Friday, July 21, 2006

Idiot America

This article was published quite a while back, by an author whose work I'd followed for a while in blogs. I've felt for quite some time that we're in the middle of a revolt against the Enlightenment, where expertise and intelligence and learning are becoming despised. I saw it as a teenager at the inner city high school I attended, and I've seen it every year since in newspapers, television programs, and conversations with my fellow Americans.

But never have I seen it so often as I have during the last six years.

We're turning our faces away from the idea that the pursuit of honest knowledge is a good thing, and I fear that, once we go down that road much farther, there won't be any turning back.

Here's a brief except from the article, it's well worth your time to read.

Greetings From Idiot America

by Charles P. Pierce, as originally published in Esquire Magazine, 11/1/05

[T]he rise of Idiot America today represents -- for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power -- the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears.

I hope you take a few minutes to read the whole thing, then go donate a few dollars or some time to your local library or school.

1 comment:

Denise said...

The guy had me going until the end. Let me tell you -- as a newspaper reporter, I am never surprised by the abject stupidity of people, both as a group and individually. I have waxed on about the two women in my literture class who thought "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was about a retired man thinking about all the careers he had -- they never got that it was his imagination -- and the girl who thought "The Cask of Amontillado" by Poe was about two gay men because one was wearing a "dress." These same 20-somethings didn't know anything about John Kennedy except he was assassinated (Peace Corps?!) and when I asked them to name an influential feminist leader of the past 50 years, one girl finally blurted out, "Betsy Ross." I am not kidding. My theory (since this is a blog, anybody who is bored can just scroll down), is that we've created a world of surface learners. Just skim over the info on the internet or listen to a book on tape -- no need to read the words yourself or do something called research. We don't wait for anything -- we want it instantly and in sound bytes or bullets. We don't have time for long conversations about the meaning of life, hopes and dreams. The TV, radio, i-Pods and Walkmen wall us off from the rest of the world, and deep conversation is a truly lost art. As wonderful as these blogs are, they aren't the same as having a really great discussion about life -- a discussion with differences, shouting and a bit of "How can you think THAT!" thrown in for good measure. Stupid America? Absolutely and positively yes.