Intellectual Backwater

N and I have spent an enormous amount of time over the past year watching videos, listening to lectures, and attending online classes in Ukraine. We now have a daily content strategy meeting where we discuss what each of us heard, read or watched because there’s too much good stuff for one person to be able to cover it all.

Maybe 10% of what we watch and listen is about the war. The rest is history, philosophy, productivity, psychology, parenting, international relations, theology. It’s all really good stuff. My brain is finally getting fed like it should. There are loads of fresh insight, new ideas, real freedom to think and speak.

When I left Ukraine in 1998, it wasn’t even an intellectual backwater. It was an intellectual non-entity. Nobody talked about anything that mattered. And look at how thought is flourishing there now. A Ukrainian Matt Walsh or Jordan Peterson is light-years ahead in originality and value. And I’m only naming people on the right because the American left has nobody at all. At least, Peterson is trying. Nobody left-of-center knows how to produce a thought at all. At least, since Zygmunt Bauman died, and he was Polish anyway.

In North America today it’s obviously not nearly as bad as it was in the post-Soviet Ukraine in the 1990s. But insight is dead, my friends. All we see in lieu of intellectual life is purely reactive. “This thing happened and I’m appalled” is the narrative offered by the left, the right, and the center. People don’t even remember what ideas are. They have lists of grievances instead of ideas.

And by the way, it’s not just Ukraine. Spain, too, has a richer intellectual life than America, all of a sudden. When I read a book-length essay from Spain, and there’s actual analysis. People think, they create something new. In America, essay writers are now strictly into describing. “This is what happened. The end.”

I’m sure we can recover our ground. North America has everything anybody needs and more to stop the small-scale, parochial, repetitive whining and go back to thinking. We can snap out of it real fast. I suggest we proceed to do that as soon as possible.