The Corner

Back to The Future

Prompted by a friend’s remark, I just got through re-reading Robert Kaplan’s

splendid doom’n’gloom piece from back in 1994. It has held up surprisingly well after ten years,

and is full of quotables, e.g.: “Whereas the distant future will probably

see the emergence of a racially hybrid, globalized man, the coming decades

will see us more aware of our differences than of our similarities. To the

average person, political values will mean less, personal security more. The

belief that we are all equal is liable to be replaced by the overriding

obsession of the ancient Greek travelers: Why the differences between

peoples?”

I am coming to think that in the early and mid-1990s, a veil was briefly

lifted, to give us some glimpses of the truth about humanity and our

collective future. When we saw what was behind the veil, though, we dropped

it rather fast, and have spent the past ten years in a dream of wishful

thinking.

I note in this context that next month marks the 10th anniversary of the

publication of Herrnstein & Murray’s book THE BELL CURVE. Looking back over

these ten years, the striking thing about that book is how little practical

consequence it had. There was really no follow-up in the world of real

politics, any more than there was to the insights offered by Kaplan and

Samuel Huntington. The No Child Left Behind Act, for instance, was written

as though THE BELL CURVE had never been published; just as the Iraq war and

the nation-building effort that followed took no account of Kaplan,

Fukuyama, or Huntington. “Humankind cannot stand very much reality.”

Perhaps God in his wisdom permits us to know more than we can bear to know.

Dark thoughts; I am sorry, I shall try to find something more cheerful to

post. In the meantime, if you have time (the piece is rather long), try

reading or re-reading Kaplan’s essay.

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