Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Already rich and still smart.

So many people have been reflecting on present political events as being driven by economic inequality and that idea is so compelling, that we haven’t looked any deeper or wider.  I can’t remember who it was who said that there is another inequality and it may, finally, be even more significant.  It is the idea of class that is based on merit which is believed to be a product of intelligence.  The smart people can rise in class, but the stupid people are trapped at the bottom.  Can you argue with that?  And aren’t criminals stupid — therefore, low class?  Or is it smart to be a criminal?

Having just read “The Keepers” and been so impressed by the power of ordinary people, older women with solid middle class lives and strong ideals, I noticed that comparison kept being made with “Making a Murderer.”  But now that I’m halfway through watching “Making a Murderer”, I see the comparison is a contrast.  “The Keepers” is about persistence, affection and loyalty defeating brilliant evil privileged priests.  Throughout, people remark on how smart these corrupt men are.  Indeed, they never were caught, even though they had committed more than one murder among their other atrocities.  

“Making a Murderer” is about convicting stigmatized men, “trailer trash,” if you will, with low IQ’s.  There are two murders that they may or may not have committed.  All four attacks in the two serials were of young, pretty, successful women — the kind of girl who gets straight A’s and is also the May Queen.  (So what did smart do for them?)  The culprits in this second film are low-class and stupid.  The family ran a wrecking yard, a necessary but ugly business that is packed with tragedy, even if only the accidents that wrecked the cars.  They are "technically" stupid — like, their IQ’s scores are supposedly around 70.  When I began teaching in 1961, children whose IQ’s were below 65 were not compelled to go to school, though there were several in my classes.  The way they were treated did not give them good manners.

This article suddenly seems relevant:  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-war-on-stupid-people/485618/  It’s premise is simple:  “American society increasingly mistakes intelligence for human worth.”  Intelligence is defined by the IQ test: Intelligence Quotient.  This was so important that in the Fifties our teachers had card files with each of our scores, cleverly coded.  Since I acted as my drama teacher’s “secretary,” I had access to the cards and someone (no doubt with a high IQ than mine) cracked the code.  I’ve sort of forgotten, but mine was somewhere in the 130’s or 140’s.  I’ve had friends and students with far higher scores.

What that really means is that I’ve always read a lot of books.  IQ measures how much you read.  It’s a pencil and paper exploration of your reading "brain connectome".  NOT your general intelligence.  It has nothing much to do with one’s “emotional intelligence” or “numerance.”  It was originally devised to winnow out potential soldiers who couldn’t understand what they read, even if they were supposedly literate.

What I know about myself and my measure, whether IQ or “creativity” (also big in those days) or conscientiousness, reliability and that sort of stuff, I’ve almost always been good enough to get into the high group (grouping was also popular) but always at the bottom.  That is, everyone else there was smarter than I was.  Or more creative, or prettier, or better-dressed, or richer, or had read even more books, maybe of higher quality.  This has had a curious influence on the way I’ve managed my life, a strange trade-off between security and recklessness.  Sometimes the idea that I was in this group was encouraging.  Other times it was a heavy obligation.

But sometimes, usually due to outside forces rather than a change on my part, I’ve ended up on the next stratum down — where I was at the top, the smart one.   It’s all comparison-based.  There is no objective measure.  This was often a disadvantage since it could attract accusations of being “too good.”  The safest place to be is the invisible middle, which is easy if you’re female and not pretty enough to attract abuse.

On the other hand, one might be doing “intellectual” things in a place that doesn’t value college educations, mostly because people see them as a sort of mysterious magic charm, a piece of paper that gives access to a different world.  And it is.

From the Atlantic article: “Even in this age of rampant concern over microaggressions and victimization, we maintain open season on the nonsmart. People who’d swerve off a cliff rather than use a pejorative for race, religion, physical appearance, or disability are all too happy to drop the s‑bomb: Indeed, degrading others for being “stupid” has become nearly automatic in all forms of disagreement.”  I know very nice families who make it a habit to mock the stupid politicians on the news.  Small town gossip is often based on stupidity.  Myself, I’m quick to use metaphors for stupid:  “not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” “elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top,” and so on.  “Dumbhead!” I accuse the cats (and also myself).

After all, in a place where a certain lack of achievement means never being able to move away, move on by going to college, the stuck ones feel that we smart alecks think they're dumb, though they are often making much more by being plumbers and running wrecking yards than by becoming college graduates, they still feel that we smart alecks consider them dumb.  And we do!  

How can any adult have been deceived enough by Donald Trump to vote for him?  And now STILL defend him?  It’s because he tells them THEY are the smart ones, the great ones, and they don’t deserve the low social status that’s been forced on them.  To accuse them of stupidity only backs them into militant ignorance.  The idea is that “I might seem dumb to you, but I have a secret plan that will turn all this stuff into a triumph.”  “I’m telling you that I’m a very smart man — everyone says so — because I am rich.”

Like Trump, I’m getting ideas from television vids.  Check out “Get Me Roger Stone” to understand how the lowest common denominator dominates majority-based democracy.  The film is explicitly about how Roger Stone created Trump.  I wondered who was the puppeteer.  All means are justified by the ends.  HIS ends.  If you say, Russia is a killer, Trump’s answer is that so are we.  We’re all cheaters so all behavior is justified.  It’s smart to color outside the lines.  Manafort pops up.  Winning and greed are all that count.  

The back side of this is something Stone probably doesn’t see, yet.  There is a person named “Trump” who is young, dynamic, energetic, etc.  (See picture at the top.)  He’s a plausible politician.  NOTHING like the present Alzheimer’s patient, aged and incoherent.  The contrast is more damning than name calling.  The trouble with smart is that age can take it away.  Of course, Jimmy Carter is still smart as well as virtuous and George W. Bush is getting smarter.

Check out   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcWXLbOXcPQ  Listen long enough to hear about the aging grandiose narcissist.

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