You wonder what has gone wrong in the world. You look at North America, apparently slumbering in its stupor, thinking “what,” followed by a single article and an expletive.
I totally agree.
I’m an American citizen, and quite frankly, I don’t know what to think. My mother and I have a daily morning ritual of scanning through Al Jazeera, BBC, CNN, New York Times, and any other news source. She recently confessed that she almost cannot bear to indulge in our habit anymore. She’s fed up with the world and its trajectory. I could feel the anxiety pulling at her every word.
The American Electoral College voted in Donald J. Trump on December 19, 2016. For the second time in this century and the fifth time in all of U.S. history, a presidential candidate lost the popular vote, but secured his position as president. Mr. Trump will be the president, and however shocked and perturbed my mother, family, and friends, and myself are by that fact, we must close our jaws and press on.
The Trump phenomenon marks a time of reevaluation on both sides of the political spectrum. I can’t help but ponder the causes of this anti-intellectual uproar that now plagues American society. My country’s culture celebrates entertainment and celebrity over critical thinking. While this is true of other nations, America certainly seems to be playing a leading role.
Anti-intellectualism suggests that the intellectual establishment (i.e. science, liberal arts, any higher education or educational pursuit) is false, trivial, or corrupting. It hinges on a consumerist ideology and a belief that common sense (which is arguably not common nor sensible half the time) is enough and anything rendered epistemologically intriguing to some is farcical to others.
America is anti-intellectual because of its inherent love of consumerism and entertainment culture. No one is entirely immune, as is demonstrated by our need to be recognised, viewed or liked on social media x number of times. We demand a thumbs up, hearts, and most importantly, attention – all of which comes at the price of conformity. These mere actions denounce critical thinking skills in order to bolster followers.
At university, my major is English, and I don’t see its worth when I peruse social media. I do not see how fostering critical thinking through text analysis matters in a culture in such dire need of books as righting agents. A culture that needs to sit down, focus, re-examine, go over the same narrative ground, and come out with a new identity. My classmates do not know where places are – we have no geographic mindset to make us global citizens. We do not learn about other cultures in depth. We learn about empires and then we glorify our own. Few teachers exist in our system that actually teach us to think, rather than feeding us nationalistic, anti-science dribble.
The lack of cohesiveness in America fractures us, and I don’t know if we are even physically or intellectually capable of considering the world at large anymore. We keep looking inward and regurgitating internet culture. We narrow our focus, blind to the decline of American individualism – once so proud and vital to the inception of our country.
As we move forward from the day that changed the world – January 20, 2016, Trump’s inauguration – I long for a reconsideration. I long for a return to a time when feeds and home pages lacked false, curated news stories; when physical, tangible books were read on a daily basis.
I don’t think we can handle a world that is post-truth, and we already live in one.