May 29 2012

Ignorance vs. Intelligence

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For a while, I’ve wanted to do some kind of paper on what I’ve viewed as an unending battle between the forces of intelligence vs. the forces of ignorance.

Over a year ago, I’d posted a book quote from Trevanian’s book Shibumi:

“Your scorn for mediocrity blinds you to its vast primitive power. You stand in the glare of your own brilliance, unable to see into the dim corners of the room, to dilate your eyes and see the potential dangers of the mass, the wad of humanity. Even as I tell you this, dear student, you cannot quite believe that lesser men, in whatever numbers, can really defeat you. But we are in the age of the mediocre man. He is dull, colorless, boring — but inevitably victorious. The amoeba outlives the tiger because it divides and continues in its immortal monotony. The masses are the final tyrants. See how, in the arts, Kabuki wanes and withers while popular novels of violence and mindless action swamp the mind of the mass reader. And even in that timid genre, no author dares to produce a genuinely superior man as his hero, for in his rage of shame the mass man will send his yojimbo, the critic, to defend him. The roar of the plodders is inarticulate, but deafening. They have no brain, but they have a thousand arms to grasp and clutch at you, drag you down.”

But really, this is what it comes down to.

Think about it. The Garden Of Eden, and the Serpent tempting Eve with the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Prometheus bringing fire. In each case, the gift of knowledge was taught as something “bad”. Why is this?

Right now, in America (and Simon Dwyer wrote something similar about England back in the 80’s, but I can’t personally vouch for its validity), we have a nation of people who are almost proud of how little they know. Our news media has become increasingly antagonistic to anyone who comes on presenting a reasonable well-documented and intelligent viewpoint on a subject, and would prefer to listen to people shouting, and making weird accusations like “oh, he just thinks that way because he’s a self-hating Jew” or “oh, he’s just blaming America first”, when in reality these people just might have an important insight into a matter. And yeah, its probably always been that way, but it just seems increasingly more pronounced lately. Shout down the nay-sayer, and go on and on with your smug little self-satisfactory oversimplification of issues.

I seem to have been mistakenly taught in college that the most effective way to win an argument or debate is to have the information to back up your point of view. Facts, statistics, and the like. Attacking another person’s character, or approaching from an emotional level, rather than a reasonable level was an act of desperation.

But it amazes me how words like intelligentsia and “intellectuals” are used dismissively by the press, and those in power. Why are these bad words? Do these people feel threatened somehow, by the people they brush off into these categories? What the hell is wrong with being smart, anyway?

I don’t claim to be an intellectual giant. Though, I do think I have some capabilities, intelligence-wise. I like learning things. I actively seek out knowledge. I just don’t understand why more people don’t have that drive, as well. Nor do I understand what’s particularly wrong with it.

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