I am beginning to realize that we live in a society that rewards and reveres ignorance as typified in the rise in popularity of shows like The Biggest Loser, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, America’s Got Talent and anything on FOX News. Something in the American psyche takes a morbid interest in seeing others being humiliated and disgraced on national media. Or seeing the smart guy get his come-uppance. It’s often been referred to as the “dumbing down of America” but I believe it is much more sinister than that. It is a calculated, organized attempt to create an ignorant and passive electorate, a society of rubes and reactionaries who will dutifully fall at the feet of right wing ideologues and super-patriots.
On the one hand we are fed the seemingly earnest platitudes from politicians about the importance of education to our youth and the ultimate goal of producing college graduates, yet as soon as those students obtain a degree they are labeled as “intellectuals” and summarily reviled by the conservative right. It’s better, after all, to find Jesus and embrace family values than to be “an educated fool”. So we elevate the status of the Sarah Palins and Glenn Becks while at the same time diminishing the contribution of scientists, writers, educators and artists. We worship a fabric flag instead of concrete knowledge; blind aggression over quiet reason.
This is nothing new, of course. But I worry that it has become so pervasive in this country. There are the obvious parallels to the rise of Nazi Germany and other authoritarian regimes, but these seem to take a back seat to the continued pursuit of capitalism at any cost, rampant racism, and unbridled jingoism.
This may come as a shock to many but America may not be the greatest country on the planet. It might be New Zealand or maybe Sweden or maybe some small isolated island with a more balanced view of cultural diversity, environmental integrity, and intellectual stimulus. And that’s okay with me. I don’t care if we are not number one. I’d rather live in a country that seeks progressiveness, respect, and compassion for its population. How do we get back to that? Or were we ever there to begin with?