How many stupid things can a nation do, and how stupid can its leaders and its people be, before the nation falls into an irreversible spiral of decline?
The underlying factor behind the stupidity is addiction. Modern society is an addiction culture. Everything that drives economic activity involves some kind of addiction, and addiction makes people stupid. Try using charts, data, and facts to explain to a junkie why he should stop using heroin. Now do the same and try to convince people to give up junk food and junk entertainment and junk consumerism.
Neil Postman was right in 1985 in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: in the television age, everything is entertainment. In the internet age, all the factors Postman identified have increased geometrically. So we are told that in the UK people are “tired” of hearing about Brexit, and that in the US people are “fed up” with talk about impeachment. Low entertainment value. Change the channel.
Timothy Leary’s 1960s call to the hippie generation to “turn on, tune in, drop out” has been co-opted by the commercial addiction juggernaut—as has been everything else that dissidents of any sort have put forward. The society as a whole has turned on to addictions of all sorts, tuned in to culture as entertainment, and dropped out of any serious engagement with political life.
Decline and fall, baby.
For a more technical and data-based version of this analysis, read “This is How a Society Dies,” by Umair Haque.
2 thoughts on “Too much stupid”
Quantifying stupid, as either a noun or adjective, lacks both unit of measure and a scale. Further, people capable of very complex thinking can make severely ill fated decisions. Perhaps another question could be considered: How many outspoken less intellectually capable people does it take to tip a nation to self destruction? Another: Is self-service a motive that is incompatible with successful democracy? Is “successful democracy” an oxymoron, given that there will always be people greater and lesser than oneself?
Since it appears we are failing, the answer to your question would d seem to be this many and average stupid.
Great to hear from you! Umair Haque’s essay, linked in the update to my post, makes it clearer than I did that it’s not just the “masses” (to use the Leninist word) who are stupid: the “elites” have become stupid, as well.
In the US, this has been true for the last half-century, at least. The Vietnam War, the criminal interventions all over the “Third World” that reached a crescendo in the 1980s, the blind greed of the Reagan/Thatcher economy that exploded the wealth and income gaps; more recently, just look at the arrogance of elites in both major political parties, and in the mainstream media. Most dramatically, of course, is the complete capitulation of the Republican/Russian Party to Trumpism. In the UK, less dramatic but similar examples could be listed, with similar but less dramatic results in Brexit and the rise of politicians like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, with the corresponding evaporation of competent leadership in the other major political parties.
Above all: The planet is dying, but neither our leaders nor the population in general are able to focus on the problem. We notice it only intermittently, and without any effect whatsoever. Instead, we are distracted by Trump’s latest bloviating, or by horse-race politics (another form of entertainment), or by the sports / music / movies / celebrity gossip addiction of our choice.
So this is not a traditional complaint about educated, enlightened elites being overwhelmed by the ignorant masses. Everyone is addicted to something or other, and the ship is going down.