The Politics of Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up. 

It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.

Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.

I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.  

Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.

Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun. 

But that’s not how this particular threat operates.  It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.   

If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.

Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr. David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.

 Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.

Exhibit A:  President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air. 

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)

Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present

Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.” 

More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”

In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.  

Exhibit C: Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:

  1. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  2. The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
  3. A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
  4. Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
  5. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

(For more on this subject, I recommend https://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/The-Basic-Laws-of-Human-Stupidity.pdf )

Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.

……………………………….

Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet. 

Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.

I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….

When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield

Don’t Call Me Stupid, Stupid


by Roxanne Tellier

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a world without Facebook. Oh my, it must have been at least an hour before it was back on line … such a long … lonely … hour …. Where were all of my … argumentative strangers?

leave britney aloneMeh. I’ve had a bunch of minor, irritating problems with my ‘puter over the last few weeks, so it was really nothing more than just another annoyance. But a quick Google check showed that millions of people, living all around the world, were missing their Facebook and social media fix. And they were NOT happy.

Facebook is as addictive as any drug. Don’t believe me? Try walking away.

facebook-is-a-hell-of-a-drugFunny, I’d been thinking recently about leaving Facebook. If you have an addictive personality AND are political, it’s not a healthy place. Sure, I love the animal videos, it is great to see how friends and family in far flung places are doing, and I enjoy being able to quickly get in touch with my ‘connected’ friends, but I don’t know if I can take much more of the 24/7 news stream of our current divisive, angry, confrontational times. It’s all too much.

 

brazil president rain forest

Lately, what passes for ‘information’ on Facebook is a steady stream of accounts of venomous actions being perpetrated on vulnerable people by people who should never have been given access to power. Trump’s American war on refugees is just a wisp of smoke and a few barbed wire rolls short of being as horrific as the Holocaust. Across North America, the battle to extract the last of the oil, destined to enrich a smaller and smaller group of people, threatens the extinction of wild life and sea life, and tramples on the rights of the indigenous. In Brazil, a rabid right vows to eliminate the rain forests of the Amazon, and to roust the last of their native peoples.

In Canada, the machinations of people WITHIN the Liberal party are even more vile than those of their political opponents. In the 2019 budget for Ontario, our premier mentions ‘beer’ and ‘alcohol’ 46 times, in his zeal to re-brand Ontario as a hard drinking, hard gambling, land of the never closed casinos. And in England, there’s a shocking deficiency of intellect being used in the negotiation of the wrong-headed Brexit.

I read today about a new procedural policy suggested by the Trump administration, proposing to monitor the social media accounts of veterans. If the veterans appear “too happy,” their disability pensions for PTSD will be reduced. Or if their photos or videos appear to show them enjoying physical activities, that might be grounds for cutting their disability benefits. In other words, the policy would create an environment in which first veterans, and then, possibly other groups that include disabled people, would need to self-censor what they share on social media with friends and family, lest the government decide to cut vital financial aid or medical care.

Facebook is really starting to dig a little too close to the horrors of a Black Mirror episode. Vulnerable people, those that are easily led, those than believe what they see and hear, indiscriminately, and spread disinformation to their friends, are enabling a world where ‘truth’ carries less weight than ‘opinion.’

Let me tell you about something that happened to me, just this week, because it rather shook my faith, or perhaps my assumption,  in the intelligence of people. In the aftermath of that horrific massacre in New Zealand, in which an Australian far right, home-grown terrorist murdered 50 people and injured dozens more, I received a private message from a fellow that I only knew from Facebook, but with whom I’d exchanged birthday and seasonal greetings for about six years. It contained a video of a Canadian (!) right wing, anti-immigrant, FOX styled ‘journalist,’ who was filming her interactions with the refugees and immigrants who live in the small neighbourhood of Lakemba, near Sydney, Australia.

Lauren Southern kicked outHis message exhorted me to ‘share this everywhere!!!!!!”

Henry is a Canadian who immigrated to Australia about 10 years ago. His wife is of European descent, and I believe she immigrated there shortly before Henry. Since their marriage, they’ve had a son, who is an all Australian boy in temper and manner. Henry and family, who are extremely Caucasian, have gleefully adopted most of what we would consider ‘Australianisms.’

Henry has worked very, very hard to make a place in Australian society for himself, and to support his family. Australia, at 7,692,024 km, is the world’s largest island, with a population of just 24.6 million…. much less than Canada’s population of 37 million. Yet Henry believes that allowing Muslims the same opportunity that he had, of immigrating to Australia for a better life, will lead to widespread Shariah Law and a lack of bacon in his MacDonald burgers. Henry is an entitled, hypocritical prick, and he is no longer my Facebook friend, because he is a stone cold racist, and I do not tolerate racists or racism.

trump I'm with racistsSadly, for many like Henry, a large part of the role that Facebook, Instagram, and other forms of social media play in their lives is the propagation and dissemination of racism. They are delighted to find the like-minded, tend to be tolerant and accepting of trolls and bots, and are willfully blind to any attempt to separate the truth from the lies. That’s most certainly NOT the average Facebook user, but it is a large, and extremely argumentative and vocal segment, thus, very easy to find.

There is, in fact, such a shocking lack of knowledge, wisdom, common sense and humility involved in the shriekings of the bigoted, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, hoi polloi on social media that one can only sadly agree with British pundit, David Mitchell, who said of the willfully naif, that, “It would be a shame to trample on the fresh snow of your ignorance.”

Most of us are loathe to label the thinking of others as stupid or ignorant; it’s unkind, often misused, and certainly doesn’t lead to an equal sharing of information. However, years of austerity and tax cuts to education and health care, combined with poor diets, have actually begun to turn the clock backward on a common intelligence in first world countries. We are literally becoming dumber than our parents and grandparents.

When president John F. Kennedy decided in 1961 that America would put a man on the moon, it took them just eight years to figure out how. And that was in a time before email even existed. Humans excelled in the 20th century, achieving incredible breakthroughs in science and technology.

In Ontario, we’ve been trying to get a subway to the suburb of Scarborough for more than twenty years.

In previous decades, there was a steady climb in the average IQ scores in civilized countries, of about 3 IQ points per decade. This was called the Flynn effect — named after the work of New Zealand intelligence researcher James Flynn.

Yogi BearBut that increase topped out around 1975, with IQ’s steadily falling by an average of about seven points per generation since. The drop seems to be more about nurture than nature, and includes the impact of changes in how we teach math, science, and language.

“This establishes that the large changes in average cohort intelligence reflect environmental factors and not changing composition of parents, which in turn rules out several prominent hypotheses for retrograde Flynn effects.”

We WANT to believe that we, the citizens of strong, first world, nations are intelligent, thoughtful, free of ignorance, and that our country .. and Facebook … is filled with good people who reflect our own wholesome goodness and wisdom.

However in actual fact, we’re moving steadily, and very quickly, towards an Idiocracy. (This clip is from February 2016 – there has definitely been a further huge drop in our collective IQs in the last two years, from the drip, drip, drip of 24/7 mis and disinformation.)

 

So where to from here, folks?