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.

Eternal bloom from the barrister

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STEVE COTTON, a retired barrister from Oregon who now lives occasionally in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, and writes now and then on his website Mexpatriate — In the Key of Steve, came with family in February to stay in our downtown casita for a spell.

Señor Cotton, being a well-bred sort (tip of the sombrero to his Mom and Pop), as a token of apreciation — I didn’t charge him for the rental — left this orchid for us. We transported the flower from the downtown casita here to the Hacienda where we live, and we sat it atop the dining room table.

As I said, that was February … of 2017.

Yes, the orchid has graced our table for over a year, and it’s never lacked flowers. I find this remarkable. I didn’t know any plant flowered for more than a year.

So every morning especially, as we chew toasted bagels with cream cheese or the occasional croissant with orange marmalade, we think kindly of the former Oregon barrister who now lives occasionally — when he’s not flying all over the place — in the “little Mexican village” of Barra de Navidad, Jalisco.

Watch your step

THERE’S A street project right off the main plaza downtown that’s been going on since last autumn, which is a long time because the renovation is just two lengthy blocks.

This project interests me, and I take a stroll by there almost every weekday after sitting at a sidewalk table with my Kindle and a café Americano negro.

In the United States, it would have been done far faster, and the entire work site would be blocked off so pedestrians and gawkers like me could not walk all over the place.

Around the workmen. Hopping over wet cement.

Here, no effort is made to keep pedestrians out of the work area, and none of the workers sports a hard hat. The main reason the project is taking so long is that there is little mechanized about it. It’s strictly manual labor.

If a passerby trips on something, falls and busts his noodle, he should have watched where he was going. He does not sue the city. We are not litigious that way.

The work started last year with an extensive excavation. New sewer and water lines were buried deep as were electric cables and wires in fat orange conduits.

Part of the reason the project is taking so long is the detail work, primarily on the sidewalks.

I should have photographed some of the detail, but I didn’t. This is fine rock work that will last a century.

There is sunken lighting for a nice nighttime look.

About the only nod to modernity are wheelchair ramps.

This photo shows the area where most of the stone is being worked to make it usable. It was a rose garden outside the church/hospital to the left before the renovation began.

Big stones are cut to size by hammer and chisel.

The scenes of the first two photos are at the end of the block down thataway, the far side.

We don’t have the reams of rules and regulations here that are so prevalent above the Rio Bravo, rules and regs made necessary by lawyers and government meddling. No environmental impact study was required.

Bugs were just squashed.

Here, if you need something done you hire some guys and do it. There are always guys available, plenty of idle hands of men who never grasped the need for schooling.

Just around the corner from the renovation I noticed this sign outside a tiny pharmacy. Look what you can have done. (Excuse the photos’ blurry edges. I had the camera set for that effect, but I did not notice till later.)

You can measure your blood sugar and blood pressure, or get a pap test.

You can get a medical certificate, maybe to get out of class. A problem with your toenails? No sweat.

A wound will be bandaged, and if you need an injection, they’ll stick you with the appropriate needle.

And all will cost next to nothing, and no pricey doctor reference is needed, but a doctor is likely there. Just go in, pay a buck or two if you want some medical advice or a prescription.

Living here is easy. Even if renovating a street takes forever. It will last forever after it’s finished.

Endless construction

MEXICO’S IN a state of constant construction.

There are businesses all over the place that sell construction material. If you drive more than a few blocks, you’re almost guaranteed to see something being built.

It’s an incredible, ongoing phenomenon.

When we get back from Mexico City, where we’re headed shortly, we also will be building stuff, a yearly occurrence in springtime when there is no daily deluge of rain.

And we’ll be constructing in Mexico City too. Ceramic tile will be laid on the floor of the “service patio,” that space Mexican homes have out back where the water heater, clothesline and big cement sink sit.

Mexican homes have big cement sinks out back.

But the best news — for us at least — out of Mexico City recently is that we finally have the deed to the condo. All we have to do is pick it up at the lawyer’s office.

Signed, sealed and delivered!

Getting the deed has been an ongoing process and headache for years. But now it’s done, and we own three homes free and clear that we could sell if we wanted to.

But we don’t.

We prefer the fun of constant construction.