The Theory of Everything Stupid

To be a success in today’s America, it helps to either dumb or dumber. Why is that? (Photo by insomniacuredhere/Flickr)

To be a success in today’s America, it helps to either dumb or dumber. Why is that?
(Photo by insomniacuredhere/Flickr)

Let me be clear: the headline of this piece is to be read, “The theory of everything (that is) stupid,” NOT “The theory of everything, comma, stupid.” It’s my intention to insult a lot of people here, but if you are reading this without benefit of a forefinger, not you.

America is subsiding into a new Dark Age. Its leaders are more ignorant every day, its authorities more brutal, its people more supine. To remain ignorant when the availability of information is greater than it has ever been in human history, to govern viciously and intrusively when the government is more powerful and the governed more subservient, than ever, defies comprehension. Until we formulate a theory of everything stupid.

First, a quick tour of recent manifestations:

1. Stupid Leaders

  • The governor of Florida, the state that will be the most and earliest affected by sea level rise in a warming world, forbids the use of the term “climate change” by state employees.
  • The Virginia legislature refuses to consider urgent pleas for help from the city of Norfolk  in its struggle to stave off rising seas until the city edits out references to “sea level rise” and substitutes “more frequent flooding.”
  • Ted Cruz. Enough said.
  • Ted Cruz is not alone. Most of the people on the verge of running for president next year are against health insurance, don’t believe humans are causing climate change, are oblivious to the physical decline of the country, and lust for another war with somebody. Anybody.

2. Stupid People

  • According to the Pew Research Center, onl  y 35% of Americans think climate change is a “very serious” problem, and that’s down 10% from one year ago.
  • American “millennials” — those born since 1980 — when tested and compared with those of 23 other countries, came in 17th for literacy. For problem-solving with technology they were in a four-way tie for last place (with the Slovak Republic, Poland and Ireland). And — whoa! — for numeracy they achieved a three-way tie for last place. They were tested by the Education Testing Service, largest in the world. And in this test “literacy” did not mean familiarity with the classics, it meant “the ability to understand and follow simple instructions.” Similarly, numeracy had nothing to do with calculus and more to do with the ability to make change.
  • In the 2014 national elections, just over one in three of the American who were eligible to vote, did so. The lowest turnout since World War II. How stupid is that? And who is to blame for that?

3. Brutal Authorities

  • The United States imprisons more people — 2.3 million a few years ago — than any other country (China, with four times as many people, is second with 1.6 million). And it jails a higher proportion of its people — one of every 100 adults.
  • Police in the United States shoot and kill more citizens on the streets than the police of any other country — more than a thousand a year by most estimates (astonishingly, no one keeps an official count). In 2011, police in Germany killed six people, in England, two.
  • Militarization of the police, surveillance of the general public with cameras, NSA monitoring of private emails and phone calls — all have become a pervasive part of American life. Of whom is the government, at every level, so afraid?

Here’s the theory that connects the dots. The people who now run America — Citi Bank, Exxon Mobil, the Koch Brothers, Golden Sacks, and their ilk — have the money to get what they want, and they want stupid. It cost them gazillions to elect people like Ted Cruz, to convince 65% of Americans that climate change is not a serious threat, and to otherwise insure that inquiring minds will not be inquiring into anything they do..

When the stupid get the money, more people get more stupid, quickly. When the stupid get elected, all future candidates get stupider. When stupid movies and TV news programs get funded, very soon all entertainment is stupid, including sports entertainment (in 40 of the states, the highest paid public official is a football or basketball coach).

As for the brutality, consider this. If your hold on wealth and power depended on all Americans staying stupid, all the time, wouldn’t you be afraid?

So there you have it, a theory of everything stupid. Just follow the money, stupid.

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15 Responses to The Theory of Everything Stupid

  1. colinc says:

    Absolutely your most brilliant piece, Mr. Lewis, since I began reading here a couple years ago, and I mean that with the utmost sincerity and conviction!! Moreover, for your courage to state these observations in no uncertain terms you deserve more admiration than you will probably receive. Now you are close to the final hurdle which is “WHY are so many so stupid??” Aye, there’s the rub and I have no doubt that any answer(s) must be multifaceted! Otherwise, I’ve typically abbreviated what you disclose above into “It’s not too many people… it’s too many stupid people.” For clarification, I use the term “stupid” as shorthand for “ignorant, ill-informed and irrational,” all afflictions which one would think to be easily(?) remedied, yet they only seem to get worse with the passing of time. Again, I respectfully tip my cap to you.

  2. PMB says:

    It’s not as if this epidemic of Stupid was a fairly recent situation in the good old US of A. It’s been unfolding for over a century now. Anyone who has followed the work of John Taylor Gatto (his books are few, but focused on the downward spiral of the “education system” especially the seminal “Underground History of American Education.”

    I love to tell people the story of how while Gatto was being awarded by the city and state in the early 90’s as teacher of the year the Board of Education (that’s what it was called back then) was doing all it could to force this man out of the system because he was causing them no end of trouble by creating creative critical thinking students.

    Here’s a anecdotal story from my huge bag of life experiences. A few weeks ago in the sauna of the New York Health and Racquet Club in NYC I was engaged with a young Black man who is a guidance counselor in the NYC public school system. He was bragging about how he’s going to write a book that will blow the lid off the failing school system which he is witnessing from the inside. That within a year his expose will have all mothers of children of color out in the streets rioting when they find out the truth of how the system works. Shades of Gary Webb, here was a real revolutionary.

    The young man thought that because he was black that the mothers of children from non white families would read his book. Very interesting and commendable I thought and told him so. I also informed him that his work wasn’t new and that others have written about the same (although the only ones I could think of at the moment were all white men), but looking like one of those he wanted to reach perhaps the audience he wanted to reach would read him. Only I also explained that few people read and our literacy rate is pretty low so he shouldn’t hold out too much hope. He didn’t believe me regarding our disastrous literacy rate, and the other guy in the sauna who came to the USA from South America (was gay and had little to no interaction with young people) said that I must be greatly mistaken.

    I then the budding author what research he had done and was he familiar with the work of John Taylor Gatto, Neil Postman, or Morris Berman. He wasn’t and he stated he had no interest in reading or researching for his book. At that point I just allowed the conversation to die a quick and rapid death.

    How does one motivate our educators who are themselves so badly educated?

  3. Tom says:

    Unfortunately, the stupid is also lethal. Ignorance about climate change and its many facets doesn’t negate the reality of storms that can scour formerly inhabited islands, record snow and cold in one corner of the country and the warmest ever in a much larger piece, weather that routinely destroys crops and cropland, extended drought, a meandering jet stream and a slowing thermohaline circulation, to name a few. Once the food stops coming, and it won’t be long, it’s chaos and craziness from then on out. Water is the warm-up act.

    Thanks for this post Mr. Lewis, a stellar essay.

  4. CJ says:

    “The lowest turnout since World War II. How stupid is that? And who is to blame for that?” I would like to see this statistic turned on it’s head. It is generally used to point out how lazy or unengaged people are. But I think it is a more accurate indicator of the quality of the candidates to vote for. I’m of the mind that voting for the lesser of two evils, or voting for the sake of voting is worst than not voting at all. As long as people are willing to play the game and vote for less qualified candidates, the rubes in office can continue to claim they have a mandate from the people.

  5. Michael Kastre says:

    Mr. Lewis, great writing and observations. We deserve what they get at the polls. If we don’t demand better, we certainly don’t or won’t get it.

    As for ignorance, apathy, illiteracy, etc., while schools are obviously an integral part of education, it is too many parents who are failing. They simply do not teach their children ethics, integrity, morality, and host of other basics.

    After all, little Johnny or Jane, with their zombie stares as they play endless video games or watch idiotic TV shows may be quiet and out of the way, but they are not reading, interacting with people, and a bunch of other constructive things they could be doing. The responsibility for that rests squarely with parents.

    I believe the old adage that charity begins at home. And, it is also home where real education, civility, and a sense of curiosity begin. In our world of virtual everything, we are giving rise to whole generations of kids who are plugged in, but tuned out to the world, environment, and people around them.

    They are more closely connected than ever by an impersonal technology, but more separated than ever from reality and interpersonal relationships. The result is apathy, ignorance, and lack of real awareness of the world around them.

    Our state of affairs is most frustrating and scary as we turn out more robotic people.

    Thank you for a forum for my ramblings.

  6. beckjeremy says:

    Thanks for the great (and tragic) ongoing commentary.
    Fortunately I moved myself and my family out of the U.S.

    Good luck to you and yours.

    • PMB says:

      “Good luck to you and yours.”

      Aren’t you living on the planet Earth? There was a time when leaving the USA may have been a good choice, but in the end it doesn’t matter where you go any longer.

      The situation within the USA and its police state exits in many places around the globe even if the stats aren’t necessarily showing that. Anyone informed about Saudi Arabia or Yeman know this. Those living in Canada, New Zealand and Australia as well as the EU have demonstrated that they are as capable as we are of electing people similar to Ted Cruz and bringing about a police state as sad as the USA’s. Canada has set the dogs out against all scientists and are wallowing the poisons of the tar sands.

      You may have moved out of the USA but one needs only read about events unfolding around the globe to understand there is no place to hide. Unless you are living on Mars, and if you are I’d let Richard Branson know so he can stop believing he’ll be the first to set up communities there.

      I’d like to believe since you’re reading this blog that are educated and informed enough to understand the effects of Climate Change, occurring much faster and much sooner than the much touted year of 2100, will alone will make the vast majority, it not all the planet uninhabitable over the coming years,most likely a decade or two. Understand biology and understand that growing food with an temperature increase from 2 to 4 degree pretty much points to pretty dire outcomes.

      Despite the constant cry of “The window is closing” or “We still have time” the truth is that the window closed a few years ago and we haven’t time any longer only we’re clawing and scratching to get us out of the locked room now that we realize we’re not going to be taking a shower.

      Personally I’m waiting to hear where are we going to be transplanting the 20 million people in Sao Paulo or the 6 million people in California.

      • beckjeremy says:

        Your points are well taken – completely agree about NTHE and the impending climate catastrophe.
        But the U.S., certainly compared Europe, has become an armed and obese madhouse.

        Much rather raise children in Europe, period!

        • PMB says:

          Sounds to me as if you might be a person who is a flatlander. This excellent series by Dave Cohen on his sight Decline of the Empire has been running since October 2014.

          “Much rather raise children in Europe, period!” That’s an opinion, and depends on many factors. I’d be interested in knowing what labels could be applied to you. Color, educational background, financial condition, etc., etc., etc. as that would allow us to have a better context of the situation you’re in.

          Perhaps as you have children (and that’s another discussion) you must rationalize and justify being in Europe (which seems to be holding itself together with spit and twine) in order to believe your children will have a future powered by solar and wind (a read of Ozzie Zehner’s book “Green Illusions” should/ought/must dissuade you from that belief if you are a fully functioning rational sane human being (not that there are many of those on the planet).

          I don’t want to assume you breed (hopefully you had the sense to provide a home for children who already existed and chose to have a vasectomy and your wife (if you’re not queer) had her tubes tied. No need to increase the number of humans on the planet and hopefully you’ve instilled that belief value in your offspring. Despite the cries that Europe is shrinking in population (as if that was a bad thing) it only screams that because it’s addicted to the growth parable of “We must keep growing” in order to provide an economic base so we can provide services to our citizens.

          If you are raising children are they aware of the future they will not have? After all the Climate Situation is one of the major pressures on the Middle East and what is happening there will no doubt be occurring in Europe no matter where you are living. No water means no food. More population, less food the equation seems as simple as 2 + 2 = 4.

          Europe being a better place. Well as I stated that would depend on a multitude of factors. If you’re a Muslim, well it appears that may be a problem. if you’re one of the growing homeless in England, Greece, Italy, Spain, well that would say it all. Street lights being turned off. That social safety net so often bragged about seems to be in tatters.

          Here’s an example of what I mean. In the documentary “Paragraph 175” Gay Germans make this statement to the Jewish filmmakers. “If not for the fact that I was Gay things would have be okay.” It brought home to me, and the filmmakers made this point as well in the commentary, the fact that there were a number of tracks people were on during that period. These men may have been interned but were not part of the final solution, they had no fear of becoming lamp shades or smoke out of a chimney. They were headed for a completely different track. Very much like the “Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes” process used by Jane Elliott to show how rapid and insidious an in group and out group are created. If these Gay Germans would become breeders and hetrosexual they would be allowed back into the fold of civilization.

          Europe certainly wasn’t a great place in the 30’s and 40’s for Jews, gays. Let’s not forget the Communists, if you were a Gypsy, Catholic, etc., etc. A read of the book “The Nazi Next Door” sadly reports that many of those that were active Nazis got off scott free and allowed to leave the smoldering ruins and go to a safe haven where they lived the life of Riley or remain in Germany or other parts of Europe and manage to achieve great wealth and privilege while hiding their pasts.

          Guess you know that liberation of the death as portrayed in the media was more of the famous Hollywood illusion. Those who survived were treated pretty much no different under Patton (who thought they were lazy, stupid people) and had many of their former tormentors imprisoned right next to them and watched them be treated much better in terms of food, clothing, sleeping accommodations. So Europe has quite a few skeletons in its closet that are not discussed.

          Watching Claude Charbol’s film “L’Œil de Vichy” displays a France that was more culpable than Denmark during it’s occupation by Germany during the 40’s. Shameful.

          If you’re a film watcher here’s some European films that you might find interesting and good to watch as a shared family event: The Wave, Downfall, Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary,The Black Box, Sophie Scholl, Barbara, Goodbye to Lenin, The Magdalena Sisters, and Philomena. In each case there are books that delve much deeper into the stories and are highly recommended.

          So, Europe being better is not a statement of fact that works for everyone. Oprah Winfrey could say the same about California being better, but that would mean turning a blind eye to what makes her different from others. After I believe she’s one of those spending about 15K a week to have shipped in to keep her lawn green.

          • beckjeremy says:

            Thanks for the film links PMB.
            Yes, I follow poor Dave.

            FYI – one child and a 0.1%er!

            Born and raised in England. Emigrated to the U.S. 25 years ago.
            Experienced the best, and bust, of the tech and housing boom in Cali.
            Living in N. Sonoma County for 20 years was simply magical – can’t imagine life there without water though.

            SW England (Devon), is a wonderful place from which to watch the collapse.
            Clean water, great food – and the remnants of a bygone civility in which to raise my 10 year old.
            The shut down of the thermohaline circulation will be the the worst for me, and of course the crappy weather :-))

            For his future – I’m not so sure!

  7. Steve K says:

    “Golden Sacks” sounds great, but the financial company is named Goldman Sachs

  8. venuspluto67 says:

    Ted Cruz *and* Louis Gohmert. Sometimes I wonder if there’s something in the tapwater in Texas.

  9. misericordia says:

    I took the OECD test mentioned above and it proved to be very undemanding. It was also very short, leading me to suspect that the test that is offered to the public to try might be a sample rather than the whole test. I hope so, anyway. No results were returned, but I doubt that I flunked.