Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hook Line and Sinker

Forty years ago, Robert F. Kennedy, off the cuff, delivered the sad news to a large crowd of African Americans in Indianapolis who had gathered for a campaign event that Martin Luther King had been shot and killed. In an effort to offer comfort, he chose the following words of his favorite poet, Aeschylus,

Even in our sleep pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus
Susan Jacoby, author of the new book, The Age of American Unreason, believes Robert F. Kennedy's eloquent speech that day would not take place in today's political and cultural climate. Kennedy's assumption that the audience would connect with a Greek poet from 500 BC, she says”, speaks volumes about the elevation of public expression and regard for intellectualism in that period not so long ago."

Today, Ms. Jacoby says, fear of being branded an elitist in conjunction with a fear of complexity, nuance, and sophisticated knowledge due to America's reluctance to embrace intellectualism, preferring instead to passively absorb our current media culture of 24/7 infotainment, has "dumbed down" the level of public discourse in American society. She says, "We are content to live in this "dumbed down" culture feeding on and fed by an ignorant popular culture with no room for reflection, reason, or rationality."

The Bush Administration is a result and a reflection of our content-to-be-ignorant culture and society. We, the people, wanted a president we could have a beer with at the local tap room; rather than one who might know a thing or two, or even more importantly, care to know about a thing or two.

President Bush is not one of us; rather his image was transformed so that he appears to be one of us. The American people, knowing George W. Bush was born in New Haven Connecticut, was head cheerleader at Andover Prep School, attended Yale and Harvard, and used his family connections to avoid Vietnam, swallowed the image of the "macho cowboy" hook, line and sinker. The old "wolf in sheep's clothing" trick, worked like a charm. President Bush was able to carry out his agenda of not only empowering the current elite; in addition, he was able to create an entire new class of elite, simultaneously sending our young men and women off to war under false pretense. He was able to do this by condemning those who really do want to preserve democracy and who take the time think for themselves as elitist.
One presidential candidate was a hockey player; the other was a cheerleader. One is a combat veteran from a war he tried to stop; the other avoided combat in that same war while being a vigorous cheerleader for it. Yet it is the cheerleader who is seen by many as the “real man.” A remarkably similar gender change was performed on Marlboro cigarettes a half century ago; the same marketing techniques have fooled millions of Americans about their president. - Robert S. McElvaine
It's not a question of intelligence, American people are every bit as intelligent as they were in previous generations, it's more a matter of intellectual laziness. Human beings are wired to take the easy way out if possible - I know I am anyway - and it's much easier to plug ourselves in and be entertained than it is to educate ourselves about what is going on in the world around us.

Unfortunately, absence of critical thinking has severe consequences as history has proven repeatedly. The combination of our apathy, magical thinking, distraction, and choosing not to remember the past, we have become blinded to the danger signs flashing all around us.

This is the information age...it's never been easier to get information, yet it seems people are more ignorant than ever, however; this is changing and hopefully will continue to change because we are beginning to personally experience the repercussions of our own values and apathetic attitude.

1 comments:

mr. peanut,  10:55  

"We are content to live in this "dumbed down" culture feeding on and fed by an ignorant popular culture with no room for reflection, reason, or rationality."

It's kind of hard to keep up in this fast paced society as it is without having to worry about making sure we take enough time to become well read.

Having said that, I agree that it does not take a huge amount of brain power to see the elephant in the room. I never understood how Bush could question Kerry's masculinity when he has never exhibited courage a day in his life.

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