Monday, September 15, 2008

The unbearable stupidity of today

There is something so intrinsically beautiful in a pithy aphorism, in the cacophonous stream of relentless sound-bytes, that you sometimes accept them as the truth, the complete truth, without a thought.
An article I stumbled on counters the claim of an English professor, in his book titled - 'The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)", by stating that
A. intelligence is not just knowledge of facts (esp. those presecribed by elders)
B. Don't blame the 'idiots', blame the context. The apathy argument.
And then it states the line that almost won me over - Alienation is not dumbness.

Beautiful, huh? Alas, it is only a word play.

The incidental facts that the elders espouse sometimes define the politics of tomorrow. The article states Santayana's 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it' argument but is very cavalier about its impication. Much of terrorism today is a lashback of the alienation of societies and nations at the fringes over this very apathy. The spate of anti-Muslim mails, some even hinting at mass-deportation and genocides, that followed the bombings yesterday are testimony to an all-round stupidity that we as a nation have stoned ourselves to - with generous help from a political system that thrives on rhetoric and emotional melodrama than issues and, in recent years, a dangerously illiterate tabloid-media.

Another apology for the apathy is that we, the elders, are not working hard enough.

"If you don't know which rights are protected in the First Amendment, how can you think critically about rights in the U.S.?" Fair enough... it reflects not stupidity but a failure of the school system and of society (which is run by grown-ups) to require them to know it."

This is plain bullshit. Come here you over-indulged Americans and see what school systems look like in the rest of the world. Anyone beyond 12 (I don't buy the 18 argument) who is not curious about the world he/she lives in, esp. when he has the means, is a disaster waiting to be unleashed.

I have said in an earlier blog that stupidity is a decision - beyond an age. We choose to remain stupid because knowledge involves effort and effort is, well, tiring. It's easier to voice whatever the media is ranting about than develop arguments of your own, treat everything like it happened without any history than read into it, have sloppy-sentimental notions of goodness in this world than stare at the stark problem of inequalities in the world and understand the institutional mechanics behind, it is easier to watch television that read and use your imagination, watch the escapist Bollywood fare than jar the depth of your intelligence and soul in world cinema.

We are stupid because we can afford to be.

Stupidity is the biggest problem facing the world today. It was always - but the contrast between the means at a person's disposal to enlighten himself and the actual intelligence has never been so glaring. Terrorism persists because of the stupidity of the masses that support the two-faced, self-serving states whose policies the terrorists usually fight against (Ask yourself honestly: how do you fight states other than by terrorism? Do you expect people to form a private army and then march to Kurukshetra and then be bombed out with a couple of minutes?)
Maybe the terrorists are stupid (after all, most terrorist outfits are bolstered by even greater stupidity of their misled support groups), but two worngs might not make a right, but two stupidities surely make a disaster.

Aren't we in such a mess because of the over-the-years cultivated and arogant stupidity of the most powerful nation of the world?

'Either you're with us, or against us!' Remember? Only the really stupid see the world in binaries, in black and white.

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