Victor Davis Hanson defends good old-fashioned reading, a process that serves as a conveyor of tried and true ideas and an essential bridge between the past and the present of any culture:
Without some awareness that ideas are old and somewhat finite, and that we are young and ignorant, we assume that each new adventure must be novel because we alone — right now! — are experiencing it.
It is all too easy for the present generation to slide into presumptuousness:
There is an arrogance of an age that comes with access to always better stuff. New technology prompts an assumption that there are always better things to come. Not true. Life was far better in Rome in AD 25 than in AD 425. Would you like to buy a house in Detroit today or in 1940? Me? I would rather drive down the central section of 101 in 1970 than tomorrow. Regress — material, intellectual, and moral — can be as common as progress, if each new generation proves a poor custodian of the laws, behavior, knowledge, and learning inherited from those now gone.
Never have so many communicated so much and so often with so little effect:
By nature, our ways of expression and even thinking always fossilize and are withering away with age and monotony — a process accelerated by the modern electronic age and the neglect of replenishment through reading. The actual vocabulary of our present youth seems to me reduced to about 1,000 words or so. “Like,” “whatever,” “you know,” “cool,” and other pop culture fillers now substitute for entire phrases, a sort of modern porcine grunting. The Greeks used particles to accentuate vocabulary and guide syntax; we used them instead of vocabulary. Our syntax, both written and oral, is reverting to “Spot is a dog”: noun, verb, predicate — period. How did incomprehensible slang, spiced with vulgarity, become an object of emulation? I used to listen to farmers without college degrees speak wonderful English; now to listen to a member of Congress almost requires a translator.
Language is not only a functional construct, it is also a thing capable of beauty; and reading trains the ear for speaking:
Reading alone enriches our vocabulary; it teaches us that good writing requires a sense of melody as well as a command of grammar. Soon those well-read become the well-spoken.
As marvelous as they are, our technics can deceive us:
Technology has deluded the modern West. We equate widespread knowledge of how to use an iPad with collective wisdom. Because a rare, brilliantly inventive mind from Caltech or MIT can craft a device undreamed of in the age of Einstein, we assume that we all warrant a share in his genius, as if our generation has trumped Einstein’s. We deserve no such kudos . . .
For more, read Hanson’s PJ Media article, “So Why Read Anymore?”, here.