Wandering about the bookstore, I came across Th!nk, by Michael LeGault. It is a reaction against the popular Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. And just reading the description of Th!nk made me loathe it with every fiber of my being.
Here’s the loathsomeness:
Outraged by the downward spiral of American intellect and culture, Michael R. LeGault offers the flip side of Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling phenomenon, Blink, which theorized that our best decision-making is done on impulse, without factual knowledge or critical analysis. If bestselling books are advising us to not think, LeGault argues, it comes as no surprise that sharp, incisive reasoning has become a lost art in the daily life of Americans. Somewhere along the line, the Age of Reason morphed into the Age of Emotion; this systemic erosion is costing time, money, jobs, and lives in the twenty-first century, leading to less fulfillment and growing dysfunction. LeGault provides a bold, controversial, and objective analysis of the causes and solutions for:
• the erosion of growth and market share at many established American companies, big and small, which appear to have less chance of achieving the dynamic expansion of the past
• permissive parenting and low standards that have caused an academic crisis among our children — body weights rise while grades plummet
• America’s growing political polarization, which is a result of our reluctance to think outside our comfort zone
• faulty planning and failure to act on information at all levels that has led to preventable disasters, such as the Hurricane Katrina meltdown
• a culture of image and instant gratification, fed by reality shows and computer games, that has rendered curiosity of the mind and spirit all but obsolete
• stress, aversion to taking risks, and therapy that are replacing the traditional American “can do” mind-set.
It’s classic Cranky Old Man, talking about how the world is all going to the dogs and we need to return to the old days, when men were real men, women were real women, you whipped your child twice before breakfast every day just to keep the fear of God in him, and the Coloreds knew their place! Well, that last part usually doesn’t get said out loud. But you get the idea. It’s Conservatism in its worst caricature.
So, we usually hate things that we deny in ourselves. Am I in denial of my inner Cranky Old Man, that I react with such knee-jerk emotion to the Cranky Old Men I see?
John T. Reed’s analysis of Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad is fascinating. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad a few years ago, and believed it, because I had no reason to believe otherwise. My wife read it too. We thought for a while about trying to follow his advice in the long term but didn’t really end up doing anything about it, and eventually I concluded that, well, it’s all well and good that that’s how rich people get rich, but it’s really not me, I’ll just be as rich or poor as I happen to be and not stress about it.
It turns out, at least if John Reed is to be believed, that there’s no particular evidence that the author, Robert Kiyosaki, ever got rich in any other way than pitching financial success schemes in seminars and books, and a lot of the things he claims to have done to get rich, and recommends to his readers, are either wildly implausible or outright illegal.
I have no way of judging who is right on this issue but Reed sure sounds credible to me. It is also reassuring for me to hear this, because Kiyosaki’s approach to getting rich seemed, when you thought about it clearly, pretty Macchiavellian and sleazy. It’s reasurring to me to know that that is not really what you have to be like to get rich, and it is helpful to me, being rather left-leaning, and therefore tending to think the worse of people who are well off, to find out that Kiyosaki’s highly cynical guide to getting rich is not the way actual rich people think. It makes me think better of rich people to know that.
Always good to have your prejudices challenged.
Albert Mohler refers with approval to an essay in the Claremont Review of Books which says that we aren’t raising our boys to be upstanding Manly Men and they are therefore becoming “Barbarians and Wimps.” Part of the problem, he thinks, is fear of physical discipline and excessive concern for “self-esteem.”
It pretty much sounds like what adolescent boys have looked like to middle aged men from the beginning of time. “Kids these days are completely unlike the paragons of moral perfection and manly virtue that I and my cohorts were at their age! Why, they’re nasty and spoiled! They need to be smacked around a bit more!”
The following quote is attributed to Socrates in various places, though I don’t know exactly where it comes from, and if it is accurate suggests that there is no crisis here, just the same old bitterness from people growing old about “kids these days.”
“Our youths love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders, and love to chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their household. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.” — Socrates, Greek philosopher and teacher (470-399 B.C.)
This is via Mefi, which also references “Why I’m Raising Violent Four-Year-Olds., about a Baptist administrator who wants his children to realize that life is spiritual war, and that’s why he takes them to see Star Wars movies. Oooooookayyyy… My 4 year olds haven’t seen Star Wars, but Jim’s has seen the movies dozens of times. My son has slaughtered countless gnorcs and rhynocs in Spyro the Dragon, though. I am influenced not to worry about the “violence” more by the rational discussion in Killing Monsters by Gerard Jones than by a partcular wish to indoctrinate children into a warlike view of reality.
I don’t realy see any value in Baptist-boy’s effort to make “violent” a term of praise though. (“Violent” in his view is good as long as it’s violence he believes to be sanctioned by God, which means “yes” to smiting sinners and the Lord taking vengeance, and “no” to playing Grand Theft Auto…)
UPDATE: Playing follow-the-link, it turns out all this stuff was linked originaly by the most excellent post here at Howie Luvzus.
I just finished Kelly Bryson’s Don’t Be Nice, Be Real, (B&N) which is by a fellow who studied with Marshall “Nonviolent Communication” Rosenberg. He’s a family therapist and has spent some time teaching NVC in other countries, and is involved with alternative communities in San Diego.
I definitely got some valuable stuff out of reading this. He teaches NVC, but he’s a pretty different person than Marshall Rosenberg, so you get his own take on it, which is helpful. His emphasis is much more on NVC in love relationships than Rosenberg’s book is. He likes to play around with cute wordplay a lot more than Rosenberg. He does even more sharing of personal stories than Rosenberg, I think, and they’re often very powerful & touching.
It was really interesting to hear story after story of somebody trying to use NVC in a variety of life situations, and it was especially useful to read Bryson’s emphasis on how to do NVC badly. Doing it out of a feeling of moral obligation, for example, or doing it with a specific agenda for what you want to get out of the other person’s behavior. Bryson talks a lot about NVC as a form of enlightened selfishness, and while I’m not entirely happy with that verbal formula, with all its Libertarian-capitalist associations, it was a good counter-perspective to viewing NVC as some kind of saintly path.
The difficulties for me were when he gets off on a rant. He spends a lot of time criticizing segments of culture in very general and entirely negative terms — he goes off on institutional religion, on Western “Dominator” society as a whole, on psychotherapy and psychiatry, and it seemed so know-it-all and judgmental (and hard to credit, because he repeats a lot of really dubious factoids, like the “rule of thumb” story) that it got hard for me to take.
But then he would drop in a story from his own life, and I was back right there with him. And the last chapter, which was about hope for creating change in culture, really was inspiring. So it was worth slogging through the rants.
Overall I’m glad I read it; I liked it; I’m not sure I would have liked it so much if I hadn’t read Rosneberg’s book first to put it in perspective.