Sunday, January 4, 2015

Being Smart -- A Good Thing, Or What?

Not long ago, in an online discussion, in the middle of a somewhat garbled rant which I didn't try very hard to decipher, someone asserted that a certain cultural tendency had been around for 2000 years.

I replied that the tendency has existed for at least 30,000 years, and maybe much longer than that. Maybe 100,000 years or even longer.

The writer of the first comment asked me, with an lol or 2, why I was bringing numbers into this, and claimed that -- something like: nobody knew what the real numbers were because "they threw the numbers out when they made the calendars," and called me a smart guy.

I pointed out that it was he who had brought numbers into the conversation, and quoted Catullus: "Risu inepto res ineptior nulla est." (More than 2000 years old, that quote.)

He responded with a couple more lol's, repeated his charge that it was I who had brought numbers into the conversation, and asserted further that a smart guy had been called out. I went back to his original comment, thinking that I might want to go to the trouble of cutting and pasting the part about the calenders and 2000 years -- it would be a good opportunity, I thought, to point out that calendars as well as religion were more than 2000 years old -- but I saw that he had edited the comment and removed the part about 2000 years.

So I gave up on that guy, and here I am talking to you instead.

It seems that everybody likes to think they're smart. (Cue the Fredo Corleone "Not like everybody says. Like -- stupid! I'm smart!"-- clip.)

I watched "The West Wing" for several seasons until I decided that it was a Democratic fantasy world, a fantasy of great Democratic success distracting us from the real world, and that reality urgently needed more of our attention, as indicated by non-fictional events such as George W Bush being elected President. "The West Wing," famously employing several former Clinton White House staffers as technical advisors to achieve its hyper-"realism," went so far in its denial of reality as to create a Republican Presidential candidate clearly based on W, Gov Robert Ritchie of Florida, and have Jeb Bartlet resoundingly beat the fictional W in his re-election. In 2002, just to put a cherry on the sundae of unreality.

Not only does Bartlet trounce Ritchie, there is a specific moment, quite a while after the re-election campaign has begun, when he decides he's going to trounce him. It's during a private meeting of the two, sometime after Bartlet has inadvertently been caught on-air insulting Ritchie for being dumb, and immediately after Ritchie, in their private meeting, very deliberately insults Bartlet for being smart. Bartlet gets up to go and tells Ritchie he's decided to kick his ass (his words.)

The theme of intelligence is emphasized over and over in "The West Wing" -- mostly in the form of it being remarked that Bartlet and his staffers are incredibly smart, just the most intelligent people in the entire USA. Above, I mentioned the denial of political reality embodied in the show creating a W-like character and having the Democratic hero trounce him. Is that the extent of the denial involved in the program -- or is the constant emphasis on how brilliant the regular characters are also overcompensation for feelings of insecurity on the part of the actual former White House staffers and "West Wing" technical advisors about their own intelligence?

And who feels insecure about their intelligence? Those who have reason to. Actual geniuses don't go around screaming, "I'm not stupid, like everybody says I am!" I don't think they generally need constant reassurance that they're smart. Maybe "The West Wing" was realistic inasmuch as the Clinton staffers did constantly tell each other that they were astonishing geniuses.

Think about how much taller Rob Lowe is than George Stephanopoulos, and then try to tell me that no flattery, conscious or subconscious, was going on on "The West Wing." (For all I know, Lowe is actually more intelligent than Stephanopoulos. He certainly has a better sense of humor.)

Anyway, I'm not nearly smart enough to have any idea of what to do about all of this. Well... you could vote for Democrats -- real Democrats, not the feel-good fictional kind with which some Democrats in Hollywood have been flattering me and you and themselves. Voting for real Democrats will increase support for real education.

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