NOW THAT CANADA’S ten-month Winter season is over, and it’s finally almost sort-of kinda like Spring-ish, everyone is outside. The smokers are spending more time than in recent months out on the fire escape of my building, chatting with one another about the issues of the day: how to make your hair smell nice, who said what about who on Facebook (like omg!) and how amazing Katy Perry is. Yes, it’s like having C-SPAN and Noam Chomsky and Foreign Policy Magazine, all on the other side of the thin wall that separates me from my neighbors.
Now, I’m not saying my neighbors are shallow and dim (but, yeah, they really are) so much as I’m making an observation about people in general. Here it is: they aren’t that smart. Do you know what the average human IQ is, for example? I don’t either, and I can’t be bothered doing a Googily, so let’s just agree it’s around 27. The exact number matters less than the fact (oh yes it is) that most people are on the stupid end of the spectrum somewhere between “The Earth is Like Totally Flat” and “Matt Walsh is the Greatest Writer of Our Generation.”
It may seem odd to you that I’d envy these people, but I have my reasons.
Here I am, working away on some essay about the Achaemenid Empire that four people will read, while upstairs the people with the nice-smelling hair are dancing and giggling. Am I jealous? Yes, of course I am. The thing about being shallow and dim is that there are so many people just like you in the world that life is a constant episode of Friends, except that everyone you know is the Lisa Kudrow character, and you know dozens of them.
Even the Bible says “blessed are the dum dums, for they shall inherit the earth.” Apostates, liberals and other heretics often mistranslate the original Koine, but you and I know it’s not the meek who have it all – it’s the morons. Stupid people get by on charm, good looks and smelling nice. Look around and you’ll see them succeeding wildly in all walks of life, from professional sports and music to high fashion. Not only do they succeed, but they define the tastes and the culture for the rest of us. The movies and books and TV shows that the stupid people like will be the ones the studio factory will crank out around the clock.
Remember that show Frasier? Remember that all the smart people were astonished to find that a popular TV show starred a brainiac, rather than the usual dummies? Sure, that’s unusual, but the whole point of that show was to mock Frasier Crane, not to hold him up as something you might aspire toward. Here was a guy who could sing the libretto of a traditional Japanese opera and quote Shakespeare and explain the difference between Freud, Jung and Lacan. What an idiot! The show never missed an opportunity to emphasize what a fool Frasier was for knowing these things, which is of course what you have to do to make all the stupid people feel good about themselves. BTW, the preceding phrase, “to make all the stupid people feel good about themselves,” is the Jeopardy question for the answer Why does pop culture exist?
Who do you think is happier in life – the stupid people, or the smart people? The obvious answer is that the stupid people are happier, because they don’t know how stupid they are. (If they did, they’d be smart.) The smarter you are, the keener your sense is of your own ignorance. Plus, smart people know a lot of things about history and geopolitics, which are far less upbeat than a Katy Perry song. Here’s the Bible again: “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” It’s as if even God is telling you don’t bother.
In a world where people are mostly stupid, Dennis Rodman will spend his post-basketball life doing coke off naked strippers while researchers forever are scrambling for the next dollar to cure some horrible disease. (Then, when the vaccine comes out, the stupid people don’t take it, because they think it causes autism.) The newspapers will be too busy telling you about what Oscar Pistorius said in court today, or where Justin Bieber got arrested this week, to tell you about something that actually matters in your life. In a world where stupid reigns, being smart is at best an inconvenience.
While I was waiting for the subway this morning, I saw this poster:
First, who cares? Second, tell me more about the “old” intelligence – such as: where have they hidden it all these years? Does the subway go there, or do I need to take an airplane?
I think this is a rhetorical question, like “What if Rob Ford lost fifty pounds, quoted Cicero, and started wearing an Ascot?” The truth is no new intelligence is on the way, because almost no one wants it. Stupid is the thing, and will always be the thing. If you’re stupid, consider yourself lucky. The alternative is to be smart, and smart people are the biggest idiots and losers of all.