What do I think I know? I know that I don’t know enough. That’s one thing I know. I also know I’m a little bit smart. I’m glad I know this because otherwise, I’d be having a complex. “Moron” is one of the nicer epithets that has been thrown in my direction on social media. Luckily, that one doesn’t take. They should’ve called me fat.
Saying I’m smart is not so much bragging as it’s reporting. [i] I didn’t come to that conclusion on my own: many people have told me the same thing. It’s because of my IQ. It’s on the high side. The adults got quite excited when I took standardized tests. Mostly.
Occasionally, as was the case with my sixth-grade teacher, I got accused of lying and cheating to get a high score. I’m sure she was disappointed when the numbers on the retake were essentially the same. She didn’t like me much, and I suspect she was rooting for me to fail: to be fair, I disrupted her quiet little school. [ii]
As for me, I never thought high test scores were important or interesting for a variety of reasons. That is, I like being able to learn quickly and understand most things easily, but I never thought it made me qualitatively better than anyone else. [iii] Some people might take a bit longer to learn the same thing, but we end up in the same place.
I used to liken it to computing. I may have faster RAM and more storage than some, but in the day-to-day of life, it isn’t that important. I prefer other qualities: patience, kindness, grace, and empathy, to name a few. I also would’ve accepted surpassing beauty or immense popularity (I’m not sure the last one is a genetic gift).
There’s a lot of information kicking about the world. There’s much I don’t know. What’s the point of bragging about cleverness when the totality of your knowledge is infinitesimal compared to the infinite whole? It’s a big world full of facts, and I’m an expert in none. Except for apprehending how much I don’t know.
I wish other people knew that they know very little. Then again, we’re not terribly good at self-assessment. We prefer ego bumps to honesty. It’s understandable: somewhere along the line, we developed societal rules that see ignorance as a moral failure rather than an education gap.
And now, everyone is an expert at everything. At least, to hear them tell it.
It wasn’t such a problem when we lacked the capacity for amplification. It wasn’t such a problem when logic and critical thinking were both taught and praised.
Then came viral. Stories circulate across a variety of platforms and are taken as gospel. Confirmation bias is a powerful animal. We like it when things align with our beliefs, theories, and philosophies. We like it enough to regularly discount evidence to the contrary.
This is how you can sell Donald Trump as a model Christian, despite him not practicing the religion or following the precepts. You use “alternate facts,” also known as bullshit. [iv]
The spread of ignorance and lies on social media is terrifying. It doesn’t matter if the truth comes out twenty-four hours or twenty-four minutes later. What has been shared is held up as gospel by those predisposed to like it.
I’m guilty of it myself. So much for the much-vaunted smart.
Truth isn’t truth anymore, and no one cares. Winning and power is the name of the game, and although those in power co-opt the populations with sexy lies about how things are going to improve when they’re in charge, the truth is, very little changes for the majority of the rank and file. [v]
It’s interesting to me when the majority acts like a minority. The majority as subordinate defies logic and sense. We let small numbers of people who don’t have our interests at heart do bad things with negative consequences for most. And it is “let,” because we neither research nor effectively protest. [vi] I’m guilty as well. I like stories that show “my side” in a winning light. I like sticking it to “them.”
Hearing about the failures and peccadillos of the people I disagree with is fantastic. Such a petty thrill. I don’t want to know about their foster kids or the money they raised for breast cancer. Just like I don’t want to see flaws in people I like and agree with. My “side” is perfect, and my side is always right. After all, I’m smart. I pick the good guys.
Of course, intelligent people are also easily fooled. It’s akin to it being easy to sell to a salesperson. It’s arrogance and gullibility. We’re too good to get taken. And yet, I’ve amplified “fake news” myself: I should’ve known better. It was a salutary experience. The blow to my ego and the cringing embarrassment was an important reminder. Check my arrogance and check the source. No more fake news.
The term “fake news” never fails to amuse me: the term was amplified by an American political party engaging in an overt propaganda campaign. They did a good job. Millions believed what they were sold. From the perspective of political study, it’s been interesting. All the other hegemonic collapses are historical: who knew I’d get to see one play out in real-time. [vii]
What did you think was true for sure that wasn’t?
What’s your favourite personal gift or trait?
[i] It’s kind of bragging. I’m not the prettiest, or the fastest, or the richest, or the tallest. I’m not shockingly wealthy. I’m rarely number one. But, when it comes to intelligence, I did okay.
[ii] I was new to the school in grade six, and that’s can be problem. I also started getting interfered with and molested by the gym teacher: my behaviour correspondingly suffered. She was not particularly patient with it. To be fair, she didn’t know.
[iii] Except when I’m acting the arrogant prig on Twitter.
[iv] When Kellyanne Conway gave an interview and used the term “alternate facts” to spin lies, I threw the remote at the television. On the bright side, I didn’t break it.
[v] My friend calls politicians, no matter the party, liar one and liar two.
[vi] We have no staying power. We can be bought cheap. We’re also easily distracted by shiny things.
[vii] International leadership by one political entity. Modern hegemonic states from the mid-sixteenth century on include Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Britain, and the US. They rise, last, and fall in a rather predictable way. The US is on track. https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/pol116/hegemony.htm