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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Dumb & Dumber

Today, as promised, I am going to take a look at American stupidity. And I'm going to do it through the eyes of the late, great George Carlin.

My point in this was that I felt it takes a degree of intelligence to compromise and therefore to erase lines of division. And only through reason and logic can viable routes to general happiness be found. Dan posited that I might be too naive in my belief that people essentially want the same things at a primal level, and he may be right. But before banning all the ills we think are plaguing us, why not start with a ban on stupidity? Even if it doesn't help to the degree I would hope, it couldn't hurt. 

An intelligent public could still have their own views, but they would be harder to trick, harder to mislead by a disingenuous and self-serving "tribal leader". Emphasis could shift to solution rather than mere emphatic declarations of position.

And when it comes to voting I personally would like to see a return to something like the old literacy tests, and to avoid any immigration issues, I would have no problem if they were available in multiple languages.  My issue is not so much English literacy as competence......the actual ability to think and reason. 

So perhaps we should have some sort of basic intelligence test? (Frankly, maybe there should be a device installed in babies that renders them temporarily infertile, until they grow up and pass a competency test, and then it can be turned on and they can breed?) We make people take driving tests, and yet we let anyone vote. Why? If we see the wisdom in not letting incompetents drive, why do we let them vote or breed?

"If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you're gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders." -----George Carlin

"Proponents of tests to prove an applicant’s ability to read and understand English claimed that the exams ensured an educated and informed electorate. In practice they were used to disqualify immigrants and the poor, who had less education. In the South they were used to prevent African Americans from registering to vote. The Voting Rights Act ended the use of literacy tests in the South in 1965 and the rest of the country in 1970."---National Museum of American History

And if you think about it....things really started going to shit not long after. But like I said, these were 'literacy tests' and that's not really what the issue is. I don't care if you can read like Evelyn Wood..........if your understanding of what you read is infantile.

In conclusion, if you think stupidity isn't a threat.......

"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers."------George Carlin

[ In researching this I found a few other Carlin gems. Perhaps I'll post them at a later date. ]


  1. I understand in the old days you could only vote if you owned land, and weren't female. Imperfect approximation to be sure, but probably gets you 75% of the way there (especially the female part - sometimes I am so ashamed for my biological sex collective ;-)

    1. I'm more ashamed of my species. LOL

      As for the point about voter restrictions, I think there was definitely a time when owning land sort of indicated a vested interest in voting wisely. Restricting women at one time also made a modicum of sense in that most women at that time were not educated......but then again, at that same time, there were still a lot of stupid men who got to vote. Today, gender is definitely not an indication of anything and nor is land ownership......but I get the point.

      One of the scary things now is how there are countless cases of voter legislation designed specifically to target certain groups and make it harder for them to vote. Now, that too is wrong. I don't care what color someone's skin is. I just want them to be able to reason. Having severely restricted registration procedures is intentional tampering.

      By the same token, when it is in the best interest of a party to get a particular group TO vote, and to achieve that, all sorts of reasonable registration procedures are eliminated.....then that too is dishonest and counter-productive.

      See? All I want is for reason to prevail over tribal mentalities.

    2. If you are referring to a push for Voter ID, you'd think that would be just in line with your IQ test. It's not racist if the rules are applied equally, though I admit that certain groups may have different outcomes than others. I mean, golly, you would think it was basic election security to have to show ID!

    3. Voter ID. Hmmmm. That may warrant a post of its own, but for now let me say a couple of things:

      1: mere ID is not what I'm talking about. At best it would only serve to verify the identity of the potential idiot in line for the booth. I don't want idiots voting.....verified or not.

      2: "applied equally" aye, there's the rub. I have read about a particular state, can't remember which right now, whose mostly Republican officials feared a recent influx of new voters who would need to be registered, but who would probably not vote Republican. They set up this requirement where these new voters would have to register. And the registration form itself was fine. However, you needed to file in person at an office in one location that was open.....I kid you not.....for about 4 hours on alternate Wednesdays. Now, when folks bitch about HAVING to register on a form and are just too lazy to do it or too stupid to fill it out correctly, then I might end up sounding very conservative, but when people pull shit like this, I suddenly feel like that middle road of reason and fairness will never be in our grasp.

  2. I'll post more later, but for now let me just say -- I fucking love George Carlin.

  3. George Carlin was brilliant. He made an amazing transition -- I'm so freaking old, I can remember when he had short hair, wore a suit, and was doing comedy bits such as the Hippy Dippy Weather Man. I wish we still had his voice today.

    1. You're not any older than any of us here.....unless you are which I doubt. I admired that he stayed relevant right up to his death. I have a theory on why, but that may also be fodder for another post down the road.

      (I was in high school when "Class Clown" came out.....WITH the 7 words bit.)

  4. You can try but you can't fix stupid. Voter ID is a touchy subject. Myself I believe in it. I feel some in politics would love to open voting for all even non citizens. Voter ID would stop that. G.C. is a gem in a class by it's self, he will never be replaced.

    1. Agree on Carlin. As I mentioned above "voter ID" might warrant a post of its own someday.

      The thing is, and this is where I tend to have a problem, is that yes, there probably ARE those who would benefit from illegal voting and might look to relax things enough to make it a reality. BUT, it is also true that others have a vested interest in keeping certain others FROM voting, even though they ARE citizens, and have tried to make that happen as well. Balance. Fairness. You can't bitch about one side and turn a blind eye to the other. Of course it's easier to see the flaws in both sides if you're not a member of either one.

  5. Many years ago, I was a poll worker, so I saw firsthand how many uneducated ignorant people there were. The vast majority of the people in the precinct I worked in were white upper middle class Republicans. This was NOT my neighborhood. It was just disturbing to see the behaviors, so after working every election for 6 years, I stopped doing it.

    1. Isn't it amazing how personal experience gives people insight into the reality of things others take for granted? Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. My overall comment is, I'm not really sure that "stupid" either accounts for the current levels of partisanship and dysfunction or that drastically reducing the level of stupid people would fix the problem. Regarding partisanship, many of the most fiercely partisan people I know are plenty smart. So, if the premise is that if we could get two very smart people with opposing political views into a room together they would work it out by coming to focus on the fact their goals are the same, I don't see any basis for that and, in fact, a hell of a lot of real world evidence to the contrary.

    With respect to why people come to follow those tribal leaders, I don't think it's stupidity as much as we seem to be biologically programmed to have a 9:1 ratio of sheep to leaders. As I've risen higher up in a fairly large business organization, I've observed an interesting dynamic: even at the highest echelons, in groups that are comprised of people who were selected precisely because they have a track record of leadership, when you put these leaders in a group together, one or two become leaders in that group while the others quickly lose their voice and start people pleasing and deferring. If you start with 1,000 employees, 100 will emerge as leaders. Of those, 10 might become VPs and lead large groups. Put those 10 in a room without a designated chief, and one of them will emerge as the leader, with maybe one other being a strong voice with competing views, and the other 8 to 9 will turn into sheep.

    So, how do we end up with such hyper-partisanship and two separate "tribes"? Well, I think it's because you're wrong that everyone wants the same things, and some are very highly and emotionally motivated by a particular view or interest that is opposed by those in the other camp. Look at the history of the Democratic and Republican parties in the South. The South voted Democratic as a block for 100 years after the Civil War. Why? Because Lincoln and Grant were Republicans, and at that time the Republicans were the party of Emancipation and Reconstruction. When did that change? When the Democrats championed the Civil Rights Act. A sudden sea change happened, such that the South now voted solidly Republican.

    You also see it at the extremes in both parties. On economics and trade policy, there is a hell of a lot of overlap between Sanders voters and Trump voters in terms of their underlying economic interests and, to some extent, their political views. So, what is the best predictor of which block the person who holds those economic views or interests? Their view on immigration. It became unfashionable to be a racist, but it's OK to be anti-immigrant. G(uns is another big predictor, and on that issue the Democrats have kind of fucked themselves and driven people into the Republican camp.) So, if someone gravitates toward populist leaders, how they feel about immigration is going to be fundamental for many of them in determining which camp they choose.

    That's where I think you and I disagree. I think there are some of those gut-level policy and bias issues that are absolutely determinative on how people divide themselves into competing tribes, and plenty of very smart people choose one tribe over another for those reasons.

    1. This is some good stuff. But like you the other day, I will have to come back to this later.

    2. I had to really think about how I wanted to explain this because it isn't straightforward. When I read your example about people with certain views who were accomplished enough in plenty of things so as not to be easily considered stupid I had this immediate slideshow run through my head of all the people I know who fit that description. And it forced me to not necessarily re-think my position as it challenged what I define as "stupid".

      I guess there are levels. But what you described makes me think of the intelligence we ascribe to a clever animal.....a raccoon that can figure its way into any garbage can. Or it's like what I hear about those pesky honey badgers in parts of Africa.

      I have a relative who was "smart" enough to make quite a bit of money from pretty modest beginnings and without a lot of formal education. But he is pretty old now and in all of his decades alive on earth he has managed to stubbornly amass all the wisdom of a cinder block. He is an avid Trump supporter as well.

      So when you cite examples of 'smart' people who manage to maintain staunch adherence to xenophobia, racism, selfishness, etc., I struggle with the seeming incongruity.

      As for the point about the human inclination to somehow fold into a role based on the leadership charisma of those around us, I am forced to agree based on what I have seen as well......but, again I myself have a hard time thinking this way because it has never been true for me except in cases where a person's expertise and wisdom seemed worthy. In most situations, even those wherein I have deferred to others to be the leader, I have never done so easily, and certainly never unquestioningly. No leader is ever beyond my suspicion and I think during those times I myself have become a leader, I would consider anyone following me without that same healthy suspicion to be a fool.

      So while it may be human, rampant, and predictable......and while falling in line might even be genetically drilled into a certain pack survival for social primates, it is never wise to submit unconditionally. Conditionally allowing someone else to lead may be smart, but unconditionally is stupid.

      So, what I am left with is that thinking, reasoning, evaluating, and even leading OR following with a nod to suspicion and scrutiny is what a smart human does. To adopt views that merely serve to get you into the garbage can while keeping everyone else away from that treasure is what a clever raccoon does.

      So, you are not wrong. In fact like I said in another post comment, you might be depressingly correct. But merely choosing a self-serving position and maintaining it without periodically evaluating its validity through even the most wily machinations may not indeed be "stupid" and therefore contrary to my point.....but it doesn't exactly seem smart either.

    3. "So while it may be human, rampant, and predictable......and while falling in line might even be genetically drilled into a certain pack survival for social primates, it is never wise to submit unconditionally. Conditionally allowing someone else to lead may be smart, but unconditionally is stupid."

      I'm not sure it makes much difference whether someone submits unconditionally or with doubts. The result is the same either way. If anything, isn't it more insidious when someone doubts a leader's call on something but goes along anyway? As Edmund Burke put it: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    4. I thin there's a huge difference. If you submit conditionally, you are far more likely to end that submission when confronted with leadership that runs contrary to your best judgement. If you don't approach every leader skeptically, you are far more likely to be led off a cliff.

      Of course it's insidious to know something is wrong and do it anyway. It can also be contrary to one's own best interest.....and that's just stupid. ;-)


  7. Democracy is messy, and it's hard. It's never easy.

    Robert Kennedy, Jr.

    1. Good quote and bizarrely prescient. Democracy certainly ended up messy for his brother and for him.