Thomas Sowell

Accused pipe bomber Lucas John Helder had barely been taken into custody before people began saying that he was crazy. Apparently no one is responsible for doing wrong things any more.

Some of young Mr. Helder's comments may sound illogical to many of us. But they are the kinds of things being said in our educational institutions at all levels and all across the country.

"Mailboxes are exploding," said a letter signed by Helder. "Why you ask? You have been missing how things are, for very long. I'm obtaining your attention in the only way I can."

The very tone of moral and intellectual condescension will be familiar to anyone who has been following ivory tower talk about raising other people's consciousness or making them "aware." The trick is never to argue on the same plane, by the same rules of logic or evidence, with those who disagree with you, but to pronounce from on high that others are, as Helder puts it, "missing how things are."

In other words, those who differ with you "just don't get it." Helder has apparently learned that trick, but he did not invent it.

The passive sense in which Helder says that mailboxes are exploding, instead of saying "I planted bombs there," is a classic evasion of responsibility. "The knife went in" is the way a British thug described his attack on another person in Theodore Dalrymple's account of slum life in his book "Life at the Bottom."

Then there is Helder's claim that he had to get our attention "in the only way I can." Since when are you entitled to someone else's attention? And since when does that presumed entitlement also entitle you to risk other people's lives for the sake of your own self-expression and self-importance?

But again, none of this is peculiar to this particular young man. Even our elementary schools are fostering the notion that kids who have not yet lived a whole decade ought to be getting the attention of the media and public officials, in order to promote their views of the world.

No one in public life, not even the president of the United States, can escape letters that school children have written as class assignments to advise us all on complex issues that neither they nor their teachers have had time to study with even moderate care. Everything from nuclear power to Middle East conflicts are fair game to the young Solomons, with their "educators" egging them on.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate