As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap...
I feel like some sort of silver-suited, NASA-helmeted character at the end of a black-and-white “Twilight Zone” episode, walking a band of similarly garbed “survivors” through the rubble of a bombed-out world many years in the future and describing in deep, grave tones “the moment we doomed ourselves” when I even think to write on the seemingly far-fetched theme rolling around in my mind in recent days. But what makes the theme truly frightening is that it's not some dystopian future I find myself analyzing. The time is now. A scary, “Twilight Zone”-ish now that we've brought upon ourselves...
...A now where intelligence, a high-functioning, critically-thinking brain and all that a powerful intellect can bring—well-reasoned solutions to world problems, challenging art and culture, and...the resulting desire of more and more people to aspire to said brilliance—in frowned upon. No—not just frowned upon, but openly discouraged and disparaged. Mental acuity and the thirst for knowledge is not to be rewarded—rank stupidity...willful, rank stupidity is rewarded. The time when not being afraid to be a buffoon in public was a piece of performance art, relegated to comedians and pratfalling actors going for cheap laughs is gone, and the pool for naked displays of idiocy has deepened and widened to now include politicians, analysts and news reporters—virtually anyone who in the past one could have looked to in the hopes that you could actually learn something from them.
It turns out that ironically, you can actually learn something from them—but that something is just how low the standards for knowledge are these days.
I suppose I could take the nutbar, philosopher view of things and chalk this celebration of stoopid up to “our overly P.C. society”, where we dare not offend or project shame on those who come to the table with the “less-than-optimal”. That tortured line of reasoning would almost pass muster as an interesting, albeit kind of twisted logic. But its inherent flaw is the simple fact that most of the knuckleheads that would argue such a point are the very celebrated dolts in question. How's that for elliptical? I said here last week:
“It's all you ever need to know about these people. Idiots. And proud of it. A badge of fucking honor, this glittering stupidity, and the utter lack of a thirst for knowledge.”
Bartcopfan noted in comments: “Idiots. And proud of it. Thank you for capturing the Bush misadministration in five simple words.”
God, but I wish it were just his administration, but that's just the power structure's manifestation of the bold, new stupid. The movement's effects go far deeper and with more effect than you know.
What is the hereditary legacy of this embrace of willful idiocy? Suffer the little children. (Via Sullivan)
A teacher laments:I have now received three (3) student papers that discuss Iraq’s attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. All three papers mention it as an aside to another point. I’ve had two papers on the virtue of forgiveness that argue that if we had just forgiven Iraq for the 9/11 attacks, we wouldn’t be at war right now. I just read a paper on the problem of evil which asked why God allowed “the Iraq’s” to attack us on 9/11. The thing that upsets me most here is that the the students don’t just believe that that Iraq was behind 9/11. This is a big fact in their minds, that leaps out at them, whenever they think about the state of the world.
Somewhere a creaking sound is heard, with the faint ruffle of dry skin peeling back against bone, and Dick Cheney smiles his best “gotcha” smile. Big time.
When one is left to one's own devices, and simply learns from the rough curriculum of whatever the hard world tosses at you from day to day—that level of ignorance can be forgiven. You really can't fault a person for working with just what they have, even if just what they have is less than the best. Spinning straw into gold has as of this writing not yet worked.
But the fool who is happily mis-educated and mis-informed, and spreads that mis-education and mis-information when he or she has what is correct, and true, and obvious right before him...when that person opts to run against the grain of fact and proof and not only crow about 2 + 2's equalling 5—but will then toss away every sane bit of reasoning to try and convince you why 2 + 2 equals 5—that fool is not to be forgiven.
He is to be fought—thrice as hard as he fights against truth.
The sneering at knowledge and logic as an undesirable attribute has long been with us. It's a bedrock principle of faux populism. The clearest and perhaps best dog-whistle of that theme that I can immediately recall is the late Alabama Governor George Wallace's squalling against “outsiders and interlopers” in the South's illegal segregationist doings. He practically spat the phrase “pointy-headed intellectuals” as if it were a poison-dipped dart at his more thoughtful critics. The smarts-hating mantle was handed down to the Bryllcreemed buffoon Reagan who pushed charm over cerebral cortex with a wink and a Beverly Hills swagger. There was a bit of an executive branch break with the crafty Bush 41 and the wonky Clinton/Gore administrations, but what was happening at the congressional level was a mountain's thrust from the ocean floor, causing a stunning sea change. It took years, but the culmination was in 1994 when the GOP's “revolution” hit. The political “children” of Wallace and Reagan stood there, signing off on their “Contract With America”, starry-eyed and all a' quiver with anticipation over the undoing of every helpful law save for gravity. And they would use their fact-free anti-knowledge—so proud and confident in their coordinated, blast-faxed exhortations—against common sense.
“Global warming isn't real”, the reason-rapers will shake their fingers at you and hiss, as the massive polar ice shelves come apart and melt away like so many ice cubes in a tall glass of thirst-and-debate-quenching grape Kool-Aid. And they want as many people as possible to drink up, and refill—drink up and refill on that Kool-Aid, to the point where they only feel the icy, drugged liquid going down, numbing the body's feeling heat blister the skin, and blinding the eyes from seeing fields scorch and the oceans boil.
“Gay marriage will lead to the end of marriage as we know it! Blasphemy! Bestiality! Box turtles!”, those same reason-rapers rail, all a tremble over the sanctity of unions between men and women, wild-eyed and pointing at a fire in the sky as allowing anything else would compromise what goes on in heterosexual folks' bedrooms. It could bring on those dreaded “youthful indiscretions”, and cause otherwise stable husbands to ditch their wives on recovery beds as they reel from chemotherapy! Make 'em sport diapers and engage in odd baby-play with marriage-smashing interlopers, or “gasp!”—dress up like prostitutes in vinyl skirts, fishnets, heels and fake breasts and offer themselves up for money. We should thank our holy, Jebus-kissed stars that it hasn't happened yet. “Whew!”
“Man and dinosaurs co-existed! The planet's 6,000 years old! Fossils? Schmossils! All is as God made it in his amazing six-day Shrinky-Dink™ machine, and the only evolution there has ever been is our developing tough bottoms of our feet from propelling and stopping carved stone vehicles!” Oh yes, the the reason-rapers'll moan that too. Moan it in the face of ancient ice cores, ruins of ancient cities, and prima facie scientific evidence that the age of things unearthed flies in the face of religio-“science” and wooly-mammoth-fur fuzzy-math claims otherwise.
Why do they fight so vigorously, and so maniacally against facts?
Because the desire has always been to open that “crack in the door”, small as it might be—allowing for false and forced “objectivity” to hopefully create that glimmer of doubt in truths, especially inconvenient ones, and turn truth itself into a thing that can actually be commodified. A thing you can barter away. And once you can barter away truth—don't think for a second that what comes next is not the unintended result—you can freely substitute emotion, “truthiness”, and fact-esque positions that can be changed at the whim and to the benefit of who's presenting them. Get enough people to swallow those shiny lures and you've got an “army” to do battle with. They will move to the polls when you want them and how you want them. Your shock troops. Your pawns.
The GOP “elites” that these people look to as demi-gods then laughed up their fucking sleeves at their truth-swapped minions, all the while ignorant of the whirlwind they were about to reap.
You see, when you celebrate stupid, promote stupid, and then superficially reward stupid by placing it at the tiller (while the real powers dictate the course below decks), those proud, dewy-eyed supporters get it in their crazy heads that there's no shame in being “bag of hammers” dumb. You create an atmosphere where it's hip to be a dip.
It begets the likes of a proud, dim-witted, but still somehow-promoted Sherri Shepherd in your face every day with her half-cerebrumed idiocy. All flat earths, and nothing's having existed before Christ.
It begets a Dana Perino—a vain, easily-agitated twit whose job is apparently to smile and flutter hands gracefully over Bush policy like a QVC studio model, when her job is to articulate and explain presidential positions, while having not a goddamned clue about what makes the world around her tick.
It begets a grunting shallowbrow like a Sean Hannity, an ill-educated Play-Doh Fun Factory™ of a pundit who will read any talking point placed before him—a “Ron Burgundy” minus the irony and mustache, who the day he has an original thought based on mulling over facts and actual reason will probably suffer an aneurysm loud enough that Joe McCarthy'll hear the ‘pop”.
And ultimately it begets the chilling rise of a Mike Huckabee in the GOP power structure. A man who doesn't believe in evolution, wants a servile female populace, and holds 1950's-era hygiene film views on AIDS doesn't find himself elevated by sheer magic. The idiot army craves a regent, a leader who really believes in teh stoopid...fervently.
It all started with the steady snowfall at the top of a steep, slippery hill—Wallace's and Reagan's dusting the ground with their sneering, divisive anti-intellectualism. And the snowball was formed from the dusting with the ascent of a idiocy-celebrating congress in '94. The fatal roll down the hill? 2000's elevation of the smirkingly dim George W. Bush to the presidency, gathering momentum and size, bounding and crushing sense and sensibility in it's path.
“It's hip to be a dip.”
Paris Hilton's “continuing celebrity in spite of a giggling admission of brainlessness, Jessica Simpson's chicka-tuna, and Sherri Shepherd's sharp-edged, hopelessly young world. John Cornyn's hard-shell horniness, and Sean Hannity's daily paean to the wordless-without-his-master's stupid-words, Mortimer Snerd. All hail The Flavor of Love and The Kardashians! Clink your glasses to beating “teh ghey” out of you, rambling, vacuous beauty contestants, family dogs gleefully tied to car roofs, pud-pulling pundits who accuse U.S. soldiers of atrocities against the Nazis at Malmedy, and by God—the fever-dream re-imagining of right-wing fascism into some sort of cloaked forerrunner of modern progressivism.
Clink your glasses to all of that, and then wonder no more why we should actually gag a little bit when we mock so-called “backward” cultures beyond us.
When we celebrate dumb-assery from the top down, (as shown in the post's graphic) we reap what we sow as a nation. The willfully dumb politicos, dumb pundits, dumb news and dumb pop culture creates a critical mass of ill-informed-ness, spewing a cloud of foolishness the powers-that-be can no longer contain to manipulate their sheeple to blindly do their bidding. No, it's beyond that now. It spreads to where we see the recent history-dumb kids Sullivan ruefully noted.
The kids. The future...wrecked at the dock before it can even get under way.
At today's press conference, Bush warned against weakening his precious, paper-tiger “No Child Left Behind” act.
I laughed for a second at his fervor in its continuing...and then a parsing of the language itself hit me cold.
Do you leave no child behind by moving everyone forward together?
Or do you actually leave no child behind by holding them all back as a group?
He never really does elaborate on the slogan's true meaning.
But why bother...when actions speak so much louder than any words.