I am currently reading a book entitled “A Gentle Madness” by Nicholas A. Basbanes, which covers the history of book collecting. In it, the author acknowledges an enormous debt of gratitude toward early book-obsessed people who rescued ancient literature from obscurity or oblivion. During the Middle Ages, he cites monasteries as repositories for either hand-written tomes or, later, printed works that kept the flame of knowledge alight during endless centuries of illiterate and ignorant darkness.

He also mentions the impact of Henry VIII’s majestic temper tantrum with the pope (details here) and the subsequent dissolution of the English monasteries when he didn’t get his way. Endless precious books – and the knowledge they contained – were lost after 1536. Though approving of the Reformation, a Protestant writer named John Bale deplored the wanton destruction of books and manuscripts:

He wrote that in turning over the “superstitious monasteries” to the Crown, “little respect has to their Libraries, for the safeguard of those noble and precious monuments.” He cited instances where a “great number” of people had used books “to scour their candlesticks, and some to rub their boots; some they sold to the grocers and soapsellers, and some they sent over seas to the bookbinders, not in small number but at times whole ships full, to the wondering of the foreign nations.” Indeed, Bale wondered how seriously England’s reputation had been sullied by the desolation. (Emphasis added.)

We seemed determine to repeat this destruction today. America is experiencing a Great Unlearning. The left is engaged in a gigantic temper tantrum because they’re not getting their way, and subsequently they’re determined to deny, refute and destroy our history by trashing monuments and other historical artifacts. But there’s a funny saying about those who refuse to learn from history …

America is not becoming wiser as a nation; we are becoming stupider and more of a laughingstock in the international arena. Our “reputation is being sullied by the desolation.”

The last couple of decades have seen the level of public education degenerate to a staggering degree. Schools employ self-righteous instructors who use “social justice” as both a battle cry and a bludgeon, produce graduates of breathtaking ignorance, and call it success. The K-12 school system has completely abandoned the notion of educating children and instead creates ignoramuses indoctrinated in the progressive agenda at the expense of literature, mathematics, science, geography, economics and of course history. This is now being taken up in colleges and universities, where it’s actually possible to get degrees in agitation and victimhood.

It’s no wonder sensible people view the latest riots, clashes and toppling of monuments with revulsion. The chasm in this country, it seems, has never been wider as people misbehave and attack and pummel and smash. Over what? America’s past? This isn’t to erase racism; this is to erase history. It’s the Great Unlearning.

Big deal, you might say. It’s just a bunch of statues. America still has free speech. Oh really? Tell that to the many who have lost their jobs, like software engineer James Damore, fired from Google for daring to express ideas departing from the liberal agenda. The Great Unlearning.

Some have called these rioters and their leaders Bolsheviks (defined here). One person wrote: “I am former political refugee from the Soviet Union. Live in U.S. for 30 years now. What is going on in the USA is exactly what Bolsheviks were doing in Russia 100 years ago. … Two things that Bolsheviks did as soon as they took power in Russia is (1) they confiscated and banned all weapons from citizens, and (2) they banned study of Russian history. There was no history taught in schools or colleges for 17 years. After that it was only History of Communist Movement. Isn’t it what going on here now looks the same? Left wants to take your guns and change the history. Soon there will be no mention of Washington or Columbus or Jefferson.”

The Great Unlearning.

Stupidity, as it turns out, has been the focus of the occasional academic study. In 1976, a professor of economic history named Carlo M. Cipolla at the University of California, Berkeley published an essay outlining the fundamental laws of stupid people, which he perceived as humanity’s greatest existential threat. Dr. Cipolla came up with five “basic laws” of human stupidity, abbreviated as follows (a full explanation can be found at this site):

  • Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  • The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  • A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  • Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  • A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person. (The corollary of the Law is that: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit.)

But this “scientific” approach implies stupid people are born, not made. What we’re witnessing now – perhaps for the first time in American history – are people who are deliberately cultivating their own stupidity. They’re taking pride in it. They’re creating more stupid people to follow in their footsteps. There is so much bulltucky coming out of colleges and universities these days that I could literally devote every column to the madness.

The more statues and monuments are toppled, defaced and smashed, the deeper America sinks into greater stupidity. In fact, people are becoming so stupid they actually vandalized a peace monument after mistaking it for a Confederate symbol. Who cares? It’s a monument! Smash it! Stupid people, unite!

But remember this: The easiest people in the world to dominate and control as a group are the stupid. They let others do their thinking for them; and these others – who aren’t stupid and certainly aren’t moral – have nasty, nefarious designs. They, at least, understand very well how to profit from the stupidity of others.

It was Thomas Sowell who said, “Civilization has been aptly called a ‘thin crust over a volcano.’ (Liberals) are constantly picking at that crust.”

So topple more monuments! Burn more books! Increase the Great Unlearning!

What a stupid idea.

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