Sunday, April 20, 2008

Stupidity is an American luxury

By that I don't mean just garden variety stupidity but the willful stupidity of people, particularly younger people, towards anything not having to do with their immediate experience. Politics in a form beyond Student-Government style idiocy, history in pretty much any form, not to mention other social sciences, not to mention stuff like philosophy, is treated as, like, such a downer. Why care about that stuff, which can't get you a good job anyways, when you can study business and think about cool things you can buy for your car.

Incuriosity about the world around you, just not giving a damn, while expecting to be some other place besides the bottom of the social pecking order, would be considered completely irrational in any other society besides the U.S. Which isn't to say that in other countries, particularly other English speaking countries, there's some sort of social order where people don't get ahead purely from having a lot of money to start with, but in the case of the United States we've taken the concept and raised it to an art form, where people from the middle of the middle class on up can literally be as thick as blocks of wood with regards to almost any substantive issue around them and yet still end up making loads and loads of money.

I think the reason that people get away with it here is that we're on top of the world financially, at least at the moment, and so there aren't any constraints that people have to reckon against if they take that particular sort of career path. People above the working class-management career divide don't have to put to much effort into negotiating the world around them because our economy has been so strong that you can be a complete moron, an average "Ugly American", and still be a success.

Why have knowledge, why have some understanding of the past or some kind of analysis of the present, if there's no immediate use for it?

But things are changing now. The slow meltdown of the U.S. economy is going to lead to people not being able to skate by on no real understanding of the world around them. They're going to be competing against countries whose people are actually educated, in both Europe and Asia, and a strong currency and a large army isn't going to be enough to mitigate utter idiocy and offensiveness.

That luxury is going to run out pretty soon, and once it does and people start looking around them to see what happened, subjects like history, non-bullshit presentations of politics, and sociology aren't going to look so completely useless.

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