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The Two Cultures....With All Due Respect
www.fredoneverything.net ^ | August 18, 2003 | Fred Reed

Posted on 08/18/2003 4:11:16 PM PDT by wbill

As the culture dies, the schools fail, the cities teem with functional illiterates and our children turn into tattooed primitives cosseted by a civilization whose origins they barely know, I watch them with…I will say it plainly…contempt. It is a mild contempt, yet it is contempt. Sadness also, for they have lost much, but yes, a contempt I do not want but cannot escape.

So, to judge by my correspondence, do many people old enough to read fluently. None use the word "contempt." The taboos are too ingrained, the penalties too harsh, the unspoken laws protecting everyone's self-esteem too punitively policed. Again, it is not a contempt that people want to feel: All would prefer that things not be as they are. Yet contempt is unmistakably what peers through their letters.

Contempt is the proper reaction to the contemptible.

I sometimes think the country is dividing itself into two cultures. The first, and much the smaller, will be of those who read widely and know much, who are cultured and live in a wider world than the merely present. The second will be of those who received high grades without understanding that they were being cheated by their elders. An abyss will separate the two.

The chain of cultivation, once broken, is not easily rejoined. We are doing everything we can to break it. It is a shame. People deserve more. We are doing this, as nearly as I can tell, so that the dull and uninterested will feel good about themselves. We are doing it to conceal that some of us are better than others.

Yes, better. That word.

In the past it was recognized that certain qualities were superior to others, and that people who cultivated those superior qualities were superior to those who didn't. The honest were thought superior to the thieving, the kind to the cruel, the provident to the shiftless, the wise to the foolish, the learned to the ignorant. Today one must not hold these views. They constitute the crime of elitism, which is the recognition that the better is preferable to the worse.

One must never, ever notice that some people are better than others.

Not to notice the inescapable requires either stupidity or moral blindness. Since few people are very stupid, we have chosen the road of blindness. We feign stupidity for reasons of politics.

It takes some serious feigning. If I said that Mother Theresa was no better than the Hillside Strangler--"she wasn't better, just different"--people would laugh. If I said that Albert Schweitzer was of greater worth than an illiterate drug-dealing parasite in what is called the inner city, I would be called a racist. If I said that a white suburban kid who couldn't do long division amounted to a medieval peasant without the excuses, I would be called, spare me, an elitist.

Which I am.

What, pray, should one feel toward intelligent people who cannot read without squinting laboriously, who know less of their language than a fourth-grader in 1954, have a shaky grasp of the multiplication tables, cannot write a coherent paragraph, and seldom read a book? Respect comes to people who merit respect. It isn't an entitlement. Contempt also comes to those who merit it.

I do not scorn, say, savages from Papua-New Guinea who wear penis gourds, eat huge grubs from within logs, and peer at distant airliners as those vouchsafed a glimpse of divinity. It is unreasonable to blame them for not having profited from opportunities they didn't have. I watch them with wonder, but not contempt.

But the lazy, shiftless, deliberately half-lettered, the feckless and socially worthless--yes, worthless: that, and "shiftless," are words that could well be resurrected--those who have had every opportunity to better themselves but couldn't summon the effort…for them I cannot help feeling pity. And contempt.

And what should one think of the bloated welfare mother with a second-grade education, with a litter of five she can't feed and won't school, by twenty-five fathers she can't remember, who spends her limited time between couplings in watching Oprah and feeling abused? The best I can come up with is revulsion. And pity, yes. Being a public uterus cannot be pleasant. Yet I will not pretend that it is admirable.

And what of the mall children of the suburbs, who leave high school with less arithmetical fluency than I had in the sixth grade in 1957 in the schools of Alabama? I didn't know arithmetic because I was particularly meritorious. I was a barefoot southern kid with a BB gun in one hand and a fielder's glove in the other. I knew arithmetic, we all knew arithmetic, because the society, the schools, and our parents made it plain that we ought to know it, and in fact were going to know it, at which point the conversation was over.

This brings us to a greater question: What should one feel other than contempt for a society that, enjoying virtually unlimited resources, deliberately enstupidates its children? We don't have to do it. We choose to. We are ruining our society on purpose.

Today I see mall rats who go through high school with the red puffy eyes born of dope, and literally count on their fingers to do multiplication. On graduation they take one course at the community college, play video games, and hang out pointlessly with their friends. I've got more respect for dirt. You can grow plants in it.

I once wrote a column on the almost comic state of regained subhumanity. A friend of mine responded:

"Johnny can't add coz (a) his grade school teachers are moron socialists, (b) his parents are mouth-breathing, TV watching losers, and (c) he's majoring in sociology so he can get a gov't job like everyone else."

I can't see much wrong with that analysis.

The desire to disguise differences in merit by ideological cleansing, and the atmosphere of pre-human irredentism now earnestly promoted in what were for a time the schools, will promote precisely the elitism they pretend to vanquish. Those who achieve will always look down on those who didn't bother. This is certainly true in regard to schooling. As the gap increases between the few who know their history and literature, and those who gurble ungrammatically about their favorite situation comedies, the contempt will become sharper. Two cultures.

Maybe self-esteem comes too high. Besides, who will have greater respect for themselves, the puzzled and half-literate, or those who read confidently and know that they have been well educated? If you want to respect your self, do something worthy of respect. Now there's a concept.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: fredreed
As usual, Fred nails it.
1 posted on 08/18/2003 4:11:17 PM PDT by wbill
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To: wbill
Excellent. I resurrected "shiftless" years ago to describe my in-laws; it's nice to see someone else using the word!
2 posted on 08/18/2003 4:19:33 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Out of touch with trends since 1966.)
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To: wbill
In current society, there are no "bums", just the societal-bred "Homeless"; no one is "stupid", just society's "victims"; there are no insane, just "mentally challeneged" individuals that must be taught as if they were normal; no deranged perverts, just "gender neutrals" who 'prefer' to have sex with "one of their own". We've come a long way, baby!
3 posted on 08/18/2003 4:24:59 PM PDT by 45Auto (Big holes are (almost) always better.)
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To: wbill
Beautiful. Until we return to this view, we are doomed.
4 posted on 08/18/2003 4:26:59 PM PDT by RLK
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To: wbill
Bump!
5 posted on 08/18/2003 4:28:13 PM PDT by neutrino (Oderint dum metuant: Let them hate us, so long as they fear us.)
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To: wbill
Excellent article.
6 posted on 08/18/2003 4:30:07 PM PDT by sweetliberty ("Having the right to do a thing is not at all the same thing as being right in doing it.")
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To: wbill
"As usual, Fred nails it."

Yup, he sure did. I grew up in Alabama in the 50's also.

My only child has a PhD in physics.

7 posted on 08/18/2003 4:44:31 PM PDT by blam
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To: wbill
It's more than education. One doesn't have to be a genius or a good student to be a great citizen, but I will admit that common sense sure helps. My life has been blessed with people who were considered "dumb as a box of rocks" as far as "book learning" was concerned, yet they have been straight arrows in their habits and their jobs, and thus have made good, productive lives for themselves. Character and courage are not determined by education.

One could convincingly argue that a lot of the problems we face in this nation are due to the influences of well (or over) educated people who are simply no damned good, but who know how to kill a culture by leading the gullible and the indolent. Such as, say, the Smartest Woman in America® (PIAPS).

8 posted on 08/18/2003 5:09:07 PM PDT by niteowl77 (If you aren't still praying for our troops, then you had best take it up again.)
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To: edskid
agreed!!!
9 posted on 08/18/2003 5:37:17 PM PDT by teldon30
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To: wbill
Terrific read!

I suggest another word be resurrected: shame.

10 posted on 08/18/2003 5:43:20 PM PDT by arasina (A place is what YOU make it.)
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To: wbill
Excellent article!
11 posted on 08/18/2003 5:45:01 PM PDT by Frank_2001
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To: wbill
Everything is going as planned as per the NEA's socialist/communist take over of the Public School System.
12 posted on 08/18/2003 5:53:09 PM PDT by F16Fighter
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To: Tax-chick
resurrected "shiftless" years ago to describe my in-laws;

LOL!

13 posted on 08/18/2003 5:58:27 PM PDT by UncleDudley
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To: wbill
Since few people are very stupid

He lost me there.

14 posted on 08/18/2003 6:00:08 PM PDT by Sloth ("I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" -- Jacobim Mugatu, 'Zoolander')
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To: wbill
This one's a keeper. I haven't reached the "contempt" level yet, having painful memories of not-so-recent youthful notions that I was the Smartest Guy In The World - I grew out of them due to a cornucopia of contrary evidence.

But I would certainly use the descriptive "disdain." And maybe "pity," because most of them are too shielded by those who should know better to realize what they're missing. Some have a dim idea. For them there's hope. Because it really doesn't take a great deal to turn it around here in the land of milk and honey - library cards are free, for starters.

And, sadly, if Fred really is an elitist in these matters he'll have to admit that for a significant proportion of the subject population a shallow, nugatory existence is all they're really up to. Due to the efforts of their betters over the years it needn't be an uncomfortable one. I don't think it is they that have gotten under Fred's skin here, but rather the defiantly ignorant who are so happy in their illusions that they mandate them for everyone else. For them, all right, I give up, for them contempt.

15 posted on 08/18/2003 6:05:17 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: wbill; ntnychik
One worth saving!!
16 posted on 08/18/2003 7:35:56 PM PDT by potlatch (If you want breakfast in bed - - - sleep in the kitchen!)
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To: edskid
Amen:

... Character and courage are not determined by education.

One could convincingly argue that a lot of the problems we face in this nation are due to the influences of well (or over) educated people who are simply no damned good, but who know how to kill a culture by leading the gullible and the indolent. Such as, say, the Smartest Woman in America® (PIAPS).

17 posted on 08/18/2003 7:49:12 PM PDT by GOPJ
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To: wbill
read later
18 posted on 08/18/2003 9:24:37 PM PDT by LiteKeeper
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To: Billthedrill
I think that 'contempt' is a fairly strong word, as well. But I surely characterize myself as an elitist. If considering myself better because I work hard and strive to improve myself, while others allow themselves to stagnate, is wrong - then I don't want to be right. :-)

19 posted on 08/19/2003 5:28:20 AM PDT by wbill
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To: edskid
Character and courage are not determined by education.

Bingo. I would argue that they're far more important than education and will get you much farther in life.

I think that "Integrity" is another word that needs to come back into style.

20 posted on 08/19/2003 5:32:48 AM PDT by wbill
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To: Billthedrill
I'm not too worried about these losers. It means I'll never have to worry about retirement. I'll be one of the few, the proud, the Literate.
My biggest worry is, that since they don't read, they won't subsidize my SF / F habit.

Funny thing though, I have not met many of these losers yet. Even my nephew, who suffers from a major case of being a young boy (bless his mother who won't allow the school to drug him!) is getting a pretty good education. My nieces (all four of them), ages 2-5 are learning to use their Disney software... The oldest ones are already on the edge of literacy.

Once I met a kid who was in sixth grade who didn't understand the communitive and associative properties; he didn't care because he going to join the Army and learn to be a mechanic. I couldn't figure out how he was going to get through HS without 'em, myself, but he could read pretty well. That is the closest I have been to the losers Fred describes.

21 posted on 08/19/2003 5:57:05 AM PDT by Little Ray (When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!)
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To: Little Ray
A BTT, and thanks for reminding me. The kids are all right. I sometimes forget. And I should know better - one look at what we sent into Iraq, and a reminder that every one of them volunteered...
22 posted on 08/19/2003 8:24:04 AM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: wbill
Excellent.
Having a Junior College education and 20 years of Army life at some point about 15 years ago I felt I was missing something. I sat down and made myself a reading list beginning with Aeschylus up through the present. I still haven't gotten through all of it but it has been a real eye-opener for me. There is a whole "new to me" other world out there in those books. I've tried to push my own children into reading more without much success. They are almost all college educated (even though some of that education seems a little lacking) and seem amazed at the knowledge I have gained on my own without the degrees they have or are earning. It all comes down to self-motivation, and sadly our younger generation seems to coming up short in that department.
23 posted on 08/19/2003 8:42:57 AM PDT by ladtx ( "Remember your regiment and follow your officers." Captain Charles May, 2d Dragoons, 9 May 1846)
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To: wbill
That's why we're going to lose to the Asians who value education unless we do something about the state of our schools, and fast
24 posted on 08/19/2003 8:53:22 AM PDT by Cronos (Reagan waz best, but Dubya's close!)
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To: wbill
Is fred a freeper. His picture looks familar to me.
25 posted on 08/19/2003 8:43:10 PM PDT by staytrue
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To: wbill

Bump


26 posted on 08/23/2003 9:52:03 AM PDT by Nick Danger (Time is what keeps everything from happening at once)
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