Monday, February 22, 2010

The Idiot Problem

The first time I was squeamishly uncomfortable during a presentation about THE IDIOT PROBLEM was in 1992 when I was taken into a back room of a Richmond, Virginia local John Birch Society club house... Their recruiting video showed 12-pound tomatoes being grown in a heightened C02 atmosphere, stated that greenhouse effect is a liberal plot against American farmers, and appeared to me more like science fiction then a documentary. According to those Virginians, if we pumped enough Carbon-DiOxide into our atmosphere famrers would make about 12x their current profits. What's not to LOVE? If it weren't for the fricken idiots there wouldn't be a need for Farm Aid.

17 Years Later...
THE IDIOT PROBLEM still exists! Fellow travelers, if it weren't for The Idiot Problem the world would be a happier place. Recently, I was coaching a woman who makes multiple-six-figures a year as a life coach for rich people. She's making way more money as a coach than I am presently. She said the secret to her success is reminding her clients that they are entitled to be happy. She firmly believes, and repeatedly espouses, "If everybody were a little bit happier, so many of the world's problems would simply evaporate." I can't argue with that 'logic.'

What I will argue with is the misnomer that having words in your head is thinking. Words going through your head is called sub-vocalizing, or thoughting. Thinking is a word I reserve for actively redirecting the flow of your thoughts instead of simply going along for the ride. I regularly work on my own thought patterns, building infrastructure, tearing down facades and turning off my monkey brain, or what creativity experts often call our reptillian mind of feed, f*ck or flee. My work on myself makes me more agile and effective with some specifically measurable forms of thinking. Those measurement tools get tricky. So pardon me if I side-step contelligence, multiple intelligences and homotelligence.

Can we all agree there is an Idiot Problem? Why are there so many idiots? Where do they all come from and why can't they see that they're idiots. That's the real problem isn't it, that idiots don't know their idiots! If the idiots would simply defer to smarter people, so many of the world's problems would simply evaporate!

"That was the difference between [Valentine] and the idiots of the world. They were all trying to look smart and keep their social standing. Whereas Valentine didn't care about social standing, she cared about getting it right... But of course a world with no idiots would be lonely."
~Orson Scott Card,
Ender in Exile, pgs 8-9

Orson Scott Card suggests that any plan that doesn't start with what to do with all the idiots is doomed to fail because there are so many of them. Orson's Valentine Card to the Universe is a young woman who strategizes on saving Spaceship Earth by starting a plan with what to do about THE IDIOT PROBLEM.

Getting it 'Right'
The stakes are higher than they've ever been. Humans are harvesting Spaceship Earth in ways that concern all but those who know are expecting divine intervention. I'm not saying that won't happen; I am acting as if the Universe will behave as she has always appeared to, largely indifferent to what we call pain, amazingly sympathetic. Energetic sympathy is a topic on which I rarely speak anymore. Suffice it to say that separating myself from my experience of the Universe is like attempting to separate a story from the story-teller, they are indellibly interdependent. Can we all agree that observation changes what is observed? For real, if we can't agree on this point I won't make sense to you.

Anybody who has never found themselves up against a confederacy of dunces has never forwarded a progressive agenda. There is a righteousness required to forge your idea through idiot infested waters. You see idiot gate-keepers all around you. The mindless words they spew are self-replicating viruses called memes. In other words, the words and gestures that got them their job, will spawn another generation of babblers as they select to hire people just like them. What we're left with is a culture of employees who are really good at getting jobs and appear to me as horrible in terms of getting things done.

So, today... I'm working on The Idiot Problem.



Rick Aster said...

When people don’t have time to pay attention to a problem themselves, they may defer to someone else who has an opinion, but how do they decide who to defer to? Is there a way to persuade people that they are better off looking to those who have done some thinking on the subject in question?

colin said...

One of my biggest personal flaws is forgiving idiots because they know not what they do.

In theory, I can muster compassion for people who relate deep thinking or reading with the same kind of displeasure I might associate with competitive sports or hunting. I can logically grasp that some people just aren't born thinkers, and thusly, will never value it in others.

But in practice, when I'm in line at the grocery and both the cashier and the customer ahead of me are talking on their cellphones, my heart breaks a little - but I still also want to smash their cellphones into their faces.

And then I remember what Eugene Schwartz said. "I have terrible news for you. We are all chimpanzees."

Semi-related note, I converted the Hyatt interview you posted earlier to MP3 - it's wonderful walking fuel. Thanks for all the brain food, Ben!