Sunday, August 09, 2015

Answer a question with another question?

Is there progress?  Material well being and longevity are better than ever for most people on Earth except for the Bottom Billion. Getting those left out on board is the biggest problem and some of us favor open borders as the way to go.

Aside from material well being, Benjamin Friedman reminds us that more prosperous people are nicer to each other. Steven Pinker shows (convincingly, I think) that we are more peaceful. The Flynn effect suggests (suggests) we may be getting smarter. Killing lions and other big game used to be great sport but that has turned around in the relatively short space of about fifty years.

But is bottomless boorishness on the rise?  Donald Trump is still regarded seriously as a contender for U.S. President by many people.  Politics was always "a dirty business" but the Trump phenomenon is not about that. His style is of our time.

Today's popular culture causes concern. Consider what you hear in The Great American Songbook -- the popular culture of a recent era. The lyrics and the melodies are actually charming and witty. Compare that with today's rappers and their followers. In film, many of today's blockbusters are enjoyed by people who used to enjoy "comic books".  Yes, the industry is very good at special effects. To be fair, there is plenty of better-than-ever TV fare (The Wire, Breaking Bad, etc.).

Nevertheless, (contra B. Friedman) boorishness is on the rise. Is this the inevitable by-product of the positive trends I cited?  Nothing like ending with a very complicated question.