post-smart

Twice last year I woke up with a sinking feeling: surely people wouldn’t be that dumb? Twice I was sorely disappointed in my fellow men.

At the weekend I was in a shop looking at the sad rows of sale items: a woman asked the assistant – have you got this in a 12? Yep, said the shop assistant, we’ve got heaps of the most popular sizes all hidden in the back just in case. Actually she didn’t say that because as most people know, sales are all about selling off the stuff that people didn’t really like/couldn’t fit into, cheaply.

Onto the supermarket where there were free recipe leaflets for healthy eating available. A customer pulled aside an assistant and asked if it was ok to take them. The assistant said, no, you dope, ‘free leaflets’ means you have to pay for them in Tescolanguage. She didn’t, of course. She smiled and said ‘of course’, brightly, between gritted teeth.

Now it’s possible that we have a post-truth society, but my feeling is that it’s actually a post-smart. Folks get their news from dumbed-down articles in the Sun, are spoon fed fact-free prejudice from the Mail and others, and listen to fellow dumb-asses on carefully selected Facebook pages (not selected by them, of course, but by a dead hand of technology). If they ever hear a dissenting viewpoint, its dismissed as “propaganda”. Ho ho ho, my sides. And as for evidence or facts, research or statistics well their news sources don’t have too much truck with that kinda thing.

But why? Why do people prefer smartened up opinion to evidence? Because it reflects their fears and worries more accurately. Politics is complicated and the reasons for the ¬†current ‘state’ of our nation go back decades and decades. If you think about wages for example, these are low because of several factors: lack of unions, the economic crash of 2008 (when workers settled for lower wages instead of losing a job), the instability of the job market, the de-skilling of the workplace, economic pressures in the global market place (cheap workforces in outsourcing regions etc) and so on and so on. Employers choosing cheaper workers from abroad is indeed a factor and it probably does drive down domestic t&c’s and wages – but it’s much easier to point a finger at ‘them’ taking ‘our’ jobs and victimising fellow sufferers of a low-wage culture, than attempting to understand the complete political picture (and if you did, who would represent your position in parliament….yes, that). And of course, previously respected newspapers are happy to help you make the simplistic leap.

People are increasingly being herded into opinion groups like sheep: fed on an entertainment diet that keeps them docile and advertising that maintains their aspirations (but keeps them buying rather than thinking). No-one is rewarded for being smart. Smart doesn’t get you anywhere; smart and working class – still immense barriers to your ability to move up the ladders, smart and black, no chance, smart and a woman, well, maybe. Dumb and monied, dumb and part of the establishment, dumb and inherited your company and status. Welcome to the presidency Mr. Trump.