Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fuck Anti-Intellectualism

I'm becoming ever-more foul-mouthed, and it would bother me more if there weren't so many reasons to be very, almost indescribably, angry. Anti-intellectualism has become a way of life. Anti-intellectualism goes to the core of the idea that you have to be likable and someone we'd all like to grab a beer with rather than some snooty guy who actually understands the basic principles of things like economic policy, global warming, and that pesky thing called The Constitution when running for president of the United States. And I hate it. There are some intellectuals who are elitist. There are some intellectuals who are divorced from reality. But there are just as many -if not more- people who are not intellectuals (one of whom that is coming to mind being the 43rd president of the United States) who are also divorced from reality. And now we've got McDonalds ads telling us to be less intellectual (and seeming to claim that all or most intellectual are pseudo-intellectuals any). Because apparently, being dumb and eating french fries is so much more freeing than actually contemplating global ramifications of our actions and knowing where Paraguay is -or even what Paraguay is:



This commercial and this one as well:

are products of a culture for whom thinking is apparently too hard, and something that should garner resentment if tried by others. We're living in a time in which Thomas Jefferson would have probably never made it to the White House (well, he wouldn't have made it for a variety of reasons, one of them being his crippling shyness and another being possible sex scandals, but let's ignore those for a second) because apparently being an excellent writer, admiring the French, and being not only a first class mind but a true Renaissance Man is a detriment when running for the highest office in the land.

I'm tired of it. Being an intellectual, being someone who is aware of the outside world and who is studied and learned, should be something we aspire to. It should not be the realm of just liberals. Liberals should not be attacked for being of the Ivies. We should be celebrating people who are smart enough and dedicated enough and talented enough and lucky enough to get such a chance as to go to an Ivy league school. And as Aaron Sorkin says (through Sam Seaborn), as today is his day, "...can you tell me what's wrong with the Ivy League? Should we be discouraging parents from hoping their kids get into Princeton and Yale and Dartmouth?" I want a president with gravitas. I want a president who can lead both by intellect and instinct, and I don't think we should have to choose between the two. I want a public that is proud of the brilliance of our public officials. I want a country where education and getting one is not something to be mocked. I want a world similar to Aaron Sorkin's, where being the smartest person in the room is an asset. I want the world to resemble Joss Whedon's, where intellect can take many forms rather than just the pure, straight up intellectual and where all those forms are acknowledged and praised and utilized.

But what I really want is for people to stop scoffing at the idea that being smart and being learned is something to take pride in. I want people to stop assuming that because you read a couple of books on a subject, you're just as much an authority as a person who wrote one of the books. We're a country of dichotomy. We believe that every single person is created equal; we also have people who are in positions of authority, intellectual and otherwise. We have to recognize that there isn't a contradiction there. That we have to keep striving for the land where all are equal, and we have to strive for the land where wanting to better oneself through education isn't a bad. We have two learned candidates right now; Obama was president of the Harvard Law Review. McCain read For Whom The Bell Tolls at age 12. He is a consummate reader and rereader. These two should be emphasizing that aspect of their candidacy, that they are both educated, smart, capable individuals; and the fact that is a strength and not a weakness.

I also see an anti-intellectual bent in this whole idea of "not blinking". Sarah Palin brought it up in her interview with Charlie Gibson:


 I want a president who will blink. Not in the face of danger or terror, or from making the hard choices. But I want a president who will assess which path to take, and then assess how successful that path was and whether or not it would be better to change course. I want a president who will do so willingly, instead of one -like the one we have now- who will do it obstinately and under duress. I want a president who will measure his actions and consider their continued trajectory. The idea that not blinking, that not 'flip flopping', that not reevaluating situations, is the greatest measure of a presidential candidate (or in this case, vice-presidential candidate) scares the daylights out of me. All of the great presidents reevaluated their situations and their beliefs. The Louisiana Purchase went against Jefferson's core principles about the federal government (and was very probably unconstitutional besides). Lincoln was forever reevaluating and reassessing his side's tactics in the Civil War. Great presidents do that, for the good of the nation. And it is utterly depressing to see one of the greatest skills, the skill to look beyond one's own beliefs and decide what will truly be helpful, being portrayed as an act of cowardice and vulnerability.

For the record, though, that second commercial with the men is a great deal funnier than the first. For one, it allows for the idea that these guys aren't idiots but would like to discuss football. And I did like the line at the end about the glasses: "I do need mine. They're very real". I still scowl at the idea that intellectuals don't know how to get down and discuss the sports or movie-movies (I enjoy doing both), but it does less to remove every vestige of intelligence than the ad featuring the women.

3 comments:

John said...

Don't you know anything, Pet? Learning is for queers!

Seriously, though, that first McDonald's commercial is idiotic and offensive. I can't believe anyone in this day and age would feel the need to dress up to go to Starbucks, since their cafes are nearly as ubiquitous as McDonald's' restaurants!

I sincerely hope that people don't start taking pride in the fact that they can't point out other countries on a map. If this becomes a trend, we'll be waging war on Australia (and thinking that it's simultaneously Iran, Iraq, France, Russia, North Korea, China and every major threatening power) before you know it!

Sarah Palin is a conservative republican through and through, as evidenced here by her belief that it's more important to be committed than to be right. She really does seem to be implying in that interview that it doesn't matter whether or not Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, the important thing is that we never even consider whether or not it was a mistake. Let's help her be committed by committing her to a mental institution, shall we?

crankosaur said...

Yes yes yes yes! Being stupid isn't a good thing. Presidential candidates shouldn't have to have showdowns to see which one is more of a "regular guy", but to see which one is smarter and more qualified. After all, what are the odds that the average person on the street is going to have a chance to have a beer with one of them? You're not picking a friend, you're picking the leader of your country. The president can be as big an elitist snob as he wants, as far as I'm concerned, as long as he can do the damn job.
And eff those McDonald's commercials, especially the one with them women! That just gives me one more reason never to go there.

petpluto said...

"Let's help her be committed by committing her to a mental institution, shall we?"

Oh, I wish!

"And eff those McDonald's commercials, especially the one with them women! That just gives me one more reason never to go there."

Exactly.