David Gelernter is an old-fashioned Renaissance man. He is professor of computer science at Yale University, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and member of the National Council of the Arts (more here). We have proudly hosted several of his thoughts on the present discontents.
Professor Gelernter is the author of books that suggest a kind of Herodotean interest in everything human. Professor Gelernter has written a history of the 1939 World’s Fair. After he survived an attack by the Unabomber, he wrote a reflective book about that. His is also the author, most recently, of America-Lite.
A while back the Weekly Standard carried Professor Gelernter’s article “The Roots of European Appeasement.” Among his provocative observations in the piece was this timely statement:
Once upon a time we thought of appeasement as a particular approach to Hitler. We have long since come to see that it is a Weltanschauung, an entire philosophical worldview that teaches the blood-guilt of Western man, the moral bankruptcy of the West, and the outrageousness of Western civilization’s attempting to impose its values on anyone else. World War II and its aftermath clouded the issue, but self-hatred has long since reestablished itself as a dominant force in Europe and (less often and not yet decisively) the United States. It was a British idea originally; it was enthusiastically taken up by the French. Today (like so many other British ideas) it is believed more fervently in continental Europe than anywhere else.”
Now Professor Gelernter joins Bill Kristol in the latest installment of Bill’s Conversations (video below, about an hour). The video is also posted and broken into chapters here; the transcript is posted here. I will limit myself to saying that Professor Gelernter is on fire on the subjects covered in this conversation and that it is worth your time.
Quotable quote: “Students today are so ignorant that it’s hard to accept how ignorant they are. It’s hard to grasp that [the student] you’re talking to, who is bright, articulate, interested, doesn’t know who Beethoven was. Looking back at the history of the 20th Century [he] just sees a fog. Has [only] the vaguest idea of who Winston Churchill was or why he mattered. No image of Teddy Roosevelt. We have failed [them].”