It’s hard to put my finger on the problem. My natural senses tell me it must be a generational thing. But reality doesn’t bear this out. What problem am I talking about; the increasing number of people who are turning into blithering idiots. People who cannot make change while performing their summer jobs, people who don’t know how to give directions to their own home, people who are clueless as to who is running their city, state, and country, much less the rest of the world. This conclusion is not just the result of educational testing and tracking, and it’s not just the old Tonight Show ‘Jay Walking’ segments that make us laugh in a very sad way. No, it’s not what these people are doing; it’s what they’re not doing.
Yet this crisis isn’t generational. All eighteen-year-olds are not stupid, nor are all 24 or 30-year-olds. Millions of young adults are motivated, educated, and knowledgeable about the world around them. There are millions of men and women who have graduated from the nation’s universities, high schools, tech schools, and art programs. These same people had grandparents that were farmers, blue-collar workers, and immigrants just two or three generations ago. Yet this disparity we now see; this new upper-middle-class super-imposed over a new genre of intellectual poverty: I don’t believe is generational. It’s channelization.
Bill Gates, one of the early evangelists of channelization saw the Internet and the web media player as an opportunity to provide more choice for viewers and listeners. No longer would we have to sit in front of the television at precisely 6 p.m. to watch the national news from one of the three or four very similar networks. With the adoption of the Internet and the World Wide Web, media software from Microsoft, Real Networks, YouTube and others soon opened the flood gates of information: news and entertainment any time of day, any game, song, or program you want, anywhere you want it. You’ll no longer be shackled to the living room, in front of your spouse, parents, and siblings, you learn, listen or watch what you want when you want, or not- and no one will forever know.
For better and worse all this has come to pass and more. Newspapers are quietly disappearing while blogs celebrating the tiniest of niches gather new audiences in droves. With our headphones, earbuds, Ipads and Bluetooth headsets, we can now choose the world we want to live in and ignore the rest. Whether this will be to our peril we have yet to know, but somehow a world full of complacent, slightly educated people who are easily entertained by a few clicks, tweets and pokes, doesn’t bode well for our future. After all, it leaves us with only a privileged intelligentsia in power (or indifferent) and we’ve been there before.