I used to hear all the time about the manifold ways that postmodernism was tearing apart the fabric of Western civilization, destroying the academy, corrupting the youth — yada yada yada. The day of postmodernism’s efflorescence as the leading cultura bugaboo seems to have faded, but its place has been taken (at least for a season) by the Internet. According to Vatican Radio, His Holiness Benedict XVI worries that, influenced by digital technologies, the younger generation can no longer concentrate on study and deliberation, and they “isolate themselves in an increasingly virtual reality.”
I’ll spot him the question of concentration and attention span; I’m more inclined to think of this as a transition in kinds-of-thinking, but that transition seems to entail a diminution of the sort of meditative deliberation Pope Benedict advocates. But it’s sad to see an exceptionally strong intellectual Pope buying into the bogus danger of replacement panic.
This sort of rhetoric tends mostly to reinforce the distinction between those who participate in digital culture and those who resist it — it reminds me of the lines from “Ballad of a Thin Man”:
Something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
or the sensibility of Bowie’s “Changes.” Whether these children are quite aware of what they’re going through or not, they’re nonetheless immune to His Holiness’s consultation, and when he invests in the flimsy myths of anti-digitalism, he sacrifices the wisdom he might bring to bear on the students’ faith and life.
Oh, and Vatican Radio really ought to spring for a translator/editor to catch mistakes such as “lack of unifying principals” > “unifying principles,” “that cry out the conscience of modern man” > “to the conscience” (and please consider a gender-inclusive term for humanity), “accompanied by a series examination” > “a serious examination,” “the students capacity” > “the students’ capacity.” Papal communications are worth transmitting correctly.