My primary source for information about the world has always been Facebook. I mention this because last week, I saw a number of articles pop up in my news feed all talking about the same topic that intrigued me and that I couldn’t deny was in my wheelhouse: anti-intellectualism in America.
At first, the notion baffled me. I thought to myself “Really? People hate intelligence so much that we have schools of thought dedicated to it?” To which I answered myself, “Well, it seems to go a bit deeper than that according to the information available.”
What can I say? I enjoy meaningful dialog, even if it just coming from me.
I’ve looked at a lot of definitions of anti-intellectualism and each one is slightly different. However, each one shares common themes; a distrust in intelligent people and a higher value in ‘common sense’ and ‘Street Smarts.’
Now, speaking as a college educated man who writes for a weekly op-ed blog who’s tag line marks me as “…a man who lives to question reality,” I consider myself fairly intelligent and am obviously coming into this with a bit of bias. That being said, the next sentence you read is going to blow your mind.
As much as as I hate this school of thought and know that it’s demonstrably wrong, I get where it comes from.
I was a product of the 80’s. We were all disillusioned with the people that were supposed to lead us. Now, with a struggling economy, turmoil overseas and corporate/government corruption being exposed more and more, we’re right back there again. Clearly, those with the mental faculties to operate the system will always be inclined to manipulate it to their own ends.
And to an extent, that is true; humans are naturally self-serving and what we think of as altruism is almost always done to the benefit of the so-called altruist. Take me for example. Yes, I do this weekly article to entertain and inform you, but it also serves as my personal portfolio that I hope to use in a career as a writer and get a high-paying job. That’s not evil intellect, that’s self-preservation.
Besides, if I were forced to choose between ‘intelligent, but evil’ and ‘well-meaning, but incompetent’, I’ll take evil genius every time. Why? Because an evil intellect can always be countered by one good intellect. As much as I dislike the guy, Ron White was right; once they reach a certain point and have cemented their thought, “You can’t fix stupid.”
I’m not saying that we disregard our gut instincts – those often set us forward on a path to enlightenment. However, if you don’t temper faith and instinct with doubt and knowledge, being wrong can feel absolutely right.
In closing, anti-intellectualism is dumb, both figuratively and literally, and I have no patience for a dumb person.