AOH :: SMART.TXT|
So you think you're smart?
D U M B I S G O O D
Robert S. Wieder
Who put the sap in Homo sapiens? Stupidity has this PR problem.
It has descended from quaint character flaw to a kind of
debilitating Mentonoma, or cancer of the intellect, whose side
effects include ineptitude, vulnerability, inadequacy, dependence,
and gullibility. We see it as a cerebral deformity and stare
elsewhere or excuse ourselves in its embarrassing presence. Its
victims are fair game for our ridicule -- "He/she was so dumb that
he/she: couldn't figure out a light switch; thought the Sudan was
a car; couldn't draw a conclusion with a crayon; could out-think a
plant, but only for short distances." And so forth.
We live in a predatory society whose competitive individualism
decrees that intellectually we're not just different from each
other, but better or worse. We're taught that the Smart are
somehow biologically superior, with the rest of us locked into a
Dimwit caste. This has done the best hack job on self-respect
since rape. Sure you could use more neurological armament in the
cultural combat zone, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you
were born into this world just to flesh out the word jerk.
"INTELLIGENCE" IS A STUPID CONCEPT
A man may be a first-rate mathematician, or an
expert physicist, or a subtle psychologist . .
. yet completely misunderstand . . . other men
[and] fail to adapt himself to his surround-
ings. --Henry Bergson
Everybody is ignorant, only on different
subjects. -- Will Rogers.
Some big brains are full of wisdom, but many are full of shit.
Most "geniuses" are just one-note wizards who flail haplessly
outside their field of expertise. Academia is a game preserve for
such closet nitwits -- prodigies in literature, economics, or
contract law, but retards when confronted with plumbing repairs,
recreational drugs, or low-ball poker.
Even the most brilliant minds lose car keys, light the wrong ends
of cigarettes, and wander into the wrong bathrooms. Especially the
brilliant -- blinded by thought, intellect without common sense is
useless. Remember -- you can only learn something new every day if
you start out dumb enough.
STUPIDITY LIES IN THE EYE OF THE DEFINER
A child who scores poorly on standardized
tests may have a very thoughtful, creative
mind that refuses to see the world in the
simplistic, black-and-white terms of the test-
maker. --Arlene Silberman
Inner-city kids score 60 or 70 on these tests
. . . then you see them outsmart the police
and deal with pushers. They're hardly stupid.
--Princeton psychology professor Leon Kamin
"Ignorance" is simply whatever the experts say it is. But what do
experts know? Subtract our bias and conjecture from our
"knowledge," and you could mail the remainder for 15 cents. One
can only be "dumb" relative to someone else's definition of
"smart," which is invariably their particular smartness.
The flaw in our concept of intelligence is that it's based not on
one's performance in life but on one's performance on tests, most
of which are self-serving devices for perpetuating the aristocracy
of mentality. According to Brigitte Berger, intelligence tests
just measure "modern consciousness" -- those mental faculties best
suited to our "technological, rationalistically bureaucratized"
culture. The "stupid" are actually just those not plugged into the
Mainstream Mind. Test scores reflect assimilation, not brains.
You're not dumb; you're just unfit for society's purposes.
GOD SURELY LOVES THE POOR, FOR HE MADE SO MANY OF THEM.
HE MUST BE WILD ABOUT THE STUPID.
We're all wild about the stupid. If you're so dumb that you move
your lips when you sign your name, you're probably likable,
pleasant, and always welcome. If you're up to your ass in brains,
however, you're probably intimidating, resented, and distrusted,
and your company is about as enjoyable to normals as a plague of
Who's dumb? Beautiful blondes, impetuous kids, shit-grin yokels,
pratfall fuck-ups, beef-slab athletes, goofy sidekicks, bubblegum
boppers -- in short, the kind of people we like and are comfortable
with. How many of us have an affectionate fondness for orthopedic
surgeons, corporate lawyers, or research chemists?
The stupid are popular: they're genial, uncomplicated, unchallenging, and
make us feel smarter by comparison. The intelligent are unpopular:
they're imposing, indecipherable, and serious, and their grim analyses have
the power to depress anyone within hearing.
We resent "smart asses," feel cheated and exploited by "smart money,"
upstaged by "smart dressers," hassled by "wise guys," scorned by the "smart
set," and want to punch out "smart mouths" before we're annihilated by
"smart missiles." Americans may love winners, but we like and identify
with the losers, without whose slashing ignorance our own mediocrity would
be intolerable. Reject the eggheads, who give the impression that they'd
love to suck their own cocks. Embrace the witless, who generally make us
feel that way.
BY THEIR GOOFS SHALL YE KNOW THEM
The shallower the personality, the fewer
hazards it conceals. -- personal motto
The deeply befuddled are usually deeply beloved because there's
less to the suckers than meets the eye -- or at least not
dangerously more. The simpleminded are simple, period. They don't
put us through the rigorous social labors of communicating,
relating, comprehending, or keeping up. They're comfortable and
relaxing, a recess from the school of hard knocks.
And they tend to be what they seem to be. Duplicity, manipulation,
and subterfuge require mental horsepower beyond the range of the
dense, whose feeble attempts at pretense and deception are more
cute than ominous. With the clever and sly, however, what you see
is seldom what you get -- let alone what you want -- and this
frequently by disreputable design.
The dumb are bumper-sticker people: simplistic, obvious, open,
unequivocal. The smart are insurance contract people: vague,
contradictory, full of bewildering terminology and fine print.
And, as with legal affairs, so with personal ones -- the fine print
will fuck you every time.
We dread those who are slicker than a jar of Vaseline and so
artificially sweet they could give bladder cancer to mice. Their
raised screens and ostentatious vocabularies habitually conceal
more deceptions and half-truths then CREEP, and their time-honored
ploy is that of big government and industry: equivocation.
We dread them for two reasons. First, because there's no prick
alive like a prick who can pass for a nice guy. Second, because
there are three answers to any question: yes, which is fine; no,
which at least is definite; and maybe, which drives us nuts. And
"maybe" is the password of the intelligent, whose prime ingenuity
isn't their ability to be right but their ability to avoid being
wrong. Those with real intellectual traction would go to a Hell's
Angel's fuck-in before they'd make clear, irreversible commitment.
Leave that to us simpletons.
I'll get the feathers if you'll heat up the old tar.
IF YOU CAN'T TELL A BOOK BY ITS COVER, DON'T BUY IT
We often speak of the estrangement of intel
lectuals from the rest of the people . . . --
Ours is an Ulterior Society, where it's not just who-you-know but how well
you use who-you-know to get your way that counts. This has placed a
premium on the skills of duplicity, evasion, and self- concealment. If
intelligence is adaptation-to-culture, and culture favors the unscrupulous
and crafty, what does that make the whiz kids?
You know the type -- clever, glib, literate, flannel-mouths who can
tighten your ass hole at 50 yards. Intelligence, when driven by ambition
and selfish calculation, is as dangerous for others as street smack.
There's no worse conversationalist than a charming liar and no crook like a
sharp accountant. Trusting the artful, witty, and persuasive is like
trusting the dice in a barrio crap shoot.
Given the laws of supply and demand, the value of genuine friendship is on
the rise. When it comes to simple honesty and reliability, we want
somebody we can take off our shoes -- and our pretenses, facades, and
shields -- with. Spare us these civilized, tactful, arm's-length
relationships with shrewder-than-thou types that provide all the emotional
security of an earth-fill dam.
Stupidity means honesty, or at least insufficient guile to do much damage.
The dumb aren't just less able to hustle us, con us, or rip us off, but are
also less inclined to, being largely consumed with keeping their own ass
afloat and being sympathetic fellow victims of the Brain Bund.
For simple trust, give us balloon-heads every time -- those sweet,
refreshing human oases of witless empathy in the desert of our on- the-make
society. So what if you have the brains of a cinder block, so long as you
have the ethics of a pal. If you're seriously trying to help, your
ineptitude doesn't matter; it's the volume of your sincerity that
B.A., M.A., Ph.D., S.O.B.
The "knowledge industry," like any other,
gravitates toward its most likely sources of
subsidization. --Peter L. Berger, Commentary
Hang around the highly intelligent, and you'll invariably encountermore
asshole s than will a proctologist. To the brainiacs, being
all-heart-and-no-brains isn't a virtue but a handicap; and those who pursue
Fairness and Decency with dogged stolidity are chumps, while those who
pursue Power, with ingenious self-interest and ethical ambidexterity, are
We recognize this principle in our basic cliches: "Only a fool
would: play fair / co-sign a note / take an unpopular position /
stick his neck out / sacrifice for others / fight city hall / stand
However -- "If you're smart, you: look out for number one / hedge
your bets / cover your ass / run city hall / compromise principles
/ never give a sucker an even break."
This is the credo of our think-tank moguls and idea men, whose
formative insights are unburdened by sentiment and who have all the
heart and compassion of committees, which they travel in for
anonymity. You could squeeze more humanity out of a Crest tube.
The problem is that our biggest minds are often our biggest hypocrites as
well, for whom "objective logic" is just the Esperanto of personal opinion,
invoked to support scholarly edicts based less on Knowledge than on
Rationalization. The big minds pass judgment on the rest of us with a
bright-makes-right complacency, presenting academic unanimity as truth.
Unfortu nately, mixing high-voltage intellect with a this-brain-for-hire
morality produces the kind of "rational detachment" that could
excuse, say, killing babies, on the grounds that today's baby is
just tomorrow's adult.
Not all intellectuals are necessarily devoid of humanity -- Einstein,
Pauling, and others have been towers of genius and conscience. But as a
rule, brains and gut emotions are often incompatible, with sincerity, pity,
and other whey-head feelings becoming actual matters of embarrassment.
This is what happens when you study and learn and don't live-and-learn.
What the hell, maybe you can't think. But you feel; therefore you
SELF-AWARENESS IS JUST A EUPHEMISM FOR NARCISSISM
In terms of getting laid -- always important terms -- honest,wholesome,
downhome ignorance is on the resurge. Increasingly, we find low-yield wit
attractive: Cheryl, Fonzie, Suzanne, NFL cheerleaders. Complexity and
profundity are Out; salt-of-the-earth simplicity is Hot; and the most
successful lines in pickup bars begin with "Duh."
The brainy are far too reserved, inaccessible, and cautious for comfort,
let alone lust. We want lovers we can understand, not those whose smug
superiority conceals hidden motives, morals, and personalities. Any
relationship that isn't real is fucked. Give us those who put their arms
around us and mean it, not some manipulative slicker who secretly views
life as a urinal and us as the attendants. The symptoms of ignorance --
awkwardness, unsophistication, and self-doubt -- are hugely attractive to
those who share them, which is most of us. Persons too dumb to hurt us
are the safest kind to have around.
Moreover, massive intellect can be a massive bore, especially in the sack.
Nothing is so unexciting as orderly deliberation, which eliminates the
uncertainty, spontaneity, and exhilarating unpredictability from sex. In
bed the "rational act" is the dreariest kind, whereas the "unthinking act"
-- impulsive, heedless, unpremeditated sexual behavior -- is the one that
gets our pulses racing.
Another thing: studies of people's performance on various brain tests
show a clear correlation between "intelligence" and physical reaction time;
the quicker, the smarter, and vice versa. By this standard, most coke
dealers would qualify for Mensa.
But consider the sexual implications. What if most "premature ejaculators"
are just victims of big-brain reflexes -- literally too smart for their own
fucking good? This makes for a great alibi: "I'm not hair-trigger, just
brilliant." But it also implies that ignorance means staying power. It
really is bliss, or at least longer bliss. "Fucking your brains out,"
TO THE VACUOUS GO THE SPOILS
Nothing . . . can take the place of persis
tence. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is
almost a proverb. Education alone will not;
the world is full of educated derelicts. . . -
-from McDonald's corporate slogan.
Success is receiving checks! --Salvador Dali
America's Horatio Alger stories aren't about the brilliant or learned but
rather the obsessive tinkerers and dreamers who have made "If you're so
smart why aren't you rich?" the one question that stumps those with all the
answers. The list of megavolt entrepreneurs, tycoons, and even geniuses
who never finished high school is long enough to keep the Brain Bund awake
nights and does: Edison, Twain, Carnegie, Ford, the Wrights, scores of
If Rockefeller, Lincoln, and Truman didn't need college, and Darrow didn't
need law school, why do you? It's a basic tenet of the American Dream that
if you crash around in the dark long enough, you'll find the lights.
(Indeed, the first practical light bulb was created by a lab worker too
dumb to realize that his design, by all physical laws, couldn't work. "If
he'd had any knowledge of metallurgy, he'd never have been able to do it,"
chortled Edison, whose motto was "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99
Also, in a world where imbecility rules, the imbeciles can do quite well,
and many "visionaries" are just crackpots with good track records.
America's idiot-fringe also happens to be its commercial- political
mainstream and has made Success Through Stupidity a growing trend.
Great fortunes are now made out of asininity -- Mel Brooks, Werner Erhard,
Chuck Barris, Billy Carter, Kiss, Fred Silverman, Hare Krishna, and most
government contractors. Athletes do better without much intelligence,
which lowers their performing zeal and their popularity. Many leading
politicians would be nothing if they had any brains, since voters adore
their gee-whiz harmless ness, and since the powers-behind-the-throne prefer
to fill that throne with those too slow to realize what's going on.
Smart Places to Play Dumb: in bed, in court, during an IRS audit, in
arguments about the ERA, whenever volunteers are asked for, when your boss
fucks up, during family feuds (especially the Mansons'), and when caught in
A SPOONFUL OF BRAINS BUT A BARREL OF FUN
A penny for her thoughts would be price-
You knew when he was thinking; you could hear
the echoes in his head.
You've got the brain of a five-year-old, and
the five-year-old doesn't miss it. --"dumb"
By God, the dumb are fun. Show me somebody with a brain like adoorstop,
and I'll show you a good time, laughter, the easygoing glee of
befuddlement, confusion, and mindless enthusiasm. From ancient "moron"
jokes to contemporary "Hey, dummy!" comedy, the ignorant have ever provided
us with humor, have made us laugh. Meanwhile, the smart provide us with
problems and make us nervous.
The intelligentsia are gloomy, pragmatic, somber, and uptight.Intellectuals
tend to spend life cooped up in their own thoughts, unable to compromise
the rational with the enjoyable. They move among us wearing long faces and
psychic Kick Me buttons and brooding about life, fate, and the tragic
melodrama unfolding within the proscenium of their days. They're the
hyper-sensitives -- wounded when not even aimed at -- and in general are
about as much fun as a year in Attica.
Many people, observing the dumb-is-fun principle, have opted for idiocy
and have made tidy sums by appealing to our fondness for flakes and
lather-heads and concealing their own cleverness behind dolt-next-door
humor: Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball, Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, Tom Smothers,
Chevy Chase. Maybe you can't parlay your particular imbecility into a
career, but so what? At least you're good for a few chuckles. And anybody
who makes people laugh is a success. Everybody else is just driving a bus.
THEY CALL IT A "SMART" BOMB BECAUSE IT KILLS MORE OF US THAN A
The emergent class of those who believe
themselves to be measurably brighter than
everyone else . . . is self-perpetuating,
permanent, and segregated . . . and a threat
to democracy . . . from political manipulation
in the name of morality. --David Lebedoff,
If American society seems headed for the crapper, don't blame the
brainless. Blame the intelligentsia, which has bred itself into a political
power bloc and has redrawn this country into a Meritocracy, meaning
equality for everyone but the dumb. In the Brain Bund's considered
opinion, "the dumb" includes most of us, and anyone who disagrees gets
conveniently stamped DUNCE.
The Brainclass has taken charge of things. Its favorite retreat is
government, where it is most free of interference by the shitbrain
masses and where it has made the CIA, IRS, FDA, FBI, DEA, and other
agencies into mechanisms for running our lives.
The Brain Bund's basic premise here is that society is best governed by
rationality and raw acumen. But this premise has so far given us Vietnam,
resurrected the Cold War, and rationalized our support for the shah and for
the Saigon regime. Domestically, we can thank this premise for Operation
Intercept, swine flu vaccine, methadone maintenance, nuclear energy, and
tax law. How much worse could government by blockheads actually be?
HITLER NEVER SAID, "UH . . . ER . ."
Intellectuals are severely dissatisfied with
contemporary American society. Redemption
must come through governmental action . . . to
abolish any situations which offend their
moral sense. --Edward Shils, The American
The Brain Bund doesn't run things out of any sense of civic responsibility,
either. The smart rule because historically whenever the dumb rule, the
smart suffer. Very simply, intellectu als hold the reins for the reason
that they don't trust those reins in the hands of us unruly primitives.
You don't have to stand for this, you dummy!
As Lebedoff notes, our "shift to the right" is really just our revolt
against the Brainclass. People voted for Ronald Reagan because he had the
alpha waves of a carrot, not despite the fact. And for a while we did like
Carter only because he was the peanut- farmer incarnation of Dipshit
America. Now he's on our shit list for his born-again evasiveness and
Thus, politically, the aw-shucks clod-hopper is now a hot property.
We may be dumb, but we're not crazy; and if we have to bestow
power, we'll bestow it on those least able to control us with it.
Give us leaders addled enough to put a return address on a ransom
note. Just as it was Nixon's cagey guilt that got us into
Watergate, so it was his blundering stupidity -- the tapes -- that
got us out.
THE AWFUL TRUTH IS THAT THE TRUTH IS AWFUL
The difference between an optimist and a
pessimist is that the pessimist is better
informed. --Hungarian saying
Once you have a concept of success . . . you
are always concerned about failing. --
Stanford psychology professor P. Zimbardo
We're told to deal with stupidity as if it were some cerebral athlete's
foot: don't let it go without treatment; see a specialist if necessary;
ignore it and it'll just get worse. Bah. Maybe you can transcend your own
vestigial wit -- but should you? The more you know, the more you realize
you don't know, and the less decisive you become. Knowledge is paralysis,
when it hamstrings action with alternatives, drawbacks, second thoughts.
Ignorance is the freedom of simplicity. Wisdom is just the knowledge of
how fucking dumb you really are. It's the ultimate insult of intelligence.
Why seek it out?
Moreover, many of us have little intellectual acuity simply becausewe don't
want a lot of it. Dull perceptions are a blessing in a world whose stench,
din, grime, and moral rot have made sharp senses impractical and
intolerable. How smart we should be depends on how smart we have to be to
achieve peace of mind. If there's a stupefying shortage of thought in
society today, it's not just that we're ignorant; it's also that we're
tired of thinking, of the frustration of concentration, after ten years of
analyzing our bloody brains out over the War, Watergate, energy,
conspiracies, self-realization, ad migraine.
All we're saying is "Time Out!" for God's sake. We want to lower our
consciousness for a change and raise our heads again; and if that means
converting society into a Simpleville for the soul, let's go. Fuck the
cheap Brainism and tyranny-by-mentality of these neurological arrogants.
We don't want to know how bad things really are.
Also -- intelligence isn't just a precious gift; it's an ass-pain
obligation. The intelligent must perform / succeed / lead / discover /
solve / excel. Alas, nothing crushes the spirit like lugging the Cross of
Potential. Pity the bright, for they are beset by expectations, and the
demoralizing ability to distinguish between what is and what might be.
Those cursed with "vision" must constantly see things they can't reach.
For those of us blessed with the pleasant myopia of stupidity, "success" is
ending a day without having pissed on our shoe. Some persons dedicate
their lives to becoming smart, on the belief that this will make them
happy, or at least prosperous, which is close. The rest of us just stay
dumb but satisfied. So who are the idiots?
WHEN YOU'RE "TOO DUMB TO HURT," YOU CAN'T BE HURT
. . . Millions of college-trained . . . people
sit in metropolitan offices these days . . .
adrift, alone with their subjectivity . . .
figuring out how to be "emancipated," "rele
vant," "happy" . . . --Gerhart Niemeyer
To embrace reason only is to reject common sense -- the values, traditions,
and beliefs that make life comprehendible, meaningful, and manageable for
most of us. The Brain Bund has lost these anchors. Its Creed of
Skepticism rules out the unquestioning faith that supplies us morons with
such sustaining concepts as romantic love, inevitable justice, and
As a result, intellectuals are emotional wrecks, burning with introspection
-- the mind's iodine -- and plagued by anhedonia, the clinical inability to
experience pleasure. Brains and bereavement go together like Exxon and
money. The higher the intellectual plane, the greater the addiction /
depression / neurosis / alcoholism / suicide rates. Anxiety -- society's
most destructive emotional disability -- is epidemic among the Brainclass,
whose official snack is now Valium.
The road to brilliance may be tempting, but it's paved with nails.
We know that nothing accelerates learning like frustration; and studies of
history's over-achievers show a common pattern of compensation-for-misery,
usually over the death of parents in childhood. Is so-called intelligence
worth the price? Can the puny ticking of one more mind make any noise in
the vast clangor of human thought?
Inasmuch as scientists say insects will ultimately inherit the earth, and
since life's hazards and disasters are increasingly man- made,
"intelligence" may well be a negative survival trait. Knowledge? Nobody
"knows" how things really are or why or what'll happen next. People too
dumb to get into the army, vote, move to San Francisco, or take est (when
they could afford it) were also "too dumb" to die in Vietnam, elect Nixon,
join the People's Temple, or get ripped off by est.
Acknowledge your ignorance; demand your right to it. Reject neurosis for
self-acceptance, despair for obliviousness, envy for mindless cheer. The
best and most accurate answer to most human questions is the one that only
the stupid are smart enough to give away: "I just don't fucking know."
Remember -- the brain is the body's spark plug: vital to one's getting
anywhere but useless if burnt out. You've only got one life to live.
Don't waste it thinking.
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