Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Too Stupid to Know . . . . .
.....when people are trying to kill you, part II.
The best description of modern western society, other than incredibly affluent, free, and intellectually fertile, is . . . . fat, dumb, and happy. The two descriptions are not mutually exclusive. A most salient quantity of people in a society may indeed be fat, dumb, and happy--while a relatively invisible group of people works to perpetuate the freedom, affluence, and inventiveness of the society.
An affluent society may very well be on the verge of disaster and not realize it, if the most prominent voices in the society declines to inform the society of its precarious position.
Part one of this series was inspired by the motion picture "A History of Violence," starring Viggo Mortensen. Part two, this installment, is inspired by Dan Simmons' recent "April message." I posted a link to Simmons' message at the Al Fin website, then surfed the web to find out what was being said about the "message" generally.
What I found should not have surprised me. People automatically sorted the ideas in the message according to their pre-existing political viewpoints, rather than critically examining it as a useful provocation to thought. Even science fiction readers (and writers) who enjoyed Simmons' work would heap scorn on Simmons reflexively, if their pre-existing viewpoint (on the threat that Simmons' wrote about) was different than their perception of Simmons' message.
Contrast that ready disregard of a well-written although fictional warning, with the massive world-view changing impact of an event such as the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. It is easy to deny a threat if couched in fictional trappings. It was not so easy to deny the gaping hole in Manhattan's financial district, so it was necessary to invent massive conspiracy theories that were more absurd than the absurdest fiction. For the lumpenheads, the conspiracy theories took on all the aspects of reality, and became reality.
Regardless, the web reaction to Simmons' message suggested the reason why despite North American society being daily blasted with a (largely fictional) particular version of current events by the mainstream media (both news media and popular media), political opinions remain largely unchanged. Even the massive PC dominance of the universities for the past twenty years has failed to turn most graduates into the PC automatons that the professors so much had wished for, in imitation of themselves.
People subconsciously understand that the media worldview is fictional, just as students understand that a large part of the "officially sanctioned politically correct" viewpoints they are fed at university is likewise fictional. In a time of undeniable reality such as 9/11, it is as easy to shuck off such fictional viewpoints as it is to change jackets or slacks.
Of course, the really bright ones figured things out before 9/11, but that is a story for another time. The next big reality shaking event will knock even more people from the indoctrinated camp to the more thoughtful camp, but a lot of people decided not to wait, not to be too stupid to know . . . .