Scipio Aemilianus wept as he watched the final destruction of Carthage. Of course, he was the instrument that wrought the demise of that city. His tears came from the realization that everything is transitory; he could be sure that his city and country would one day suffer the same fate as the Punic Empire. We may think ourselves equal in the sight of God or before the law, but the only force before which all are the same is time. It overcomes us all. Sometimes nations go crazy before they go extinct. Rome had several prolonged bouts of lunacy before Aemilianus’s fear was realized.
The current hallucinatory bender that afflicts a sizable fraction of natives of the United States is really an unprecedented event in the nation’s two and a half century history. No self aware immigrant would allow himself the luxury of the self congratulatory insanity that seem to have possessed most of those born in the USA Americans with any education beyond high school. The obsolete term “dementia praecox” seems the best label to put on the hordes of lunatics roaming the streets and halls of academia who can’t tell a boy from a girl, who are convulsed by English grammar, who resemble the man who thought his wife was a hat, and who can’t distinguish synonyms from antonyms.
Dementia praecox: a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration, usually beginning in the late teens or early adulthood.
Temporary insanity sometimes works as a defense against a criminal charge such as murder. Whether it will spring the US from the coils of craziness careening across the fruited plains and coruscating the public spaces of our cities is uncertain. What is sure is that a liberal education has become a contradiction in terms. You can lead a boy to class, but you can’t make him think, especially when the air’s polluted. Punishing sanity as is the current fashion is not likely to be a winning strategy even over the short haul. Recent history, very recent, has conclusively shown that in a crisis toilet paper has more value than a diploma. “Some people get an education without going to college. The rest get it after they get out.” Mark Twain’s observation is no longer apt. The second sentence has been overwhelmed by events. There seems to be no cure for a college education short of a lobotomy. Open any college’s catalog and the description of the courses on offer appear to have been written by either John Cleland or Frank Harris. A trans-century collaboration is possible.
Speaking of trans – gender fluidity seems to have become more contagious than the coronavirus. What used to be a rare condition requiring psychiatric attention has morphed into a common state of privilege demanding immediate medical intervention. The surgeon has taken over from the psychiatrist. Genital mutilation under a new name is now accepted medical practice. There will likely soon be an American Board of Genital Mutilation that will bestow certificates of high performance on those trained in the practice who have passed the board exam. A fellowship in the practice will be credentialed by Residency Review Committee – two years after a related residency seem about right.
Similarly, a state of semi-sanctity is now bestowed on any sexual practice unlikely to result in progeny. This condition is just one corner of a hemi-demi-semi-decadron of mandates spread upon society like confetti at a unisex wedding. Equity is its collective noun.
The dictionary defines equity “as the quality of being fair and impartial.” But the dictionary, like a statue of Christopher Columbus, is an antique bastion of privilege attained from the blood and sweat of those who now deserve equity in its new guise. Equity – “distributing resources based on the needs of the recipients.” What resources? What needs? Which recipients? Asking indelicate questions will get you banned like a queen size bed in a 1935 movie. A sensible posture is to ban yourself from all social media as they have morphed from a series of boring, but harmless, solipsistic displays of little interest and no substantive content into boring solipsistic displays of little interest and no content layered with nastiness and censorship. But don’t think that abandoning Facebook will save you. Giordano Bruno exemplifies the fate awaiting dissenters from the new orthodoxy no matter how hard they try to hide.
The censorship so pervasive on social media is a buffet of ignorance, bias, and noise. If you would understand the difference between noise and bias, as well as the ubiquity and variants of noise, see the book of the same title by Daniel Kahneman and two colleagues. Noise is the extraneous stuff that is baked into decision making, but which is not the result of bias or careful analysis. An example is a judge who gives lenient sentences the day after his hometown football team wins and does the reverse after a loss.
Kahneman, et al remark that the noise inherent in a predication of an important variable is so large that any prediction beyond the very short term it is no better than that obtained by a chimpanzee throwing a dart at a target. But they are so overwhelmed by their own noise level and bias that they don’t make they obvious connection to the biggest long term prediction now dominating public discourse and policy – climate change. But on further reflection, maybe we do have a tribe of chimpanzees making climate policy. They’re obviously in charge of a lot of other stuff.
Now to Henry Moseley (1887-1915). He had the greatest scientific mind of any Englishman since Newton. In his very brief career he laid the groundwork for the invention of the atomic battery and discovered a systematic mathematical relationship between the wavelengths of the X-rays produced and the atomic numbers of the metals that were used as the targets in X-ray tubes. This has become known as Moseley’s law. With the outbreak of war in 1914 he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. His family and friends tried to persuade him not to join, but he thought it was his duty. He served as a technical officer in communications during the Battle of Gallipoli. He was killed in action on 10 August 1915, shot in the head by a Turkish sniper while in the act of telephoning a military order.
So great was the sense of loss evoked by Moseley’s death that the British government put in place a scheme to protect their young scientists from combat. In the US the dumbing down of science and math may make such a program unnecessary. There may be no scientist worth protecting. Here’s where equity comes in. The military can choose under represented scientific cohorts and shield them from harm’s way. Such a process will have the effect of increasing the number of students of the right kind entering scientific instruction. These students upon graduation, which will be automatic, will not flee to Canada after the onset of the next war, but rather will join the Army where they will be safe from everything inside the fog of war.
A great American poet said “Everything ends, the curtain descends.” Or as another poet said, “Ripeness is all.” So like a cranky hyperactive two year old wokeness will give way to slumber. Boys will be boys, etc. The stock market will crash only to recover. Argentina will default on its debt. The government will tax dental floss. Elon Musk will take Ritalin. Nancy Pelosi will shave her head. Donald Trump will buy Hallmark. And the shade of Scipio Aemilianus will walk the land.