"Stupid, for lack of a better word, is good."
What? I got the quote wrong? Greed? That line is supposed to be about greed? From Wall Street ? Whatever, dude. That was so... so 1980s.
Everyone knows greed is good. Like, duh. If greed wasn't good we wouldn't have trickle-down economics. We wouldn't have the conservative revolution, St. Reagan, a bailed-out-but-still-rich world banking class, massive deficits and the über-secret government(sic) of Little Stevie Hapless, whose mismanagement of the country's purse makes the dough Jean Chrétien's Liberals squandered on the sponsorship scandal look like chump change.
Stupid is where it's at now. If you want to do well in politics these days, you can't be too stupid, too narrowly self-interested, or too vitriolic. And god help you if you actually know what vitriolic means because if you do, you're probably too intellectual, too effete, too - horrors - elite, to appeal to a populace enthralled in their quest to discover who can dance better than a 5 th grader but too indifferent to pay any real attention to the adult problems surrounding them.
I stumbled across a movie a few years ago called Idiocracy . It was low-brow and, well, stupid and I almost turned it off in favour of doing something more intellectually stimulating, like clipping my toenails. But something about it drew me in.
Briefly, the film's setup was that at the dawn of the 21 st century, self-centred, career-oriented, intelligent couples delayed reproducing while they pursued life in the rewarding lane, leaving the dolts to throw chil'en like bunnies in heat. The obvious, long-term results were a dumbing down of the population over time. How dumb? Dumb enough that the film's protagonist, a goldbricking Army slacker "volunteered" for a suspended animation experiment woke up 500 years later to discover he was the smartest man in a world consisting largely of fast food, daytime TV and people so stupid they make Jerry Springer's guests look like a panel of imminent scientists and philosophers.
The film haunts me to this day. I'm not entirely sure its sledgehammer-to-the-frontal-lobe examination of stupid culture wasn't meant as a documentary. The more glimpses of popular culture I get - and most definitely the more I try to follow politics - the more I'm convinced it was less a foreshadowing of the future and more an examination of what's happening around us right now.
For all the oh-how-quaint-was-that knocks levelled at the 1950s - the cliché of which was remembered again this week when Leave It To Beaver's mom died - one of the oft-forgotten traits of that time was a grass-roots intellectual striving. People whose lives were handicapped by growing up during the Great Depression and interrupted by World War II, often sidelined in their academic pursuits, wanted to understand the world around them. They read popular books; they read classics, or at least the abridged versions thereof; they followed world news; they drove their children to be better educated than they were. Smart was cool.