Friday, November 5, 2010

Useful idiocy, nicely summarized.

Very nicely done article on the modern incarnation of useful idiocy, by Giordano Bruno.

First, he nails the symptoms:
Americans are masters of avoiding responsibility for bad assumptions. I have seen middle-aged women cry, actual tears, because they have been proven incorrect on something as simple as the price of dishwashing detergent at the grocery store. I have seen full-grown men throw wild-eyed tantrums and even threaten people with death because they couldn’t handle being wrong about the correct score of a football game. I once saw a man froth at the mouth and shout vicious obscenities for 20 minutes straight because he refused to believe there where more than three ‘Jaws’ movies (I wish ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ didn’t exist either, but I’m not going to have a spasm over it). I have seen little old ladies physically attack people because they were embarrassed to be wrong, not realizing that their response was far more humiliating and self deprecating than just being “mistaken”. I have, indeed, seen the glory of overgrown babies in action.
This is similar to what I was trying to get at here, but Bruno handles it better.  And how about this simple but effective image?
Their ability to think is limited to memorization. The problem with this way of viewing the world is that it excludes critical thought, intuition, empathy, and wisdom. It traps us in a box composed of all the things we have been TAUGHT, but keeps us from the things we could discover on our own. Useful idiots are walking talking toasters; all they take is bread, and all they make is toast (and the occasional pop tart). Frankly, I’m bored with toast.
Simple image;  very powerful metaphor.  Carry it just as far as you like--it works.

Bruno later follows with an implicit description of the perfect slave system being the one in which the slaves, on their own, invent and perpetuate the justifications for their own enslavement:
The useful idiot is not just the guy chugging down GMO milk filled with udder puss, anyone can do that and not be useful. No, the useful idiot is the FDA official or the corporately paid scientist who SELLS us on the purity of the milk. He’s the local dentist who laughs at you when you question the safety of all that fluoride accumulation in your bloodstream. She’s the nurse who threatens to call CPS because you don’t want your newborn baby injected with half a dozen mercury laced vaccines two months after they exit the womb. The useful idiot is the guy who received his standardized academic neuron rinse but never learned that the first rule of academia used to be ‘question everything’.

World view is really a battle between inherent conscience, common sense, and the conditioning of our era. Even a single root misconception, like the belief in the legitimacy of the false left/right political paradigm, could easily skew the whole of a person’s vision to a sea of truths. The useful idiot is not only conditioned himself, but he also becomes an agent of that conditioning in others. When confronted with a truth outside of his established world view, he almost short circuits. He has lived most of his life with the ideas and propaganda of others slogging around in his skull. To be faced with the possibility that all of that time, energy, and devotion, was worthless, is almost too much to bear.
And finally, this passage really spoke to me personally:
Why bother trying to communicate with these dimwits at all? Are they not the very definition of a lost cause? Perhaps. I can say with a certain authority, though, that some of them can be introduced to awareness, especially since I used to be one of them...
Yeah, me too, although my origins were from the opposite end of the conventional spectrum than what Bruno describes.  (I suspect that this may be one of the reasons I have such a strong pull to try, rather than give up.  Perhaps it's like a personal penance.)  I'm pretty damn thick-headed, but the fear of self-hypocrisy is apparently even stronger.  After a lot--a lot--of purgation through shooting honest arrows at what I thought I knew, it's amazing how much things have settled down.  I still shoot the arrows--in the interest of, er, health maintenance--but they almost always just bounce off, any more.  This makes me happy.

It's a great article.  Do check it out in full.


Hat tip to one Mark Laythorpe, via Kent McManigal on Facebook.

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