Monday, June 09, 2008

Idiocracy: documentary of our future

I just read this article about the intellectualism, or lack thereof, among today's young people. I'm not one of those who buys into all those "kids today!" and "well back in my day..." cliches, but the article did discuss the broader anti-intellectualism of American culture. It brought to mind the movie Idiocracy, a comedy about America several hundred years in the future as a result of the dumbest members of each generation out-breeding the smartest. The movie was equal parts amusing and horrifying. Everything I've seen points to the conclusion that dumber people are, in fact, having more kids on average than smart people. But my real concern is the antagonism toward intelligence in our culture.

The Star allows people to post responses on-line, and at the time I read the article, about half the responses had been attacks on "them", be they people of a certain age group or political affiliation. The abundance of name-calling and finger-pointing instead of rational discussion is a perfect example of the dumbing down of our country. And while it might be true we never have been that smart to begin with, it's also pretty clear we are pretty much an embarrassment on the global level. By American standards, I'm very informed about history, politics, and most global issues. But when I've talked to people in Europe (or Japan through my wife who speaks Japanese), I have trouble just holding my own in discussing AMERICAN politics, let alone other global issues where they're usually way more knowledgeable than I am.

I'm not trying to point fingers here, but it really does start at the top. I'm not trying to bash Bush, but it's absurd that Bush has cultivated his bogus cowboy accent and has to constantly pretend to be an idiot (well, I hope he's usually pretending, anyway) in order to get elected President. The problem isn't with Bush per se, but the people who elected him. As a whole, we are so against intelligence and knowledge that it's frightening. Blaming politicians, the school system, political parties, etc. are all just ways to shirk responsibility. If you think the "dumbing down" of our country is a problem, consider these questions: Which do you visit more often, libraries or sporting events? If you have kids, do you spend more time reading with them and helping with homework, or watching TV and playing video games? Do you spend more time talking about celebrities, or leading authors and academic figures with great ideas?

As Rome declined, the masses flocked to the Coliseum. I can't help but see parallels with our modern entertainment-obsessed culture.



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