Here is my latest commentary for The Xenophile Historian. I placed it in the folder I call The Holy Book of Universal Truths, but I wasn’t sure whether it qualified as a political commentary or an historical one, so I put to links to it from both Chapter 3 and Chapter 6.
You Can’t Fix Stupid — But You Can Breed It
Comedian Ron White: "If your eyes go bad, you can have LASIK surgery, and they can give you 20/20 vision at any age. If your hearing starts to fail, they can put a device in your ear that’ll make you able to hear as good as you could the day you were born. But let me tell you something folks — you can’t fix stupid. There’s not a pill you can take. There’s not a class you can go to. Stupid is forever."
In 2006, a movie came out called Idiocracy, which told about an army experiment that took a soldier of average intelligence and froze him for 500 years. During those centuries, "trailer trash" people who had nothing to contribute to society went on having children irresponsibly, while the smartest, best-educated people kept delaying childbirth for one reason or another, until they failed to produce enough smart kids to replace themselves. When the soldier wakes up, he is easily the smartest man in a world full of dummies. The movie was a vulgar comedy, but it made a point you couldn’t miss: are we breeding for stupidity?
Idiocracy only looked at one way to create stupid people, by removing smart people from the gene pool. But can our surroundings have the same effect? Worse than that, are we encouraging it? I am talking about a suppression of natural selection. For those who don’t know what natural selection is, read what I wrote about it in Chapter 3 of The Genesis Chronicles. Whether or not you believe in evolution, you have to admit that natural selection is real, when it comes to determining which genes will be passed on to the next generation.
Now in the wild, there is no reward for acting stupid; normally when you do, you won’t live to tell about it. At best you become a warning to others, not to do the same thing. Along that line, you may have heard that you should never stand next to somebody shouting, "Hey y’all, watch this!", because that will probably be the last thing he will ever say. That is why we find the Darwin Awards funny; we all know the winners are examples of natural selection in action!
For most of history, we know natural selection was working because life was "poor, nasty, brutish and short," as Thomas Hobbes put it. When I saw Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, for instance, the main thing I got out of it was that ancient Mesoamerica had an awful lot of ways to die. The same could be said about medieval Europe, as we see in this video clip from the British TV show "Horrible Histories"; by the fourteenth century, the death toll is so bad that even the Grim Reaper quits!
Western Europe started to climb out of that death-trap in the second half of the seventeenth century. Indeed, Thomas Hobbes lived right when that was happening, so I guess he wasn’t too optimistic about the future when he coined the above phrase. First, Europeans found fewer reasons to fight, reducing the number of violent deaths. True, there were some big conflicts later on (e.g., the Napoleonic Wars and two World Wars), but they caused so much destruction that they also increased the desire for peace, thus contributing to the antiwar trend. Then came advances in technology and medicine, allowing people in less than perfect physical condition to live normally (more or less), and reducing the number of deaths from diseases. When Western Civilization spread to the rest of the world, the percentage of short, wasted lives was reduced there, too. Today’s civilization can now choose who will leave the most descendants; you could say that natural selection has disappeared, and unnatural selection has taken its place.
Because of the disappearance of natural selection for humans, one of the scariest places to live in the modern world is Africa, where natural selection is still active. Here is what I wrote about that, in my African history series. Quote:
"Life in Africa is cheap, to a degree that Europe hasn’t seen since the end of the Thirty Years War. For a start, Africa provides so many ‘natural’ ways to die: wild animals (e.g., crocodiles, lions, sharks, poisonous snakes and insects), parasites, bad food, no food at all, and so on. Add manmade causes like violent crime, war, and the various atrocities that come when governments ignore human rights and the rule of law. Top that off with epidemics like AIDS, and you’ll get an idea why Africa’s life expectancy, after rising for most of the twentieth century, has fallen in recent years; the overall life expectancy for the continent is now just fifty years.
"Kim du Toit, a blogger who lived in South Africa for thirty years, used this story to explain Africa’s casual attitude toward death:
"‘My favorite African story actually happened after I left the country. An American executive took a job over there, and on his very first day, the newspaper headlines read: Three Headless Bodies Found.
The next day: Three Heads Found.
The third day: Heads Don’t Match Bodies."(55)
Unquote: Don’t get me wrong, I am for modern medicine, technology and peace. I am a civilized person, after all. If I wanted to do away with those things to promote natural selection, you would probably call me a creep, and I would deserve it. But it becomes a different matter when politics plays the role that natural selection used to play, which is what I am going to talk about next.
To start with, there is the so-called "dumbing down of education." It is no secret that the quality of education in the United States has been declining for a long time. Children from public schools (government schools would be a better description) consistently fail when competing against children from private schools, homeschools, and foreign schools. Test standards have been lowered so that fewer students fail, the result being that they get into high skill barely able to read, and with rudimentary math skills. In place of what they used to learn, there is an emphasis on maintaining the student’s self-esteem, and they are taught politically correct subjects. For example, American history and Western civilization are dismissed as a bunch of stories about "dead white males," and are likely to be replaced by women’s history and African-American history. And because it is now possible to go through four years of college without learning much that is useful, a college degree is worth less than it used to be. No wonder a 1983 report on the state of US education opened by declaring, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."
Some conspiracy theorists have suggested that the dumbing down was done on purpose, to teach future generations to accept authoritarian rule. Whether or not they are right, the result is the same; today’s students are taught that "great minds think alike," when the truth is "great minds think for themselves."
"I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University." — William F. Buckley, Jr.
Now what about government intervention outside of the schools? It started with the Industrial Revolution, because industrialization produced appalling working and living conditions during its early years. You can read about how bad it was here — and that was just in nineteenth-century Britain. Humanitarians cried out against this, and eventually governments responded with legislation like child labor laws to protect the workers, improved sanitation in the cities, and so on. From that came today’s safety standards and regulations in the workplace, maintained by organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But the government did not stop there; it went on to ban or put warning labels on any products that might weed out the intellectually challenged, like dangerous toys, lead-based paint, and fatty foods. Read this commentary on childhood in the 1960s and 70s to see how much of a nanny state we have become.
On top of all that, our paternalistic government feels the need to watch out for you, to protect you from competition and the pitfalls of life. I have even heard liberals say that stupid people should not have to suffer from the consequences of their actions. Thanks to welfare, food stamps, Social Security, health care, and other assistance, all paid for with other peoples’ money, you can be dumb as a box of rocks and still do all right. You might even get on Jerry Springer’s program or a reality show and become a star!
In 2012 a Stanford professor, Gerald Crabtree, announced the results of a study which says we are getting dumber, due to the lack of Darwinian competition in our safe, sanitized, civilized world. We have lost our basic survival skills and our ability to think because we no longer need them, when the government is taking care of us from the cradle to the grave. In the game of natural selection, physical and mental attributes are just like vacation days at work — use them or lose them.
Yikes! It is bad enough that we are weaker than our ancestors. If we are dumber, too, than we are not evolving; rather, you could say we are devolving. This goes a long way towards explaining some of the stupid things in modern-day society, from the lottery to the immature politicians we keep on electing.