Archive for the ‘psychology’ Category
Ah, the USS Liberty incident. June 8 1967, the USS Liberty, a “technical research ship,” IE a spy ship, is in international waters off the coast of Egypt. This was during the Six Day War, when Israel was fighting Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Israeli air and naval forces repeatedly attacked the USS Liberty, despite the fact that it was clearly marked as a US vessel. 34 crewmen were killed, 171 (or 174) were injured, and the vessel was badly damaged. Afterwards, both the US and Israel concluded it had been an accident, and Israel paid tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the families of the dead and wounded. Many people did not accept this explanation, and controversy and conspiracy theory roils to this day. Two survivors run a website dedicated to exposing the alleged cover-up.
The whole Liberty incident from beginning to end is rather complicated. I’m not going into the nuts and bolts of it, because it’s not really relevant to this post. And I don’t imagine I can add anything when countless others have examined the ins and outs of it, I certainly don’t know if the attack was deliberate or not. It might have been, and one or both governments might have conspired to cover up the truth. These sorts of things have happened, and while they sometimes get cleared up in the decades or centuries after the fact, sometimes they don’t. It’s safe to say that unless there are some revelations, we peasants will never know for sure how it was that Israel repeatedly attacked a US ship.
However, there is one aspect of this incident where my opinion has changed. Or at least grown more nuanced. Much has been made of the fact that the ship was clearly marked as an American ship. Which to many people’s way of thinking makes it impossible that attackers didn’t recognize this, and thus must have deliberately attacked an American ship. Alas, what science now knows about human perception, especially under stress, is that our perception is really inaccurate. If the pilots and sailors involved were told they would be attacking an Egyptian ship, it would be quite understandable if that is exactly what they saw. The image we see is created by our brains, and our expectations and focus can affect what we perceive. The attackers didn’t see the American flag and markings because they were focused on other things, and not expecting to see an American flag and markings. The same way these people didn’t see the gorilla.
Does this mean we can’t trust our own eyes? Nope. Nor our brains either. Add to that the Dunning-Kruger effect, and it’s a wonder that we make any progress at all. Still, here we are. Trying to make sense of it all. At least some of us. Are there any other lessons in the Liberty Incident? None that I can think of, it certainly wasn’t of strategic or even tactical importance. If the ship had been sunk, it might have made more of a public impact, but that would have faded. If the Liberty hadn’t been attacked, I can’t imagine how that would have changed history. One of the dead would have gone on and been the next Hitler? Seems pretty unlikely. In my final analysis, these deaths, like most war deaths, didn’t really mean much at all. Soldiers are cannon fodder, dying in wars is part of the job. And what a sucky job that is. How many other jobs involve people trying to kill you? Hockey. Politics. That’s about it.
Aside from the Liberty Incident, did the Six Day War have any other influence on history? Yes, even if the gentle reader has never heard of it. (Sometime I forget that I am above the median human age, and many people don’t remember the sixties because they weren’t alive yet.) It was a very important war, as war importance goes. Almost anything I say about it will be controversial. Or cause offence to some people. They aren’t the same, despite what generations of Evolution deniers maintain. For one it established that Israel had absolute military superiority over their neighbours. It also put Israel in control of all of Palestine, and the Golan heights, which were not traditionally part of Palestine. Ultimately, it got the nations bordering Israel out of the mix, Egypt and Jordan at least. Both sensibly decided that Israel could have the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and that was the end of noise about “driving Israel into the sea.“
And of course with Israel ultimately at peace with its neighbours, the now safe Jewish homeland of Israel made a just settlement with the Palestinians who also now lived in Israel, and everyone lived happily ever after. Alas, no. Israel had the land, but didn’t want the people living there because they weren’t Jewish. And since then has worked to steadily disenfranchise, legitimize, impoverish, and demonize their Palestinian neighbours, while bit by bit stealing their land. Fortunately all is not hopeless, many Palestinians and Israelis are working peacefully for a just solution to the Palestine problem. I in fact I am joining JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace, and will be posting more on the topic in the near future. (Honestly, some readers were surprised by that? I hope.)
(The above image is from Wikipedia, so I am assuming it is public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit, yada yada yada. And can someone explain to me why yada yada yada is not in my spelling dictionary? It’s been in the OED for a decade or more. We have computers now people, we’re supposed to keep up with stuff like this. Sheesh.)
What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, this picture is a bigot test. If you agree with the meme expressed, you’re a bigot. It’s that fucking simple. Bigotry isn’t hard to understand, it’s making wild generalizations about people based on things like their race, religion, gender, etc. In the case above, the generalization is so wild it’s almost breathtaking in its stupidity. The meme above comes out and says there is something so hateful and intolerant about Islam that it sets it apart from other religions. And I know damn well many people think that, even the majority of atheists think Islam is the “worst” religion, which shows atheists are just as prone to bigotry as anyone else.
OK, a few facts. It should go without saying that a religion with over a billion adherents is going to be all over the map, just like in any major religion. However, let’s look at specifics. Malaysia. 61% Muslim. Secular constitution, rights of religious minorities are guaranteed. And in fact most Malaysians are proud of their multicultural and multireligious society. Let’s go to Bosnia. Muslims are the majority at 45% of the population. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Third one I checked, Indonesia. Muslim majority. Religious minorities rights protected by the constitution. So factually speaking, the meme is already garbage. It’s safe to say that in numerous Muslim countries there will be religious rights for minorities in their constitutions.
Of course the bigots will claim that even though they have these rights on paper, there are still problems with some Muslims wanting to trample the rights of non-Muslims. News flash, all religions have tendency to trample the rights of minorities when they are the majority. In some countries, like the one I live in, a religious majority whines about having their rights trampled. Well, not all of them, just the holy rollers stuck in the Bronze Age. I’ve kind of had it with people who think their religion means they get to decide the law of the land for everyone. Even people who don’t follow their religion! Yes, dear readers, I’ve wandered near another point. And I’m going to make it. Many religions exhibit a nasty tendency to persecute minorities under the right conditions, it kind of comes with the territory. How is Islam different from, say, Christianity in this regard? It isn’t, Christians have a long proud history of suppressing the rights of those that disagree with them. To this day many Christians are working tirelessly to turn the USA into a theocracy and trample the rights of non-Christians. And sadly even Judaism, long a trampled upon minority, has shown a nasty tendency in this persecutory regard now that they are a majority in one country. So singling out Islam in this regard is hypocritical at best, bigoted and hateful at worst.
That’s another point that needs to be made about this image. How, exactly, is making this hateful generalization about Islam helpful? Will this encourage people in America to be more tolerant of their Muslim neighbours? No, the opposite in fact, it encourages fear and loathing. That may not be bigoted, but I sure think it’s evil. We’ve even got such paranoid dogmeat as state legislatures outlawing Sharia Law. The chances of any Muslims enacting Sharia Law anywhere in the USA are zero, so this is ridiculous on the face of it. And if some Muslims wanted to use Sharia Law to adjudicate civil affairs among Muslims, who gives a shit? We don’t care about Orthodox Jews, Quakers, or numerous other religious groups that chose to live by their religious code within the framework of secular criminal law, why the hell would anyone care if some Muslims did this? Hint: The answer starts with b. And no, I’m not suggesting we let Muslims stone each other to death, any more than we would let a Christian cult stone its members to death for blasphemy. (Lev. 24:16)
The sad thing about images like this is how effective they are. If one wants to have a bad view of Muslims (or anyone) in general, it’s easy to find all sorts of stuff on line to reinforce one’s prejudices. And the mainstream media as well as hordes of amateurs are only too happy to generate and spread hateful images. It’s by no means limited to the right or conservatives as well. I know I’ve pilloried some hateful images by atheists and liberals in previous posts, I find propaganda hateful no matter who is targeted. I think this is a terrible failing of the modern media and online world, it’s making people more divided, not less. I’ll expand on this train of thought in a future post.
Hope everyone is having or had a great weekend. I’m having a BBQ.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Pretty sure that unless the author actually took the trouble to file a copyright, images on Facebook are public domain, correct me if I’m wrong.)
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
The Hannah Anderson kidnapping. Some weird shit, eh? For those who weren’t following, a family friend kidnapped a 16 year old girl, torture-killing her mother and brother in the process, and fled to the Idaho wilderness. The FBI tracked him down and rescued the girl, the perpetrator dying in the shootout. (And while I am often a harsh critic of law enforcement killings, in this case, good going guys. A murderous monster with a hostage was killed, sometimes the good guys are the good guys.) So, sick fuck dead, is there more to this story? Yes, yes there is. Here on Doug’s Darkworld we thrive on sick stuff, and this unpleasantness has some curious aspects.
So, the authorities are still mystified as to the perpetrator’s motive. Ah, the wonders of living in a puritan country. It’s not all that mysterious, he wanted to fuck her. And he likely did, although I haven’t found that anywhere in the news yet. Of course rape would be the operative word, she was a victim in every sense of the word. So what causes a man to kill his best friend’s wife and son, and kidnap the daughter? Was DiMaggio insane? In some senses, almost certainly. It was a crime with essentially zero chance of “success,” so clearly he wasn’t thinking rationally. He might have had a brain tumour or other organic problem that destroyed his judgment and impulse control. Maybe he was always a sociopath, but until then had never encountered a situation that brought it to the surface so to speak. Whatever the trigger for the crime was, it did develop over time, as there are reports he was acting strangely towards the girl long before the kidnapping. At the very least the man had a troubled past that more than likely contributed in some ways to his crime.
However, it’s easy to say some guy was “crazy” and let it go at that. Alas, nothing occurs in a vacuum. So one can at least speculate about what influences might have led to this tragedy. The first thing that comes to my mind is rape culture and the objectification of women. Men are programmed from an early age by innumerable societal forces to think of women as “prizes” that they can obtain somehow. Hell, there’s a whole genre of popular “asshole gets the girl” movies. Don’t even get me started on the bible and fundamentalist religion. Then there’s advertising. Basically this guy looked at the girl as a sex object despite overwhelming factors that should have dissuaded him. Or think of it this way, if the victim hadn’t been a classically cute blonde girl, would the crime even have happened?
In a more general sense, men kidnapping girls to be their brides has a long history. It was widely practised throughout the world throughout history, and continues to be practised to this day in some parts of the world. It’s fair enough to say that this was a normal part of human mating for much of the specie’s history. This of course doesn’t excuse the behaviour, but it may explain the urge on an atavistic level. IE there was likely an evolutionary advantage to stealing brides from neighbouring tribes, so the behaviour may be at least someone instinctual. Any atavistic behaviour might be, and one has to speculate how many men might engage in the behaviour if the circumstances encourage it? Sadly the evidence is that many people are easily enough induced to do bad things.
As a codicil, Stockholm Syndrome. This is where a prisoner or a hostage comes to identify so much with their captor that they may even defend him. It was named after a bank hostage case where it was discovered that two of the three women taken hostage in a bank robbery for several days had subsequently married their now jailed captors! About a quarter of people taken hostage appear to show at least some Stockholm Syndrome symptoms. And there is very much scientific speculation that the syndrome is an evolutionary adaptation to women being routinely kidnapped by other tribes. The women who acquiesced to enslavement were far more likely to survive and have children. Curiously, there seems to be little research on my hypothesis, that men may be evolutionary prone to bride kidnapping. Not sure if it means anything, especially in my shallow level of analysis, but it is interesting.
Many kidnap victims don’t exhibit the Stockholm Syndrome. Hannah Anderson, the victim in our case, was back on a social network within days of her release! And she had no sympathy whatsoever for her captor, saying being shot to death was exactly what he deserved. And it’s an interesting footnote to this case, the victim using a social network to share publicly her experience! The mass media played a role in her rescue, and it now plays a role in her recovery. The implications there alone are fascinating, it’s a brave new world.
(The above image was taken in Central Asia in 1871 -72, so it is safely in the Public Domain under US copyright law. It may show a traditional bridal “kidnapping” in progress, the women gesturing with the whip is facing her four “abductors.” I use parenthesis because as cultures evolved, the distinction between bridal kidnapping and arranged marriage gets fuzzy. In this case the Kidnapping appears to be more symbolic than real, one can speculate all they want about what is going on in the photo. Which it is why it made such a great photo for this very much speculative blog post. I am trying to provoke thought, not reach conclusions.)
Yes, a navy chaplain has come up with a list of seven ways that gay marriage has hurt his marriage. What can I say, the douchebaggery coming from people who hate gays is reaching new heights as the rest of the world grows up and moves out of the Middle Ages. This guy isn’t just grasping at straws, he’s making them up out of whole cloth. I will address each point in turn since some of them are just begging to be refuted. My comments are in italics. Just that he calls it the “homosexulization of marriage” shows that he is another anti-gay person with a bizarre fixation on how other people are having sex, but I digress. Here, in the chaplain’s own words:
“Here are 7 ways the homosexualization of “marriage” has de-valued the traditional marriages of all Christian families, including my own:
1. It has made our traditional marriage less valuable in the eyes of the state.
This one is a word salad, I’m not even sure what it is supposed to mean. First of all, “traditional marriage” is a meaningless phrase, marriage has changed throughout history and has evolved considerably just this century. And wtf are “the eyes of the state?” Basically it sounds like he is saying that the more people get married, the less his marriage is worth. There’s like only so much marriage value to go around and gays are spreading it thinner?
2. It has forced Christian couples to pay more taxes to make up for the homosexual “bonus pay” now issued by as tax-benefits given to gay “married” couples.
So? The amount of money we are talking about is trivial at best. And at worst, this is just another fucktard upset that some of his tax money goes to something he doesn’t approve of. Guess what, that has always been the case and always will be the case, so this is nothing new. If you don’t like it, don’t pay taxes. He’s also got it backwards, until now gays had to subsidize HIS marriage with their taxes, how come he doesn’t have a problem with that. Oh, right … only his medieval “Christian” values count.
3. It has de-valued by inflation our dollars in our family’s bank accounts by increasing the national debt to pay for more government benefits for gay “married” couples, for which the Fed must print new dollars to pay such debt.
This is basically a restatement of point number two. And the amount of inflation we are talking about here would require an electron microscope to see.
4. It has taken away the rights of Christian couples and Catholic charities to foster or adopt children in states like Massachusetts, as my friend Amy Contrada proves here.
First of all, there are no “rights” to adopt or foster children, so he’s either an idiot or deliberately using the word in a context where it does not apply. And yes, some states insist that foster and adoptive parents not be religious zealots who are going to indoctrinate their children with their extreme religious beliefs. So? Also, wtf does this even have to do with marriage equality? Nothing.
5. It has hurt our national security and therefore our family’s safety by de-funding benefits given to straight couples or weapon systems and re-distributing those Pentagon dollars to gay “married” couples.
Again, break out the electron microscope to see how much funding we are talking about here. And again, this is just a restatement of points number two and three. This is like reading a bad high school paper where the kid didn’t do any research and just kept repeating the same things in different ways to make the paper long enough. Pathetic.
6. It has hurt our ability to worship Almighty God in a Christian chapel building whose altar has been desecrated by homosexual “weddings” depriving us of a sacred worship space.
This is both a lie …. and really sick shit. First of all, no one has suggested forcing any church to perform a gay marriage, and there are no legal ways to do that. Secondly, he’s just saying he thinks gays are so icky they contaminate everything. That’s his problem, not society’s. Note he is also apparently claiming there is something magical about gay marriage since it bothers his magical sky buddy. It’s the 21st century, arguments based on magic belong in the Middle Ages.
7. It has threatened our family’s religious freedom in countless ways, as I explain here.
OK, I’m not going to listen to a 30 minute YouTube rant that will be entirely about distressed privilege. IE it will be an attempt to rebrand religious discrimination as religious freedom.
If I thought about it more, I’m sure I could develop a longer list. But the fact is, yes David, my own marriage has been adversely impacted (as I said twice on your show), and yet my love for my wife and my relationship with her remains faithful and unchanged.”
His last line pretty much destroys his own argument. As a lawyer will ask if you want to sue someone for ruining your life: They will ask if your wife still loves you and your kids still hug you when you come home? If the answer is yes to both, then your life isn’t ruined. Or your marriage in his case. His marriage is apparently just fine, so where is the harm to it from marriage equality? His whole rant is pretty much an illustration of what is so fucked up about ideological and religious thinking, they start with a conclusion and then search for evidence that supports their conclusion. So when the conclusion is nonsense, such as “Gay marriage will hurt my marriage,” the “evidence” is going to be nonsense as well. As the good chaplain has been so obliging to come up with and publish.
As I have said before and will no doubt say again, if you think about, let alone have concerns about what consenting adults are doing with their genitals, you are the pervert with issues.
(The above image is used entirely without permission and is even hard to come up with a good Fair Use rational. It’s not being used for profit though, and the Simpsons has been an outspoken advocate of marriage equality, so hopefully Matt Groening won’t object. Today for a change I’ll conclude with some visual humour:
Hope everyone is having a great weekend! Oh, and I didn’t even address the chaplains contention that gay marriage hurts national security, because, well, that’s so fuctarded stupid that it deserves no rebuttal.)
No, this picture wasn’t it. I suspected it might be an explanation for what I saw, but I don’t think so now. I digress. I’ve had a handful of experiences in my life for which I have found no really satisfying explanation. A lot of people have had similar, I’ve certainly heard a few stories in my time. And since I find mysteries fascinating, I will share the few I’ve experienced. Partly just for fun, partly to show that mysterious things do happen, and partly in hopes that someone says “I know what you saw!” So far no one has even come close with this one, I’m still baffled and it happened over twenty years ago.
So, 1990 or so, Washington State. A friend and I were camping for the weekend and drove around much of Saturday looking for an open campground. We eventually found a place where we could park the car, and hike down into a canyon with a nice secluded camping area by a stream. While people obviously went there occasionally, there was sort of a path down the hill, there was no one there that weekend. There were a lot of old cans and bottles from the 1930s scattered about, someone had spent a summer or two camped there back then. It really was a sweet spot, but you couldn’t drive to it and it was hard to find. We got lucky.
There was a well trodden game trail along the creek, just fine for humans. A few feet wide, packed earth surface. We were car camping, not backpacking, so we had to make several trips up and down the canyon side to get our stuff to the campsite. It was afternoon in the shade, but full summer, and even in the canyon it was still full daylight. Ahead of me on the path as I’m walking I see something. It was maybe an inch tall or so, and it was solid white. I couldn’t make out its shape, this all happened very quickly. I saw it on the trail, then it opened a little trapdoor, popped into the hole, and pulled the trapdoor shut. I was surprised, but stared at the spot where it had disappeared as I walked up, and poked around with a stick. I didn’t find anything but solid packed earth. I was puzzled, but didn’t know what else to do. I seem to recall thinking that it must have been a big bug of some sort, but it was pure white, I’d never seen a white bug.
And that’s the story. I recently did some research on trapdoor spiders, and the image above made me wonder if I’d seen one of them, and somehow the white of the trapdoor was the white I had seen, the incident did happen very fast. Alas, from what I can tell, trapdoor spiders aren’t found anywhere above central California. That pretty much rules them out. I’ve never heard of a big white bug that has a trapdoor in the ground, but who knows. Ring a bell with any reader? Is there any sort of bug or animal that fits this bill? I’d love to hear about it.
There is always the possibility that this never happened, or at least not the way I am remembering. Science has shown that memory is a very sketchy thing, and easily modified or induced. Maybe I dreamed this for example, I often have vivid dreams when camping. It seems odd to me now that I didn’t investigate further at the time, it was right outside the camp. On the other hand, I can see myself deciding to leave it be, since I wouldn’t want to hurt it by scraping around looking for it … whatever it was. We all have false memories, and we all misremember things. Memory is a story we tell ourselves.
Lastly, I suspect it’s experiences like this that have seeded, so to speak, a lot of folklore through the ages. It wouldn’t be too hard to convince myself I had seen a humanoid figure, heck, I’d be lying if I said I was sure it wasn’t. In earlier times when the world was more mysterious, the idea that there were other humanoids living around us wouldn’t be all that odd, why not? And the brain, our wonderful human brain, is a pattern recognizer. The best ever in fact, there’s thinking that this is one of the things that makes us uniquely human. And in many cases, it works too well, and sees patterns that aren’t even there. Jesus on a piece of toast nowadays, back then fairies and elves in the woods. And Gods?
(The image above is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Credit and copyright: Darlene. I met a perfectly sober fellow once who claimed he had met and talked to a leprechaun for lack of a better word, I’ll post on that some day.)
My brain. My poor brain. I wasn’t going to comment on current events, but this one, well, how could I not comment? Yes gentle readers, there are Sandy Hook truthers. What are Sandy Hook truthers? These are people who believe that the Sandy Hook school shooting was staged by the Obama administration to give an excuse for gun control. Really? Really? Yes, really. On the one hand, it’s not too surprising. Similar theories pop up after all sorts of events. I think partly because people are trying to make sense out of them, our brains have evolved for pattern recognition to the point where they recognize patterns that aren’t there. And partly because there are people like Alex Jones who make a good living by touting conspiracy theories. It’s safe to say that for good or for ill, conspiracy theories are a natural occurrence in human culture.
For good or for ill. Sometimes there is ill. A man who acted with compassion and understanding during the Sandy Hook shooting, sheltering children and an adult in his home during the crisis, has been threatened and harassed by people who think he is an “actor” playing his role in a government propaganda event. No good deed goes unpunished I guess. I am sure others in his situation have also been so harassed. The truth is, if one gets in the public eye these days, one is going to take some flak. I had a friend who had the same listed name as someone who was in a big public shootout on a local freeway. They couldn’t answer their phone for days afterwards because of all the calls from reporters and kooks. For good? I’m not sure I find much good in conspiracy theories. Other than that they are part of the rich tapestry that is the human experience. And can act as negative examples for those who are trying to make sense of it all.
First pass at this. Is it possible that Sandy Hook was some sort of psyops operation by elements of the Obama administration? I think it’s unlikely in the extreme. First of all, one is postulating a conspiracy with hundreds of participants. I don’t see any historical precedent for something like this. Successful conspiracies involve tiny numbers of conspirators, not hundreds. so already we have some issues. Also, and an even better point, is that it is vastly easier to capitalize on some event than create said event out of whole cloth. If Obama really wanted to use a horrible gun massacre as an excuse to institute gun control, all he had to do was wait. Huge risk of exposure turns into zero risk of exposure. I mean, the conspirators are claiming that Obama has control over the media, if this were true, it makes it even easier for Obama to capitalize on whatever gun massacre he wants to hang his hat on so to speak. Basically Obama would have to be a moron to try fake something at great risk of exposure instead of capitalizing on something at zero risk of exposure. Obama is many things, but he’s not a moron. Lastly, historically, this sort of over-the-top conspiracy has been proposed. In few cases was it ever implemented, and I’m aware of no cases where it was successful. Prove me wrong.
So I’m going with the premise that this is a ludicrous theory. Yeah, and so was the idea that a Jewish fifth column was responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War One. This brings me to the crux of this post, I’m a little alarmed by the Sandy Hook truther movement. On the one hand it’s a natural outgrowth of previous truther movements like the 9/11 truthers and the birthers. This is a little uglier, in that hatred is actually being directed at people. It’s also going even further out on a limb for people who reject Obama’s legitimacy as president. Now instead of just disapproving of everything Obama does, he is being accused of doing things he didn’t do. There’s no limit to how far thinking like this can go. It’s a sign that the nation is becoming even more polarized. An observation supported by multiple other recent developments, Republican rage at Obama’s re-election, the secession movement, and ever more vitriolic attacks on liberals, leftists, immigrants, and minorities. Anne Coulter’s latest rant is over the top, but didn’t seem to take any of the wind out of her sails.
Basically the crazier people’s beliefs, the easier it is to get them to do bad things. And the more dangerous the lunatic fringe inspired by these beliefs becomes. The idea that Obama has some sort of sinister agenda and is going to seize absolute power doesn’t pass the laugh test. He’s a politician, not an ideologue. The idea that elements on the Right driven by paranoid extremism will attempt to seize power (or assassinate Obama) seems more likely all the time. And there’s a lot of historical precedent for ugliness along these lines. Stay tuned, this could get a lot worse before it gets better.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and I am a big fan of the show and plug it constantly, if anything this is free advertising for them. Credit and copyright: Futurama. I hope no one takes this post too seriously, I’m not proposing any course of action, just commenting on current events. I certainly hope I’m guilty of being too paranoid.)
Anyone who hasn’t seen the movie Idiocracy should consider it. It’s about a dystopian scifi future world where the average American IQ is about 70 and the average American isn’t even literate. Granted the premise of the movie is brain-dead stupid, the idea that stupid people having children is lowering the average IQ. That aside though, it’s a lot of fun. The movie is a comedy so suspension of disbelief is pretty much required, but as modern American comedies go, it’s funny. It doesn’t have Will Farrell for one thing. And anyone smart who has been paying attention the past few decades has likely noticed some decline in the intelligence of the average American, and can only wonder if that’s where we are headed as a nation. At least that’s my thinking, here then are some of my observations along those lines.
Vocabulary. While some wild numbers have been thrown around, the consensus is still that American’s working vocabulary has declined some the past decades. There appear to be a number of reasons for this. Reading isn’t as popular as it once was. The homogenization and dumbing down of the mainstream media. Standardized national testing. However we got here, people today, especially younger people, appear to have a vocabulary less than their forbears at the same age. I’m actually sometimes surprised that a word I use isn’t understood, and it’s almost always a younger person who doesn’t understand. All is not lost, Clinton used the word disparate on TV the other day, but people as smart as him are rare.
Graffiti. Does anyone remember graffiti from the 60s or earlier? I loved going into public bathrooms as a kid, there would be jokes, poems, and witticisms abounding on the toilet stall walls. Nowadays there’s nothing but crude drawings and swear words. It’s not my imagination, the literary quality of graffiti has gone down considerably since I was a kid. Quantity is up though, and it’s a lot more stylized these days. I know trains weren’t covered with graffiti when I was a kid, they are now. Not a good sign.
Intellectuals, lack thereof. An observation from my personal life. On a trip to New Zealand my then wife and I met a couple of nice German fellows at a youth hostel. (Yes, this was awhile ago.) We invited them to visit us in California as they were planning a trip to the USA at some point. And a year or two later they did indeed drop by for a visit after hitchhiking across America. They had a question for me and my then wife. “Where are all the intellectuals?” We didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.
Other lines of evidence. American’s have the lowest IQs in the developed world, lagging behind 22 other countries. From the book IQ and Global Inequality. In math skills Americans also test out very poorly compared to numerous other countries according to the Program for International Student Assessment. “American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.” From a study and survey in the New York Times. (Hat tip to “Are Americans Stupid? Statistics, Studies, and Research.” ) Granted none of these track a trend, but I just wanted to show that there is ample evidence that Americans don’t seem to be on top of things when it comes to being smart and educated.
How did this happen and what does it mean? I have some ideas, and it means we’re screwed. I mean, the government is carrying on about Iran’s nuclear program and only one out ten Americans know what radiation is? One in five adults thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth? At least this makes it clearer how our leaders can promulgate the most egregious nonsense, and Americans take it in stride. And that will be the topic of the next blog, the egregious nonsense being touted by some of our leaders. As I am saying all too often these days, this isn’t going to end well.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. I got it from the fine web site. It’s titled Prank Fail … a bad idea about to get worse. No kidding. Like the guy in New York who wanted to pet a tiger so he jumped into a tiger cage. He got his wish apparently. The tigers got their wish too … a chance to maul a human being. And no insult to tigers is meant, apex predators in captivity know they are being held in captivity, and they know who is holding them captive. Lastly I have no idea of the actual origin of the photo above, what the hell were they trying to accomplish? Teaching lions to hunt?)