply "looking it up" or "Googling it" is, by its very nature, displacing the centuries-proven alternative of active education, whose essence echoes Burke's and Santayana's very own sentiments.  Simply put, by the time a Millennial responds to new information (which itself may be wrong) it's likely too late to be of any real value.  By knowing one's history, however, that same Millennial could walk the earth prepared by his education because he took the time to learn it before he needed it.

But you can't know anything unless you ask about it, and fewer kids -- now past minimum voting age -- even bother with asking. It just doesn't occur to them to do so. So what we're left with is an army of drones doing just what they're told by their masters to do without question.

That, to me, is scary.

Human tragedy like wars and poverty are avoided with prior knowledge, not ignorance.  The civilized world is made a better place by remembering how bad things once were. The problem with Millennials is that they have no knowledge of their past, only fantasies of their futures, most of which have/will never materialize.  The sad part is that like lambs to the slaughter, they have no way of knowing it, and no desire to question it.

I always told my kids (and anyone else who'd listen) to talk back to the TV.  Yell at YouTube. Choose your own drive for knowledge over the toxic fumes generated by search engines.  I stressed that the first twenty years of life is mostly lies and that it takes a good few years beyond your last year of schooling to exchange infantile idealism for life's harsh lessons in reality.  That's where the value of history is: A record of truth stretching back eons, there for anyone to learn from, to avoid making the mistakes made by others and to improve their own lots as a result.

It's a tried and true system, assuming that anyone's interested in asking.  And sadly, that's an assumption we can no longer afford to make.