Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
This is a well-written, thought-provoking philosophical book that takes a critical approach to modern American society and culture. The book is especially critical of the lack of intelligence and care among the newer generations as well as gaps in American education. The author proposes, as we've done in the past, that the keys to a better future start within the home and the schools.
The author seems to be concerned that problems in American society will continue to cultivate and propagate a culture ignorance, lack of responsibility, rampant individualism, and even racism. The socio-cultural and political events of 2020-2022 such as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by some Americans, the murder of George Floyd, and the January 6th Capitol Riot have brought to light the growing chasm in the country along with the prevalence of ignorance—a profound lack of wisdom.
The author uses such examples as Trump supporters believing the claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” and that the Coronavirus vaccine was tainted to substantiate his claims. The premise seems to be that we are surrounded by idiots who refuse to do their due diligence and will believe anything they see on social media at the drop of a hat. That's a sentiment held by many Americans—Right, Left, Up, Down, and everyone in between.
There are perhaps two main problems with this book that keep it from being a 9.4 or 9.5: the repetition of information and, though we hate to say this, the author's bias—more so a bias that defies and contradicts the thesis.
The first problem with this book is that despite its eloquence, it often rambles on and repeats information. What we've presented above is basically this book in a nutshell. These same thoughts are essentially repeated over and over again, and we think we know why. This book seems to have been written to achieve a very specific objective: to challenge the author's conspiracy-theory-believing loved ones with what the author holds as cold, hard facts. It's a very noble cause as the author seems to, for example, want his loved ones to be vaccinated and to vaccinate their kids rather than leave them to believe the conspiracy theories surrounding it. The author cites “a huge intellectual and emotional rift between my mother and sister and me” (page 16).
We can definitely understand that. We all know someone, perhaps even a loved one, who refuses to listen to reason and wants to believe what they've seen on TV or on YouTube or Facebook about a certain issue. The chemtrail conspiracy theory comes to mind—something unsubstantiated which still takes hold of a surprising number of minds.
The second problem with this book is the author's very obvious bias against a particular political ideology. That wouldn't have been much of an issue if the author hadn't persistently claimed to be a “moderate” or “raging moderate.” It's very clear from reading this book that the author is not as much of a moderate as they claim to be. And that's fine. To each their own. But it just doesn't seem honest or right for the author to almost exclusively bash on one side of the political spectrum (the Right) while calling themselves a moderate. It's equally dishonest and not right when someone who is clearly on the Right, like Tim Pool, constantly does the same thing by constantly claiming himself to be a moderate, a centrist, and a Libertarian. Yeah right, Tim. Calling yourself a “moderate” seems to be a buzz term for “please don't be mad at me, I'm fair, balanced, and hearing both sides.”
This is clearly not a moderate's book. Almost all references to Republicans are negative beside John McCain (because he passed away and was mistreated by Trump, so serves as an example of why Trump sucks) and “mostly great American” Colin Powell (because he passed away, was mistreated by Trump, did a nice thing once, and also further serves as an example of why Trump sucks).
Listen to the anger and rage in the following passage by the author and see if you can catch the abandonment of control and reason to take as big a punch as possible:
“With the Republican Party now largely a disgraceful cult, 90% ethnically homogenous, and endlessly aggrieved there is a real political threat posed by what could fairly be characterized as malignant tribal arrogance. Those who should be the conscience of America—evangelical Christians—are largely silent and complicit with the chicanery and audacity. Throw in guns and eroding social norms, and we have a big problem" (page 178).
Did you catch why this passage is problematic? First of all, it's an enormous over-simplification and character assassination of a huge group of people and their ideology by calling them a cult. It also does not feel fair or right at all to attack them on the basis of being mostly-Caucasian and mostly-Christian. So what? If they were mostly-Asian and mostly-Hindu it would make it ok? If they were Mongolian, Senegalese, Cambodian, Turkish, and Afghani they're free to be jerks and act like racist hillbillies because they're diverse? That's not right either. It's not their race or religion that arguably makes them “bad,” it's just their views and how they practice them. Pointing out their race and religion as negative things is quite literally hypocrisy as we're not supposed to be racist and discriminate against people, right?
There are at least 30 references to Donald Trump in this book, and there are times when the author can't help himself. Trump was, in a lot of ways, a bad or even terrible person. Trump was, in a lot of ways, a toxic person who caused a ton of problems for a ton of people. We can say things like that with some confidence, but we're not the author of a book that is proposing we think rationally and scientifically, thus avoiding bias. So do you see the dilemma? Look at the following excerpt as an example:
“The Greek gods were well known in myths to despise a mortal who thought they possessed god-like wisdom, power, or luck. Donald wasn’t taught love, kindness, or humility and was in fact a millionaire by the age of EIGHT! …since Trump began publicly saying and excusing things that most of our parents told us not to say or think when we were age two. Wouldn’t it truly be a crime beyond punishment if Trump’s utter lack of decorum and respect for others diminished not only the modesty, but also the self-restraint, of millions of gullible Americans! The whole country is becoming more like Manhattan streets on a Monday during rush hour” (page 192).
Did you catch something(s) that stand out from this passage as opposed to something you'd find in most educational texts? It's angry. You can tell it's angry because of the bolded letters in the word “EIGHT” and the continued use of exclamation points. The other thing is that the author goes from being didactic (about Greek or western ideals of humility) to outright, uncontrolled ranting. This isn't teaching or sharing wisdom anymore, it's just going on a tirade.
Now, the author isn't “wrong” per se. We do not like Trump or condone many of the things that he said and did. As the book reminds us, Trump also said some really nasty and terrible things about even respectable men like Senator John McCain. It's just that it's really, really, really obvious and clear that the author strongly dislikes or even hates this particular person (bias). Furthermore, the author seems to have lost all restraint and control with regards to this particular subject. It wouldn't be half bad if not for the fact that one of the key lessons from this book is supposed to be to not allow personal feelings and beliefs blind us from seeking and seeing the truth. It's the essence of the scientific method.
Also, assuming the author believes in the US constitution, and we believe he does, isn't the call for a “crime beyond punishment” literally contrary to the Eighth Amendment? And it's based on what? In this instance, it's based on something cruel that someone said about someone else. In this passage, these cruel words about John McCain are viewed as being an example of a “crime beyond punishment.” At that point, the author has lost themselves and the point because they've given in to anger and rage, the very seeds of the irrationality that the author is writing against. Do you see why this is problematic? It's not necessarily the point the author is trying to make, it's the point the author is trying to make in the context of their supposed message to use wisdom instead of intuition. Intuition would tell you: I really hate that person, so I'm going to disagree with them no matter what they say. Wisdom would tell you: I might not like this person, but my experience has taught me that sometimes our enemies can teach us a lot about ourselves and how to improve.
There are so many instances in this book when this ceases to become wisdom and instead becomes opinions.
Do you want to know the real reason why religion and political ideologies arguably suck? Hypocrisy. It's when a religion or ideology says it supports things like the preservation of life and being kind to others, then does the opposite. Likewise, you shouldn't say you're encouraging people to set aside their biases and emotions to look at the facts and make educated decisions, but then go on emotion-filled, uncontrolled tirades against one ideology, unable or unwilling to even consider the other side. That's the opposite of the Socratic method. That's the opposite of science. Unquestioned dogma. The author knows this—clearly—but their text seems to go against this. It is almost entirely one-sided. If you're going to write a book about the Evils of the Alt-Right or the Evils of American Conservatism or the Cancerous Roots of the Capitol Riot or the Blood-Red Republicans, then just call it that. Don't call it “Wisdom” and put up a façade of being fair or balanced, that's literally what Fox News—the news outlet the author objects to—does. Why would you imitate or emulate that if it's something you don't approve of?
The author has a ton of negative things to say about Republicans and Conservatism, much of it warranted, but very few (if any) negative things to say about Democrats and Liberals. This just simply isn't a “moderate” stance at all.
Take this other passage from the closing statements as an example:
“Conservatives have witnessed a lot in society that makes them afraid and angry, and they specialize in social punishment and condemnation. This impulse has run amok in them—and liberals have a very dark side, too. The fraying of the social fabric is an amazingly disturbing phenomenon” (page 396).
Did you catch what's wrong about this passage in the context of the book's supposed over-arching message to be analytical and question everything? There's a lot said about Conservatives but little to nothing said about Liberals other than “...and liberals have a very dark side, too.” Like what? What do Liberals do that's dark? Please educate us and enlighten us with this book that's supposed to be insightful, educational, and enlightening.
You're saying there isn't a significant number of people on the Left who practice social punishment and condemnation? Cancel culture is a thing that exists, and for better or for worse, it isn't a right-wing movement.
Fox News lies, omits information, bends the truth, and promotes an agenda, creating an echo chamber. The author tells us this. Do you know who else lies, omits information, bends the truth, and promotes an agenda, thus creating an echo chamber? CNN, ABC, MSNBC, and just about every major news outlet out there from Al Jazeera to Sky News. Don't be willfully ignorant and ignore it. Deep down inside, you know it. All of them have a spin and help to nurture echo chambers, Conservative, Liberal, or otherwise. It's not right, but it's the way it is. Media outlets have an audience, they target that audience, they grow that audience. They put a “spin” on everything as long as it sells. It's dishonest and unfair to say that one side does it, then completely turn a blind eye to the other.
There are multiple references to the horrific January 6th Capitol Riot, which seems to be at the heart and epicenter of this book. The premise is that the riot was a result of lies and disinformation, which—as far as we know from the evidence or lack thereof—is true. People were fooled and driven to act rashly and violently. But again, we don't want to use the phrase “a lie by omission” but there is a notable lack of mention of any other kind of riot other than the January 6th one and the riots addressed by Robert F. Kennedy. So, assuming this text is supposed to be an educational one read by college students 10 years from now or something, what message are they going to get from the book? That Republicans are bad, that Trump was evil, and that during this time, this group of evil people led a riot that got one of them shot, caused a bunch of people including capitol police officers to have strokes and heart attacks or to commit suicide; and that they tried to illegally reverse the results of a democratic election. So, never mind the fact that much of the previous year was spent spray-painting "ACAB" everywhere and raging against the same police officers and Trumpers who were killed. Those people magically became martyrs overnight. Never mind the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or “CHAZ” or “CHOP” built on top of a captured city government building (Seattle police precinct) where several people were shot and killed. Never mind the people who died the summer before or had their livelihoods destroyed through vandalism and arson. That didn't involve Evil Republicans. Let's just conveniently forget that any of that ever happened. And that's where a lot of the issue lies: it's omission. It's deliberate, intentional omission. There is so much omission in this long and heavy book that kinda taints it. It holds it back from being truly great.
There is a lot of information in this, but a lot of information that just conveniently isn't in this. Why? Because it doesn't fit the narrative, and that's just wrong. That's a problem for a book that's supposed to be saying to be skeptical of information going in and out, and to question the narrative.
Writing-wise and thematically, this book is quite good and comparable to something like “Wakan Tanka” by Dr. John Bennett or “Eternal Vigilance” by Ralph Bayrer. Jason Merchey is a very smart and well-educated guy, and it shows in this book.
We wish the well-educated and compassionate society that the author was proposing could come to fruition. We are constantly annoyed by the stupidity and ignorance we see around us. We also worry about future generations growing up brainwashed by the media or not caring about others or the world as a whole.
This book, despite its rough spots, is a worthwhile read. That's why it has such a high rating.
Check it out on Amazon!