Oct 27, 2004

When did America start seeing idiocy as a virtue?



Obviously I don't mean "all American's are stupid". I'm American - I live in Canada and I know there is a tendency amongst many of my friends to interchange the two: ie, "American" = stupid and "stupid" = American. I don't agree with that. But I've noticed the dumbing down factor more recently. Take for instance, that show... I can't remember what it's called, where they have two contestants in the studio, and three people they interview on the streets of American cities. Before the taping of the show, the host goes out and interviews people on the street and asks them questions like, "if a lion is a type of a cat, what kind of animal is a wolf?" Okay, that might be too complicated, but you get the drift. Most are the kind of questions someone with a grade 3 education couldn't get wrong. And yet the people interviewed often get the questions wrong. In studio, the contestants are asked to predict which interviewee will get the question right or wrong.

I know this is just a fun silly game show. I even watch it every once in a while (though it often pisses me off rather than relaxes me - how can people be this stupid?) but in some ways I see it as symptomatic of this glorification of ignorance.

I read the blog of this guy who is a republican and he was listing the things he likes about GWB and at one point he said that Bush was "a simple man" and that is what he likes about him - because he sees himself as a "simple man" too. And maybe I'm wrong here, but I like to hope that the person seated as the head of the leader of the free world, is a lot fucking smarter than I am. A lot fucking smarter.

Bush may very well be more intelligent than I am. I sure as hell hope so. I'm getting a decent education at a middle of the road Canadian university. I get good grades, but this isn't an ivy-league school by any stretch.

And Kerry might not actually be smarter than Bush. He might not even be smarter than me (but he better be), but why the glorification of "common"? I don't know where this comes from.

In Flora Thompson's book, Larkrise to Candleford, there are numerous references to the community looking down it's nose at people who are different. Parent's whose children excel in school, apologize for it. Flora herself learned to read before she started school and was ostracize because of it. In a small town (or in this case a small village) survival depends upon a certain degree of hegemony amongst it's citizens. In some ways, the Victorian village of Larkrise can be seen as a model of primitive socialism. All the people who live in the hamlet earn roughly the same income (they are all agrarian laborers) and this income is seldom enough to get by. As a result the community relies upon other forms of wealth distribution such as borrowing and lending, and sharing fuel. In such a society where its citizens are all completely interdependent for their survival, any difference becomes a threat to that survival. So when Flora learns to read early, or another person in the community shows themselves to be particularly inventive or intelligent, it is viewed with suspicion.

This makes sense to me. But the United States isn't a small agrarian village - so what's going on? Where has this glorification of the average come from?

I don't have an answer and I wish I did. It's always more comfortable to end a post with a pearl of wisdom than a three dot ellipses...

9 comments:

darth said...

i saw a post debate town hall thing, and this one woman was going on and on about how "Pres. Bush just seemed "like a kind, grandfatherly type person, one that i could sit down and talk to like a real person" and thats important to me."

and i'm thinking..THEN VOTE FOR HIM FOR GRANDFATHER OF THE YEAR, NOT FUCKING PRESIDENT YOU STUPID MORON DIPSHIT!!!!

Bella_by_Barlight said...

Darth: Excellent point!

darth said...

i've got a long list of things i think a president should be..AND GRANDFATHERLY ISN'T ONE OF THEM. NEITHER IS BEING SOMEONE I CAN SIT DOWN AND CHAT WITH.

Dealing with the fucking deficit, international trade and relations, jobs, health care and NOT LYING TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ABOUT WMDS AND 9/11 ARE ON MY LIST TO START.

Zippy Buggleshorts said...

Americans pride themselves on having a government for the people and by the people - and for being a society without class restrictions. It's an attractive idea. While most of us know that this is hyperbole, some of us still buy into it.

What most of us forget is that the vast majority of men and women who founded this country were well-read, middle-classed people used to public discourse in the form of town hall and religious meetings. Most Americans traveled to Europe and were current with the most sophisticated and progressive thoughts of the day. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc. - these men were truly wordly in every sense of the word. If Americans expected such sophistication from their leaders at the birth of the nation, when the world was smaller, why shouldn't we expect the same or better now?

Zippy Buggleshorts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Arethusa said...

The other dude might raise taxes. I like me some tax cuts! :-o

apple said...

I feel like I could have written this post, despite the fact that I'm nowhere near Canada. I grew up in a very leafy white-picket-fence suburb and often felt vilified for not fitting into the WASP stereotype. Some girl in my high school French class actually called me a 'geography freak' for knowing that Washington DC lies on the Potomac River. Can you believe no one else knew?

darth said...

arethusa..BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! oh..you are going to hell.

Bella_by_Barlight said...

Apple: Welcome.
Jane: Those are all such excellent points. My post was simplistic as is my understanding of the American political system, but I'm very interested in pop-culture and a culture built around the lowest common denominator was really perplexing to me. You've given me much to think about.