The Only Final Sin is Arrogance

I originally posted this on March 15, 2016...

In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity. — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

That used to be true. The getting caught part. The stupidity part.

Not any more.

Where HST is still accurate is the guilty part. We're all still guilty. Guilty of participation in a societal model that most of us agree is bereft of decency. Consuming shit we don't need by working too many hours to create nothing of substance. Guilty of casual racism and sexism. Guilty of lying to and cheating one another. Oh, yeah...we're all pretty guilty.

But the guilty so rarely get caught and when they do, accountability for what they are guilty of is so lacking, that the guilt of crimes against one another cannot even be considered significant. The crime of stupidity, however, gets a bit sticky.

Somewhere along the line, the smart people started to go out of their way to make sure the stupid people knew exactly how stupid they were. The smart people lectured and used their intelligence to dominate rather than educate, to subjugate rather than inform.

The inherent problem is that the smart people are almost always in the minority in almost any society. The stupid people will always outnumber them. The other difficulty is that the smart people aren't as smart as they think they are and most of the stupid people aren't really all that stupid, mostly just willfully ignorant.

An arrogant minority lecturing a willfully ignorant majority is not a great recipe for a progressive society.

In the past few decades, the assault on being smart - having a decent and thoughtful vocabulary, understanding and learning about history, knowing geography and the basic understanding of science, political science, and ethics - has taken its toll. For a while there, the nerds were winning. The astronauts, the doctors, the lawyers, the kids who studied and got beat up in high school growing up to become pillars of our democracy? These were the heroes. These were the adults to aspire to become.

While I'm certain it was all there before this moment, the first time I realized that being smart was no longer the desirable cloth of citizenship was the presidential election of 2000. Al Gore was so smart that he made George W. Bush seem like a knuckle headed frat boy, however, one of the winning campaign strategies was actually positing which candidate was a better beer drinking partner. And, in spite of Al winning the popular vote, Bush became president and the idiots of the country rejoiced. This majority of willfully ignorant Americans, weening their political savvy from the non-stop propaganda of Roger Ailes, had won. The football players were back in charge.

Fast forward to the present and you have a landscape where Kim Kardashian is known by more women than bell hooks, where Justin Bieber is more lauded than Stephen Hawking, where more people feel the pain of The Bachelorette than even know of the existence of Noam Chomsky.

And the intellectuals wring their hands and utter disbelieving moans as they see Donald Trump ascend as a viable candidate for our highest office using almost pathological bullshit and completely uncreative insults to bolster his campaign and we wonder how? Why?

  • Like the Social Justice Warriors and the Eco Warriors and the Language Police and the Angry Feminists, the Educated became scolds. The wagging finger of shame and the condescending tone took the place of the earnest example.
  • The Educated decided that being right was more important than being persuasive.
  • As smart as we all thought we were, we convinced ourselves that calling people stupid was somehow an effective strategy to unifying the country.
  • We took ourselves so motherfucking seriously without a thought to how seriously those out there practicing their willful ignorance took themselves.
  • We decided that being educated made us better than those who were less so.
  • We thought the Internet would provide us a platform for opinion and discourse instead of providing fucking EVERYONE with a platform for opinion and discourse.

All of which makes those of us on the side of education, well, willfully ignorant.

So maybe

  • Cease with the scolding. Jesus, what a bunch of self important assholes we on the Left have become.
  • Being right is less important than demonstrating it.
  • Calling people stupid (or racist or sexist or homophobic) should be reserved for extreme examples rather than the knee jerk swath we give it.
  • Take the issues seriously but not ourselves because we're all a bunch of guilty, hypocritical fucksacks.
  • Understand that being educated only makes one more educated rather than superior.
  • Use the goddamn internet responsibly and don't promote the clickbait horseshit that shows up ad nauseum.

Or...

Get used to more of the same loud, angry assholes winning elections.

Postscript almost 9 months later:  I guess we decided to get used to the same loud, angry assholes.  My, we are a dimwitted species...