One third of the Millennials think that George W Bush killed more people than Joseph Stalin. Over a third have a favourable impression of Karl Marx and Che Guevara. But between 32 and 42 per cent donâ€™t know who Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Mao and Lenin were.
Terrifying, isnâ€™t it?
I would put three caveats to the discussion about this latest intergenerational opinion poll conducted by YouGov for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the United States.
Firstly, one gets desensitised to news stories â€“ there seems to be one every few weeks â€“ about the appalling ignorance, most often of history, geography or current affairs, exhibited by an average man and woman in the streets. If vox populi is really vox Dei, then God must be borderline retarded. You, the reader of The Daily Chrenk, are very much an outlier.
Secondly, while these stories most often focus on high school, and sometimes even college or university, students, the truth is that we canâ€™t just pick on the Generation Y and their younger siblings. While itâ€™s true that the elderly are by far the most knowledgeable section of the community, the intellectual rot started earlier than just the past few years. In the above-mentioned YouGov polling, after all, as many Gen Xer as the Millennials believe W has been more genocidal than Stalin.
Which brings me to the third point; while itâ€™s easy to laugh at young (and even not so young people), their ignorance is to a large extent the creation of the education system, for which we are all paying, literally and metaphorically. All levels of education have over the decades been largely infiltrated and taken over by radical activists of the Baby Boomer vintage, who have exercised influence in shaping and directing what is taught and how it is taught far in excess of their numbers. They have succeeded in both dumbing-down the standards as well as in inflicting 50 shades of progressive ideologies on tens of millions of young and impressionable minds. If your society and culture are constantly and disproportionately portrayed in a negative way throughout your education, is there any surprise really that such large numbers of people tend to think the worst of their own, including when contrasted with other countries and cultures?
I guess the good news is that despite the decades of subtle and not so subtle indoctrination and propagandising by the education system, the media and the entertainment industry in a variety of progressive causes and attitudes, very large majorities of people, including young people, still have unfavourable views of the commies (ranging from 63 per cent for Che to 88 per cent for Stalin, for example). This is one of those glass half-full or glass half-empty â€“ or glass is rich and needs to be nationalised â€“ kind of problems.
So while a lot more work and a lot more of (good) education is needed to banish the spectre of communism from the 21st century, of equal concern for the present and the future are the young peopleâ€™s attitudes to socialism and capitalism, which can be described as, at best, deeply ambiguous.
Nearly half of young Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who described self as a socialist. Only 42 per cent of Millennials have a favourable view of capitalism. Most of Americans think that the current economic system works against them â€“ ironically this sentiment is the strongest among the Baby Boomers, who are perhaps the greatest beneficiary generation in the history of the American capitalism. Sixty-seven per cent believe that the wealthy are not paying their fair share, and of that 67 per cent, 40 per cent think that only a â€œcomplete change of our economic systemâ€ would change that state of affairs, which is only slightly fewer than those who believe that raising taxes would do the trick.
But here we are entering again the Great Malaise territory and the rise of the left-wing and right-wing populism throughout the United States in particular but also elsewhere throughout the developed world, which is a topic beyond the scope of this post.
The two problems â€“ the incorrect view of the past and the jaded view of the present â€“ are of course to a certain extent linked. If you donâ€™t know how genocidal, tyrannical and oppressive communism was in the 20th century, you will be an easy prey for far-left charlatans still pushing their Marxist snake oil today. On the other hand, if you do realise that every single socialist revolution and effort at radically reshaping society in the past ended up in a dictatorship, economic ruin and mass impoverishment, much worse than what it had replaced, you will be far less likely to be hopeful that â€œsocialismâ€ or a â€œcomplete change of our economic systemâ€ are such swell and eminently workable ideas.
As Orwell wrote, he who controls the past controls the future. Thatâ€™s why past matters â€“ history is never really â€œhistoryâ€. And thatâ€™s why education matters too. Marx was wrong and Gramsci was right; the left has achieved far more by infiltrating and taking over all the institutions of the bourgeois state than by violently overthrowing them. We need to take them back. The spectre of the revolution needs to be exorcised and a stake put through the hearts of the undead communist bloodsuckers once and for all.