Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Are the Intellectually Mediocre Truly Oppressed?

I posted yesterday about an online magazine piece asserting that high intelligence is fetishized in this society while lack thereof is mocked and unfairly disadvantaged. And no sooner had I shared a link to that piece on Facebook than a thoughtful Facebook friend of mine largely disagreed with its thesis.

According to him, the media caters to stupid people with stupid "news" and entertainment content, politicians such as Donald Trump successfully appeal to the lowest common denominator in intelligence and thoughtfulness with the crassest and most simplistic political nonsense and manipulations, and stupid, thoughtless people show no shame in asserting their stupid, thoughtless opinions on Facebook and everywhere else. If anything, my friend opines, stupid, thoughtless people dominate political and other kinds of discourse in this country while intelligent, thoughtful people are given short shrift.

I concede that he may be right in some respects, but I think the article and my blogpost about it are also correct that people of average to below-average overall intelligence and/or academic achievement are looked down on and disadvantaged by a society that increasingly views high intelligence as the touchstone of human worth and which affords less and less opportunity to the intellectually and academically mediocre to earn a decent living and flourish.

Yes, the media and politicians will cater to and thereby reinforce mediocrity if there's money and power to be had from it, but this doesn't mean that those who control the media and society at large respect intellectually or academically mediocre individuals or that the mediocre consequently respect themselves and aren't filled with conscious to subliminal self-loathing, and it could and has been argued that strong support for the likes of Donald Trump and the ostentatious embrace of fundamentalist religion and racist, sexist, jingoistic, and simplistic conservative politics is at least partly the result of a backlash against feeling scorned and oppressed by the liberal intelligentsia.

In other words, I think both The Atlantic piece and my friend are right about what are two largely separate but concurrent phenomena.

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