WHEN WE look at the 21st century and all it offers us, we must wonder whether it will be capable of producing a Rand or a Tolkien. The upheavals of the 20th century helped engender these great minds, but what does the 21st century offer? It doesn’t offer Nazism and Communism, but rather post-modernism and terrorism; the globalized one-world culture of unimportant 24-hour news cycles. Print media has declined, and the humanities have been dumbed down to the point that a PhD in 2012 would not be able to pass Harvard’s 1864 entrance examination.
Universal education has raised the ranks of the literate, but what will the literate read in the coming decades? Baggins and Roark could not have confronted terrorism and the dull, valueless post-modernist critique.
What would Baggins and Roark have made of what has become of the visual arts in the wake of the evils wrought by “modern art”? What would they have said looking at a theater production that has replaced originality with nudity? Rand and Tolkien were curmudgeons, and their characters were sort of curmudgeonly, which is why they are not always well received by the literati. But they were much loved by readers, and they continue to be much loved. Whether such characters will again be fashioned in the English-speaking world is an open question.