by Dr. M.L. Grim

"I'll have to live in an apartment, LIKE AN IDIOT!"

- Krusty the Klown

If you ask most Europeans (or Canadians, who are really closeted Europeans), they'll say, "Americans are stupid." Of course, most Americans don't give a shit what Europeans think. Why should we? If you asked Americans, however, what one word they would use to describe themselves, you'll hear "friendly," "brave," "honest," "industrious," "cheerful," etc. You won't hear, "Smart." The French are smart. The Germans are smart. The Chinese are smart. Americans are... something else.

Don't get me wrong, American brains have been behind some of the most revolutionary technical innovations of our age -- the personal computer, the Internet, microwave popcorn -- but Americans don't identify with egg-head inventors and four-eyed billionaires. We're not a bunch of skinny nerds jacking off with slide-rules! We're so much more! We're athletes, actors, and rock stars. We're cowboys, soldiers, and firemen. We're housewives, Mr. Mom's, and freckle-faced kids with band-aids on our knees! Americans, God Bless Us All!

But for all that, we're not smart. In fact, we kind of despise smart people. Look at the last election. Al Gore lost because he was smart. I know that everyone said he lost because he was boring. But just like "urban" is a code word for "black," and "fastidious" is a code word for "gay," in America, "boring" is a code word for "smart." No one says Gore is stupid, while everyone says George W. Bush is, and on these fair shores, stupid wins over smart every time. Why? Because stupid people are entertaining and smart people are boring.

Oddly enough, smart people ARE entertaining when they are making fun of stupid people. But then again, EVERYONE makes fun of stupid people. Even stupid people make fun of stupid people. Just eavesdrop on the subway or listen closely at the dinner table. The subject is inevitably some ignorant buffoon and the idiotic thing he did that showed what a dumb asshole he was. If it's not that, then its the irrational and frustratingly stupid way that things work, especially the government. It's always the other guy -- the boss, the teacher, the shopclerk -- who's a jackass. We're always smart. Of course, the fact that we think we're smart (or at least smarter than the dipshit next store), should be a warning sign, since what people think about themselves is almost always wrong.

Think about it. Doesn't it seem odd that everyone thinks the people in government and those who work for them are a bunch of incompetent morons? Consider the bureaucrats, postal employees, cops, soldiers, congressman, congressional interns, presidents. Why don't we think of any of these folks as "smart"? Well, obviously, because they're totally brain-dead dolts. But then again, they must be doing something right. After all: THEY FUCKING CONTROL EVERYTHING!

Humans hold up intelligence as an ideal. We believe that it separates us from the rest of the living things populating Earth's surface and the key to our global domination. And yet, we are dominated by other humans. Can it truly be that they are smarter than us? No way! There must be another reason that they have the power. Figuring that out is a no-brainer. After all, you don't need to be smart to wield power, you just need to be a dick. So, we may comfort ourselves with fantasies of moral superiority ("I may be a completely disenfranchised and powerless drone in a system indifferent to my existence, but at least I'm not a dick!"), but, let's face it, calling George W. an idiot is just like Europeans call American idiots: the impotent and empty cat-calls of the servile.

Let's engage in a quasi-Einsteinian "thought experiment". Let's dispel the cloud of relativism surrounding intelligence by providing it with an unassailable, material foundation. Let's call this foundation, "power." If you are in a position of power, you're smart. If you are not in a position of power, you're stupid. If you are the boss, you are smart. If you are an employee of that boss, you are stupid. If you own a baseball team, you're smart. If you play on one, you're stupid. General: smart. Soldier: stupid. President -- well, you get the picture.

Of course, this sort of thinking leads us to certain ridiculous conclusions. If you're a parent, you're smart. Kid - stupid. If someone is beating the shit out of you, he's smart. If you are getting your ass kicked, you are stupid. Why do these examples offend us? They seem wrong. Physical dominance is not a sign of intelligence, we tell ourselves. Genetic accidents like size are not signs of intelligence. GEORGE W. BUSH IS NOT INTELLIGENT!

Fair enough. But I would humbly ask you to ask yourself: Why do I think I am smart? What are my criteria for intelligence and do I rely on criteria that will inevitably demonstrate my intelligence and the relative stupidity of others? Do I use my concept of intelligence as a consoling security blanket in order to reassure myself that I am worth something when a clear appraisal of my life situation would lead any rational human being to the opposite conclusion? Is intelligence, for me, a mystical, ethereal, fantastic concept with no concrete relationship to anything in the known, physical universe which nevertheless makes me special and superior to those who make more money than me, have more fun, and enjoy greater control over their destiny (and mine)?

I realize that the answers to those questions may be kind of hard to swallow. If they lodge too firmly in your throat, please try and console yourself with the following thoughts. Intelligence does not exist, but is a malleable myth used by the strong to justify their dominion and by the weak to console themselves in times of desperation. Humans are mindless automatons who blindly react to hallucinations generated by a squishy mass of cells protected by a thin crust of calcium. The Simpsons are on!






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