The New Caesarism
The end of complexity
Western populations have suffered a profound degradation of reason, intellect, and moral integrity. The symptoms of this are many and flagrant. Among the most telling: Americans are rapidly losing both passive and active vocabulary. Both declined at a fairly steady pace postwar until the advent of e-mail and the text message; vocabulary loss then accelerated.
Reading skills have been lost. Only a small minority of Americans now have the ability to read and understand a book—book-reading now is the purview of the personality type drawn to endurance sports—which means most of us are functionally illiterate for democratic purposes. Those who can’t read at book length cannot follow a sustained, linear argument. The brain is highly plastic, and we have changed ours in a way that makes it much harder for most of us to think beyond 140 characters—slogans, not arguments—even as we have created in the Internet such a riveting system of rival entertainment that reading a book now requires exceptional personal discipline whereas once it required only the desire to be relieved of boredom.
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