Robert Stacy McCain on hyper-curiosity, an affliction shared by yr. obdt. Excerpt:
When something catches my attention, it is my habit to research the topic within an inch of its life, pursuing random footnotes and the biographical details of the authors of the works cited in the bibliography, in order to satisfy my maniacal desire to know.
Do not tell me your opinions. Tell me what you know — give me facts, quotes, something genuinely useful to me as knowledge.
Mr. McCain describes the case of a “Vegetarian environmentalist animal-rights feminist” who, among other things, used her own menstrual blood to fertilize lettuce, which she then ate.
Mr. McCain concludes the case study and contrasts the person in question with his own incessant curiosity by noting:
Am I the only one who notices how many young people seem to care more about their beliefs and attitudes than about knowledge?
That is to say, despite their intelligence, their sense of themselves is almost entirely about membership in an ideology/identity group — to which they give a cult-like loyalty — and they never pursue knowledge except to reinforce their own beliefs. This is not merely intellectual sloth, but deliberate self-imposed ignorance. They are determined to know nothing outside the confines of their own narcissistic identity bubble, and are therefore so ignorant that they have no concept of how much they don’t know.
It is impossible to educate self-absorbed people who lack curiosity. “Checking out my vagina with a compact mirror” is a perfect metaphor for the lives of this hopelessly ignorant generation.
Juxtaposition of image and story is, yes, deliberate. Suck it, hyper-sensitives.
But consider this sentence: “It is impossible to educate self-absorbed people who lack curiosity.” Indeed, this has always been the case, and will always be the case. And Mr. McCain is probably correct in his assessment, as we have observed in these pages; the up-and-coming generation does seem horribly self-absorbed. The rise of the “selfie” and the endless self-fellation offered by Facebook and the like are more likely symptoms than causes.
But the real crime is the lack of curiosity, and that is nothing new; when I was a young man in the Seventies I noticed it all too plainly among my peers, and I still note it in all too many of my fellow Baby Boomers today.
Curiosity is above all else a sign of intelligence; it is perhaps the sign of intelligence. The drive to know, the understanding of the difference between fact and opinion, the successful application of basic logic in discovery and problem-solving; how many people do you know that are really capable, really competent at these?
And how many people routinely critically examine their own opinions? It’s easy to be critical of someone else’s viewpoint; far more challenging to be critical of your own.
But all these things have curiosity at their heart. Mr. McCain is correct in bemoaning its loss.