Earning Knowledge

April 3, 2024 • #

I ran back across this quote today, from one of Jonah Goldberg’s G-Files from a few years ago:

In Suicide of the West, I argued that our biggest cultural problem is that entitlement has eclipsed gratitude. This seems to be a variation of that. We all want to know stuff, but we increasingly resent the idea of having to learn it. It’s like wanting to be in great shape but not wanting to exercise. And when we discover something—like, say, the colonial divisions of Africa—that is actually important and useful to us, our sense of entitlement leads us to think it must have been hidden from us on purpose. Even our own ignorance is someone else’s fault. The proper (and healthier) response to learning something interesting that you didn’t know is gratitude. “Hey, thanks! I didn’t know that.”

In the piece ($) he’s making the argument that just because you didn’t know something doesn’t mean you were slighted, or that someone that does know the thing was advantaged against you. They may have had an advantage of some sort. But most often that person went out of their way to earn said knowledge.

It reminds me of something I used to hear earlier in my career from colleagues. When I’d advocate learning or reading up on a particular skill (one I enjoyed having invested in), I’d hear variants of “well that’s easy for you to say, you already know X”, or “yeah of course you’d be in favor of that, you got to learn Y already”. It used to piss me off royally, the entitled lack of respect.

That I knew how to use Linux or the command line or how to write coherently — these weren’t gifts from above. And at the time I had no explicit understanding that these things would become valuable skills to me later in life. I spent countless hours in college building and rebuilding computers, reading books, and writing on the internet because I enjoyed them and saw some value in them for myself — all while the critics were partying or watching TV instead.

Topics:   knowledge   learning