The war on wisdom

(Our guest poster today is the incomparable Dennis Prager who often guest posts on The Moon, unbeknownst to him. Were I to have a guru, I would choose Prager although he’s a bit younger than I am, and I don’t know if that’s permissible.)

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THERE IS MORE knowledge available today than ever before in history. But few would argue people are wiser than ever before.

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On the contrary, many of us would argue that we are living in a particularly foolish time — a period that is largely wisdom-free, especially among those with the most knowledge: the best educated.

The fact that one of our two major political parties is advocating lowering the voting age to 16 is a good example of the absence of wisdom among a large segment of the adult population.

What adult deems 16-year-olds capable of making a wise voting decision? The answer is an adult with the wisdom of a 16-year-old — “Hey, I’m no wiser than most 16-year-olds. Why should I have the vote and they not?”

America has been influenced and is now being largely led by members of the baby-boom generation. This is the generation that came up with the motto “Never trust anyone over 30,” making it the first American generation to proclaim contempt for wisdom as a virtue.

Boomers are the first American generation to proclaim contempt for wisdom as a virtue.

The left in America is founded on the rejection of wisdom. It is possible to be on the left and be kind, honest in business, faithful to one’s spouse, etc. But it is not possible to be wise if one subscribes to leftist (as opposed to liberal) ideas.*

Last year, Amy Wax, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, co-authored an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer with a professor from the University of San Diego School of Law in which they wrote that the “bourgeois culture” and “bourgeois norms” that governed America from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s were good for America, and that their rejection has caused much of the social dysfunction that has characterized this country since the 1960s.

Those values included, in their words: “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.”

Rejection of bourgeois norms has caused much of the social dysfunction that has characterized this country since the 1960s.

Recognizing those norms as universally beneficial constitutes wisdom. Rejection of them constitutes a rejection of wisdom — i.e. foolishness.

Yet the left almost universally rejected the Wax piece, deeming it, as the left-wing National Lawyers Guild wrote, “an explicit and implicit endorsement of white supremacy,” and questioning whether professor Wax should be allowed to continue teaching a required first-year course at Penn Law.

To equate getting married before having children, working hard and eschewing substance abuse and crime with “white supremacy” is to betray an absence of wisdom that is as depressing as it breathtaking. It is obvious to anyone with a modicum of common sense that those values benefit anyone who adheres to them; they have nothing to do with race.

But almost every left-wing position (that differs from a liberal or conservative position) is bereft of wisdom.

Is the left-wing belief in the notion of “cultural appropriation” — such as the left’s recent condemnation of a white girl for wearing a Chinese dress to her high school prom — wise? Or is it simply moronic?

Is the left-wing belief that there are more than two genders wise? Or is it objectively false, foolish and nihilistic?

Has the left-wing belief that children need (unearned) self-esteem turned out to be wise, or morally and psychologically destructive? To its credit, last year, the Guardian wrote a scathing exposé on the “lie” — its word — the self-esteem movement is based on and the narcissistic generation it created.

Is it wise to provide college students with “safe spaces” — with their hot chocolate, stuffed animals and puppy videos — in which to hide whenever a conservative speaker comes to their college? Or is it just ridiculous and infantilizing?

Is the left’s rejection of many, if not most, great philosophical, literary and artistic works of wisdom on the grounds that they were written or created by white males wise? One example: The English department of the University of Pennsylvania, half of whose law school professors condemned Amy Wax and almost none of whose law professors defended her piece, removed a portrait of William Shakespeare (replacing it with that of a black lesbian poet).

Is multiculturalism, the idea that no culture is superior to another morally or in any other way wise? Isn’t it the antithesis of wisdom, whose very premise is that certain ideas are morally superior to others, and certain literary or artistic works are superior to others?

And the veneration of feelings over truth, not to mention wisdom, is a cornerstone of leftism.

Here’s one way to test my thesis: Ask left-wing friends what they have done to pass on wisdom to their children. Most will answer with a question: “What do you mean?” Then ask religious Jewish or Christian friends the same question. They won’t answer with a question.

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*”The usurpation of the word ‘liberal’ by the left has been a catastrophe.” — Dennis Prager.

23 thoughts on “The war on wisdom

  1. Well, sir, here you go again. Another of your offending posts that makes too much sense to argue with. How many comments will this one get? No matter, truth will stand for those who can see it, dwindling as that number may be.

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  2. John 8:32 And the truth shall set you free. Later in life, I found that the truth will get you into trouble. You may know the truth, but in some cases, you had better not voice your opinion.

    All the values voiced by Professor Wax are valid, and have been since the beginning of human culture. Kids need families, mothers and fathers. The idea that it takes a village to raise children is bogus. The village doesn’t give a damn about other people’s kids. They are just another nuisance.

    The left and their puppets in the media would have us think that the rolls assigned to us by fate, or God if you prefer, are changeable at our will. Gayness is seen as normal as the left endorses the strange, weird and perverted. Those of us that are appalled at this are portrayed as evil, demented and bigoted.

    This will not end well.

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    1. Dave: I just reread Prager’s piece. There is no reference to faith at all except in the very last sentence when he makes a tangential reference to “Jewish or Christian friends.” That’s the entirety of “faith” in the piece.

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  3. I think I will just stay with my “luxury problems” and leave the parsing of wisdom to those who understand wisdom.

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    1. Hi, Matt! Happy to hear from you, and I send sympathy from the mountains of Middle Mexico due to your living in today’s United States. Come on down here where, with some exceptions, sanity prevails.

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  4. Felipe: Firstly, I agree with Dave Davis.

    Much of the essay is under my umbrella of belief, but some of it strays. Mind you, of course, my statements are just my opinion, and I understand the difference of opinion, but not the “alternate fact” crap.

    I am not ‘”left,” but I consider myself liberal. To the marriage part, I can’t fathom why marriage is a big step, but having a few kids isn’t. In Canada, we have a common-law law. Live together for two years, same as legally married. Most of the rest of that is pretty much good sense and common courtesy. Don’t work hard, you don’t get ahead, try not to offend people unless they deserve it.

    The gender issue is silliness. Go to whichever bathroom you want. If you stand up, someone might be standing beside you. If you’re in a stall, odds are you’re alone. It’s become fashionable to be gay, and probably all of the other designations. I have had gay friends and co-workers of both genders, and since sex and sexual orientation isn’t one of my normal topics of conversation, my lack of political correctness hasn’t made me a total social outcast.

    The “everyone is a winner” approach is not a left-only thing. Every day I hear about a “fine man” and a slew of other effusive comments about someone absolutely unknown to a speaker on TV. If you break your life down to everything being a win or a loss, you’re going to lose more often than you win. Never trying to accomplish anything means you’re always a winner. Buy your own trophy.

    You don’t seem to need any help with this stuff, but I guess some folks do.

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  5. Can’t argue with Dennis Prager since I am proud to be one of those bourgeois pigs who actually stood for something in times when debate was acceptable, without being shouted down or called names. I would love to see a crystal ball into the future. Meltdown is inevitable.

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  6. You really should watch Ben Shapiro interview Dave Rubin about all of this. Rubin has some very keen observations on the problems with the left. Rubin himself is a self-avowed liberal, but finds the current “regressive left,” a threat to us all.

    The funny thing about all this leftism? It’s so focused on trivialities: gender pronouns; “offensive” speech; MICROaggressions (the very prefix suggests they are largely irrelevant); and safe spaces (for people who have never faced any real danger or adversity).

    Anyway, watch the interview. It’s an hour well-spent.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where many people want to put California in the rear-view mirror.

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    1. Kim: Thanks. I too am a liberal of the old-school variety. The word now is abused. I’ll watch the video.

      I cannot resist this opportunity to once again quote Dennis Prager:

      “The usurpation of the word ‘Liberal’ by the left has been a catastrophe.”

      Almost everyone these days refers to leftists as liberals. What a hoot.

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  7. Why is it that conservative writers are so intellectually dishonest?

    (OK I generalize, possibly overbroadly.)

    But Prager’s two points here are both intellectually dishonest arguments. The first one, that one party has embraced 16 year old voting, is simply wrong. Yes, it is being discussed in opinion pieces (NYT, WP) and it is a topic of conversation among youth activists, not surprisingly. That hardly makes it a plank in the Democratic Party platform, or even a mainstream topic of discussion.

    In the second argument, he makes it sound like Amy Wax’s advice to get married, etc. is what the controversy is about. No, she claimed that “blacks don’t graduate in the top quarter of law school classes.” That’s quite a different thing.

    He concludes with “Ask your left-wing friends what they have done to pass on wisdom,” then asserts that Jews and Christians will answer differently. Why not look at the results of that, in terms of unemployment, unwed pregnancy, opiate addiction, spousal abuse, and other societal ills? Why not consider other factors, like effects of poverty on social ills? He might find answers he doesn’t like.

    There are ways to look at these things honestly. You might come to the same conclusion, you might not. Prager didn’t look at them honestly.

    On another topic: your contention that the left isn’t liberal. Maybe, or maybe semantics. I long ago realized that the right is not conservative either. Examples I can think of right off are the Senate’s dropping of traditional rules when they are inconvenient, and the right’s rejection of science, particularly with respect to climate change. Possibly the best example is the Republican Party’s (and evangelicals!) total ignoring of Trump’s lies and conflicts of interest, as opposed to the way they impeached Bill Clinton for far less. Because they can get the policy outcomes they desire. “The ends justify the means” might be understandable, but it’s not conservative.

    The opposite of conservative is radical, not liberal. These people, frankly, are radical.

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    1. Creigh: Prager did not say that lowering the voting age to 16 is part of the Democrat Party platform. I imagine, in part, he was thinking of notoriously leftist publications like the NYT and WP which ran opinion pieces (according to you, and I believe it) on the issue. That there is even one opinion that it’s a good idea makes one’s eyes roll for the very reason that Prager mentions. Kids who are 16 are Know-Nothings.

      I, for one, favor a minimum age of, say, 30, a minimum educational level and something like homeownership, stuff to indicate one is a stable and responsible person. Universal suffrage is a terrible idea.

      Anyway, if you can find any conservative publication that even raises the issue of mid-teen voting in a positive way, pass it along. I imagine you can’t, so it’s just leftists (i.e. people who vote the Democrat Party) who are talking about it. They also talk about giving illegal aliens the vote. Actually, some states do give illegals the right to vote, invariably Blue States. They don’t do it outright, but they enable it intentionally by, for instance, giving illegals drivers’ licenses, which in many jurisdictions is the only requirement to vote. Registration will ask if you’re a citizen, but one has only to check yes. No proof is required.

      Illegals can reliably be counted on to vote Democrat. And nincompoop kids, more often than not, will do the same, especially if they know Democrats gave them the vote, not Republicans.

      As for the Wax dustup, I recall when it happened. Her stating that blacks (generally) do not graduate in the top quarter is a demonstrable statistic. But the hubbub was far broader than that.

      Among the modish left these days, even stating traditional values such as get married before you have babies, study, avoid idleness, be patriotic, and so on, are labeled as racist in a heartbeat. Her stating those things were equally responsible for the outcry against her.

      Those qualities are called racist because, pregnant pause, some elements of the population have abandoned them, mostly minorities! Egad!

      The Democrat Party has changed a lot in recent decades due to its embrace of political correctness, the victimhood mindset and pandering to minorities for votes. It is not a liberal party. I bring your attention to this piece on classical liberalism. Just read the first paragraph. That’s what a classical liberal is. These days it best describes conservatives.

      https://mises.org/library/what-classical-liberalism

      As for President Trump, love the guy. Love the way he gives raspberries not just to Democrats, but to the GOP too. He’s a breath of fresh air. I see him as the 21st century’s Teddy Roosevelt who once finished a campaign speech after someone shot him in the chest. Only then did he get medical attention. Trump would do that. What a couple of great guys, both of them. Teddy, an actual Republican at the time, and Trump, a nominal one. By the way, Trump’s polling numbers go up every week. Attaboy.

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      1. “‘Classical liberalism’ is the term used to designate the ideology advocating private property, an unhampered market economy, the rule of law, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and of the press, and international peace based on free trade.”

        I generally agree with those things, but I get off the train when they turn into ideology — the definition of ideology being a simple answer to a complex problem. Simple answers to complex problems never work when people are involved. Capitalism as an ideology will not be any more successful than communism as an ideology was. I believe in private property, but I believe in public property too.

        Just to point at some of the complexity, what separates an unhampered market economy from might makes right?

        Also, I’m ambivalent about free trade. I think it’s a good idea for nations — certainly bigger ones — to be largely self-sufficient. For that to happen, there needs to be some controls on the movement of capital. Banking should almost certainly be restricted to domestic investment, for example.

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        1. Creigh: Communism invariably fails. It’s a miserable philosophy. Capitalism, however, works fairly well, hitting hills and valleys now and then. If you think they are equal in some way, we’ll have to agree to disagree, as they say. There is no perfect world. There is no perfect system. That’s because humans run the world, and we are colossally flawed. Also, it’s important always to keep in mind that, by definition, 50 percent of people are below average in IQ.

          I believe in private and public property too! Government “owns” public property, and individuals own private property. The latter should always vastly outnumber the former. Free trade is a good idea sometime. At times, it’s not. It’s an imperfect world in which we reside.

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        2. PS: An unhampered market economy often does lead to “might makes right” or, to state it a bit nicer and perhaps more correctly, might leads to winning. Might comes in many forms. Sometimes physical might, but more often it’s intelligence, ambition, focus, that sort of thing.

          There are no participation trophies in an unhampered market economy, and there shouldn’t be. And there is no perfect world.

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