The idea that America and indeed the world is living through a period of disruptive change is no longer such a shocking idea. A Foreign Affairs article by Walter Russell Mead titled The Big Shift but which might have been named “Gone With the Wind” explicitly compares the current institutional turmoil to the aftermath of the Civil War.
Americans struggle to make sense of a series of uncomfortable economic changes and disturbing political developments …That, of course, is a description of American life in the 35 years after the Civil War. …
It was not just the South that found its old political structures and ideas irrelevant in the wake of the war; in the North, too, the political ideals and the governing institutions of the antebellum world no longer sufficed. …
Intellectual and policy elites, for the most part, are too wedded to paradigms that no longer work, but the populists who seek to replace them don’t have real answers, either. It is, in many ways, a stressful and anxious time to be alive.
The comparison allows us to see the recent past through the lens of Ben Hecht’s famous quote, a land where the post-WW2 aristocracy still attended the White House Correspondents Dinner and exchanged courtesies at talk shows. “Here was the last ever to be seen of ‘bipartisan’ Cavaliers and their Media Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind…” The figures of Hillary Clinton and Charlie Rose wave at us briefly from the enfolding mist before disappearing into a vanishing landscape.
The most striking implication of Mead’s comparison is that we may already be living in old world’s ruins on our way to something new. Some anecdotal support for that proposition comes from the attitude of ‘Generation Z’. “Gen Z, those born in 1995 or later, is possibly the most conservative generation since World War II,” writes Ashley Stahl at Forbes, citing polls. The heirs to the liberal world order seem to have little use for its big government paternalism and equally little appetite for the pre-masticated output of its journalists.
They’ve never had to ask anyone for information, directions, or a recipe.
Being able to research their own opinions on an iPad from the convenience of their couch, Gen Z has turned into a very individualistic generation that relies only on themselves and the Internet to form an opinion. One could argue that this mechanical way of living and not having to rely on others for help could have desensitized Gen Z from other people’s struggles, which would help explain their more conservative views on social issues.
One thing us Millenials can be jealous of in regards to Generation Z: they avoid student loans like fire! Generation Z is not only more socially conservative, they are also more fiscally conservative. A new national study by The Center for Generational Kinetics discovered that Gen Z students plan to “work during college, keep clear of any personal debt, and start saving for retirement.”
Shockingly 12% have already already saving for retirement, and a huge 21% of Gen Z had a savings account before the age of ten. Currently 77% of Gen Z earn their own spending money by doing“freelance work, a part time job, or earned allowance.” Jason Dorsey, President of the Center for Generational Kinetics and Gen Z and Millennial expert said of Gen Z, “Their practical and fiscally conservative behavior is making them part of businesses and our economy despite their young age.
“Conservative” might not be the right term to characterize the self-powered young, unless by that we mean someone more like an 18th century frontierman than Bill Kristol. Not since the age of exploration has humanity trembled on the threshold of such breathtaking possibilities as those offered by 21st century technology. The dead hand of political correctness, self flagellating guilt and ideological paralysis peddled by celebrities are unlikely to have much appeal to an auto-didactic world.
Seventy years ago today CBS news aired the first coast-to-coast network newscast on black and white TV. “Douglas Edwards, the first anchor of this broadcast, was born 100 years ago, on July 14, 1917 in Ada, Oklahoma. A radio veteran, Edwards was tapped to anchor the first nightly network TV newscast, in 1948 — put together, he would later say, “with spit, bailing wire and high spirits.” It was a great moment but it couldn’t last forever.
What destroyed the old world was change. Consequently while the media and the special prosecutor may destroy the current administration, in the larger scheme their efforts to return the world to the way ‘it used to be’ are doomed.
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The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. This book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives and our economy. As the full impact of digital technologies is felt, we will realize immense bounty but also experience wrenching change. Professions of all kinds – from lawyers to truck drivers – will be forever upended. Companies will be forced to transform or die. Recent economic indicators reflect this shift: fewer people are working, and wages are falling even as productivity and profits soar. Drawing on years of research and up-to-the-minute trends, MIT’s Brynjolfsson and McAfee identify the best strategies for survival and a new path to prosperity.
Open Curtains: What if Privacy were Property not only a Right, by George Spix and Richard Fernandez. This book is a proposal for bringing privacy to the internet by assigning monetary value to data. The image of “open curtains” is meant to suggest a system that allows different degrees of privacy, controlled by the owner. The “curtains” may be open, shut, or open to various degrees depending on which piece of data is being dealt with. Ultimately, what is at stake is governance. We are en route to control of society by and for the few rather than by and for the many, because currently the handful of mega tech companies are siphoning up everyone’s data, for nothing, and selling it. Under the open curtains proposal, government would also pay for its surveillance in the form of tax rebates, providing at least some incentive for government to minimize its intrusions … (from a review by E. Greenwood).
Skin in the Game, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In his new work, Taleb uses the phrase “skin in the game” to introduce a complex worldview that applies to literally all aspects of our lives. “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will profit and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them,” he says. In his inimitable style, he pulls on everything from Antaeus the Giant to Hammurabi to Donald Trump to Seneca to the ethics of disagreement to create a jaw-dropping tapestry for understanding our world in a brand new way.
For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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