Friday, January 31, 2014

"Is it me that is stupid? Or are there others not so stupid?"

As Albert Einstein once said, "If you so rich, why ain't you smart"?*

We've had our latest example of the rich and stupid saying and doing things that any right thinking person would regret later (and hoping to chalk it off to inebriation or temporary mental imbalance and thus explain it away), but they just double down on the stupid. Amazing.

The rich are stupid. Or, at least, capable of stupid things. The problem is, like automating a mistake, their wealth compounds the stupidity into something of grotesquely monumental proportions.

So, maybe they aren't stupid. Or maybe, we should stop equating success with smarts. Or rather, perhaps this is a case of not being the fastest runner, but merely being a faster runner than your neighbor when being chased by a rhino. Or a giant running cave bear. Or a giant running cave bear with chainsaws for teeth.

Chuang Tse mentioned (and his quote is the title of this essay) that skepticism is required when evaluating our way of life. If we are in a fortunate circumstance, we are tempted to regard our way of life as better than the ways of others, and thus, perhaps that we are somehow better.

We cannot deny inequality of ability, but still, are we truly superior?

We might be superior. We might even be right about it. But we must recognize that we might accidentally be right. Or at least recognize that a superior way of life may be superior on functionally similar grounds. But you know, the minute the ground shifts under your feet and that functionality is no longer as efficacious as it was... See, that's the fallacy of survival of the fittest, fit for current conditions. And if you are dumb enough to think that the fitness landscape is an unchanging fitness landscape instead of a seascape, well...

In any case, once evidence is out there that your semi-divine heroes are not so super, once that master of the universe is not so adroit or magisterial, once that doubt is planted, once that avenue of inquiry is open, one has to ask, who else is stupid?

Are smart people stupid? I think so. I know so. I've certainly met more than my fair share of compartmentally stupid people. And public intellectuals and pundits certainly have more than their fair share of clueless douchebags.

What about... the Founding Fathers?

They said to themselves, we are the elite, we are the educated, we are the rich, we are the leisured class. Since we are rich, we are not corruptible.
Since we are educated, we are wise.
Since we are elite, we are incapable of error.
And since we are leisurely, we have plenty enough time to devote to good governance.

Oh, wow. Really?

looking back, they worried about the wrong thing, didn't they? Products of the Enlightenment, favored to be educated in classics, they looked to Rome. Big fucking mistake.

By fixating on Rome, they wasted a lot of time worrying about the threat of the standing army, the police and military. But soldiers and police are not the problem, are they? They can be made to be the problem through dumb policy decisions. So let's blame politicians. But politicians are not the problem either, are they? Why are you getting mad at the chess pieces?

So, it's the power players that are the problem? But let's be egalitarian, and suggest that, though a lot of them meant well (and ooh, the lessons of history suggest there's a big problem) and thus, like the idiot with the hammer that sees all the world as a nail, there are many introspective enough to recognize they are there by differing parts cleverness, effort, position, and a huge portion of luck, and so, perhaps there are other alternatives to their way or the highway.

But then there are plenty who are parasitic assholes. Alright, so maybe only some of them are parasitic assholes. So, are parasitic assholes the problem? It is the evolutionary asshole niche that is populated by the stupid that is the problem.

Isn't it?

...maybe I'm being stupid about this.

*No, he never said that, but stupid people love short, false attributions. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "Stop putting shit in my mouth I never said!"

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