Blogs by Kalikiano Kalei
Casting pearl-studded silk purses at pigs...
2/24/2009 11:26:32 AM
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I like pigs and I make it part of my personal life philosophy NOT to go about gratuitously lobbing things at them, let alone pearl-encrusted silk purses made from their own ears (horrors!). Ever since reading George Orwell's wonderful 'ANIMAL FARM', many years ago, I have grown to appreciate our swinish friends almost disproportionately. I wish I could say the same for two-legged, higher-evolved, opposed-thumb primates masquerading as swine on this planet!
CASTING PEARL-STUDDED SILK PURSES AT PIGS…
Those of you who know me, know me as someone who thinks perhaps too much for his own good. When I was a lad of 8, the principal of the elementary school I was attending pulled me into his office one day and expressed his concerns about this tendency I had, even in my earliest days. I’ll never forget his little pep-talk that day. He said if I didn’t learn to relax and loosen up, learn to play with the other kids instead of being a habitual observer, he feared for my future happiness. This was at age 8! Today, at age 62, I have long since passed the threshold of ‘happiness’ and gone on to a state of being somewhat more pragmatic in nature than the one that characterises most people’s search for that elusive quality known as human happiness.
But hey…the good news is that I managed to get to this point without committing suicide, like so many intellectuals (and pseudo intellectuals like me) do who worry excessively about the human race and where it is headed. That isn’t to say I didn’t have my moments when ending the insane chatter of the monkey in my mind would have been a wonderful respite from grief and sadness over the deplorable mess my fellow ‘higher-evolved primates’ have made of this incredibly beautiful world we all share. Or perhaps bad news, since I am sure there are a great many among my associates (I flatter myself, surely) who really wish I’d just shut up and disappear.
Several years ago I experienced yet another epiphany of awareness when a newly made friend characterised me as suffering from what is often humorously referred to as analysis paralysis, or a state in which an individual experiences something (a sport, for example) so intensely and exhaustively in an indirect, detached, vicariously abstract, and highly intellectualised manner, that actual experiential familiarity with the activity itself is no longer either necessary or even possible!
The ‘friend’ making this pronouncement was a rather bright woman originating in Canada, who had been through much in her own life. She was perhaps expecting to encounter a genuinely archetypal individualist and felt that instead she had been introduced to a sort of hologramatic virtual person (myself). In giving me the benefit of her psychotherapeutic assessment, she painted a picture of someone who, instead of being spontaneous and centered in precisely the present parsec of time, is standing somewhat outside himself and watching a time delayed recording (taken by a camera shooting from behind and over his shoulder) of what he is planning to do before actually doing it. Baron Munchhausen? Casper Milquetoast? It wasn’t clear just exactly what she was alluding to, but I quickly gathered that it wasn’t complimentary, whatever it was. The ‘friendship’ didn’t last very long, as this individual dismissed any and all possibilities of any meaningful interactions LONG before they might even have been reasonably expected to occur. Looking back on that experience, it still gives me a small shiver to think I had been dismissed so summarily and so completely after a few short days together. ‘Analysis paralysis’ is the phrase that still resonates in the air, in the near vacuum left by her rapid departure from Molokai.
OK. So I think too much. Mea culpa. I have always felt that the happiest people in the world are those who have been prefrontally lobotomized (these procedures were quite popular back in the bad old days of the 50s, as a last-ditch treatment for the mentally wacked out who failed to respond to electro-shock therapy). Love me, love my thought processes (oh yes, and my dogs, too).
Most recently, I’ve been again plunging through a very interesting book written by Charles Herrnstein and Charles Murray titled The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, published originally in hardcover in 1994, ISBN 0-02-914673-9, by The Free Press (a division of Simon & Schuster). This is a book that anyone who has any interest in how life in America seems to be heading down the toilet should acquaint himself with. It is perfect fodder for the mind that is concerned with differences in social class (yes, we have them in so-called ‘classless’ America), the intellect distressed by increasingly scarce aspects of American culture that include basic manners, courtesy, respect, honesty, and personal integrity. It is also an excellent book for people who are disturbed by the increasing vulgarization of American society, the trivialization of our culture that is most reflected in popular media depictions of pseudo-reality. It is furthermore even useful to those who have added a new word to their vocabulary in recent days: ‘elitism’, thanks to right wing Republican propaganda characterizing newly elected President Barack Hussein Obama as an elitist.
One of the primary reasons I find it of such interest is that it doesn’t pull any punches about the interrelatedness of social class and IQ in modern American society (in fact, that’s the core theme of the book). OK. You’re probably asking yourself by this time “Why is Kalikiano on a rant, THIS time?” Call it a rant if you must, but I prefer to regard it as a reflective assay that probes (perhaps a bit too superficially) into why intelligence has also been added to that previously alluded-to list of scarce American qualities.
I suppose the primary catalyst this time (although it usually doesn’t take much of one) was a visit to an office of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, located in Carmichael, California (part of Greater Urban Sacramento) to pick up some license plates for a vehicle I have registered in that state. Although I had made an appointment, a tactic usually quite useful for all but eliminating any waiting for services, the office was quite crowded. This was likely a consequent repercussion from the state’s recent budget crisis and mandatory state employee furloughs that had closed the DMV offices last Friday, so instead of guaranteeing a quick and painless visit, I had to join another endless queue of appointment customers.
First thing I did to help sooth my nerves a bit amidst all the cacophony was to switch on my pocket-sized cell-phone ‘zapper’. In addition to instantly ending all the inane and extremely irksome cellular blatherings going on about me, an additional benefit was the amusement provided by several dozen serial chatterers suddenly finding their signals had been lost. The expressions one typically sees on their little Neanderthal-like faces (when this happens) are priceless, as they find out that their conversations with equally inane dim-bulb friends, about absolutely stupid stuff, are suddenly and inexplicably closed down. Most think either their cell phones have gone kaput or they step outside, thinking the building has cut their signal off. Either way, it restores a certain measure of peacefulness to the already loud clamoring, howling babies, and noisy adolescents that DMV offices seem to fill up with nearly every day.
The next item on my agenda was to look around a bit and indulge my sense of elitist revulsion on the rich visual scenery afforded by this amazingly varied slice of common American life found in that office. Teenaged mothers with babies in arms, slightly older adolescent mothers (with babes in arms), and even ‘adult teenaged' moms (with babies? Natch!) were plentiful and so too were their kiddies' screams and howls of displeasure over having mom's focus distracted from their spoiled little crying jags, while she coped with paperwork. Immigrants of all shapes and sizes were also present in substantial numbers. Most were Chicano, speaking Spanish oblivious of the fact that others might understand what they felt were private conversations, but there were East Asians, East Europeans, blacks, ‘gangsta’ members from the hood, and even a few (very few) polite little old white ladies who were clearly nonplused by having to stand armpit-to-armpit with all the colorfully drib-drab hoi poloi.
The middle-aged stocky gentlemen (a group of about 4) wearing black turtle necks and black leather blazers simply screamed out (non-verbally) 'Serbian', or at least East European. The sound of their voices shortly confirmed that guess, but it was interesting to continue to watch them for several reasons. Although they were undoubtedly in the American lower middle class (likely recent arrivals from the old country), there was still a definite Euro touch of class to the clothes they wore and more importantly, in the manner in which they wore them and carried themselves. This stood in marked contrast to the slouching, slumped and disregardful attitude of rebellious rejection that literally poured off various other younger white Americans nearby. The latter group could all have been dropped from the same mold, with their body piercings, exposed midriffs (fashion) and sleezy, bra-strappy looks, cheap Wal-Mart clothes, and ‘gansta’ posings (thought to be evidence of serious ‘cool’, I am guessing, but how about serious ‘fool’...?).
Looking about, I was suddenly impressed by how tastefully drab and unremarkable all these people were (and I say that with intended prejudice), an assessment furthered by listening to their drab and unremarkable conversations. My next impression was one of being a bit put off by all the REALLY young mothers standing around with babies and small children to herd; most looked like mere kids that had been suddenly caught unaware by a massed attack of Killer Sperm. Truly a less than happy cross section of the unreflective, intellectually stultified lower classes: the sort of consumer-addicted masses commercial marketing organisations simply love. At that point I was reminded forcefully yet again exactly why I hate crowds and harbor an intense dislike of large gaggles of undistinguished, ordinary people. I was simultaneously reminded of several key ideas found in Herrnstein & Murry’s book, The Bell Curve…specifically those addressing IQ in relationship to social class. An elitist thought? I certainly hope so.
In a previous excursion I referenced the fact that subsequent to the recent national election, the masses (mostly thanks to two-bit political agitators like Rush Limbaugh and other talk show luminaries) have now adopted a new word to their minimal vocabularies: ‘Elitist’. The fact is that if half the people who now fling that word around casually knew exactly what it really meant and were truly familiar with its proper context, they would jeopardise their remaining brain cells trying to come up with a more appropriate substitute for it.
In their seminal work, The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray discuss in exhaustive detail the many, many aspects of how IQ functionally associates with social class. Some of the ideas are common currency, such as the fact that there is a strong inverse correlation between the size of families and the level of education attained (by mothers). Others are not. Included in the latter group are hypotheses tying together variables like a mother’s age and her cognitive ability, as are those demonstrating what is termed ‘dysgenesis’ (or the lowering of IQ, through successive generations). Another dandy subject is how similar IQs appear to seek each other out, resulting in closely matched cognitive potentials that produce similarly (un)endowed offspring.
Among its more basic core observations, The Bell Curve examines the fecundity of women in all ‘class’ levels of American society and confirms what intuition already tells us: that more highly educated women put off childbirth for the goals of higher education and professions. The more economically disadvantaged and poorly educated a woman, the more she tends to embrace motherhood as a fulfilling role in life. The highly educated woman defers marriage and childbearing, and tends to have fewer children, whereas her polar class counterpart has more. A point made in the book is that when the highly educated women finally decides to have a child, the child is typically well planned for in advance and every resource she has will be brought to bear on the upbringing of that child (or children), while the poorer and less educated woman approaches motherhood casually and in too many cases accidentally. In fact (as Herrnstein and Murray point out), in the lowest classes, a disproportionate number of children almost guarantees that they will be paid for and supported by the state (social assistance programs), since the parents cannot even begin to afford the basic necessities they require (let alone a rich educational environment). Reading this almost constitutes a 'duh moment', of course, given the wealth of demographic statistics and documentation that exist on this subject.
With more pressing concerns inundating them from birth, children from poorly educated and disadvantaged families receive (generally speaking) less educational enrichment that do children from upper social class origins and over the generations, there is a distinct ‘dysgenesis’ trend that begins to emerge. That is, a lowering of IQ across the specific class population. The matter exactly how this effect is achieved (whether by DNA or by social conditioning) is beyond the scope of my commentary, but to many that is a very loaded observation (to a large number of others it's an inarguable no-brainer, of course).
Looked at another way, that means there are increasing numbers of dim-bulbs out there and far fewer bright ones, proportionately speaking. Viewed within what Herrnstein and Murray term the ‘demography of intelligence’, this very genuine trend does not bode well for the future of America, since if anything, we need to cultivate the very ‘elitism’ that right-wing social and political critics are so quick to dismiss as aesthetically and ethically undesirable.
One of the primary flaws in modern, present day American social theory is the goody-two-shoes ‘politically correct’ philosophy that argues we are all equal...end of argument, period. Thus, and I have often referenced this attitude in the past, many unreflective individuals increasingly subscribe to an attitude that even the very stupid and cognitively ‘challenged’ are just as entitled as those who are bright and gifted. Aside from being abysmally ignorant, this assumptive opinion (found everywhere in America) provides excellent ammunition for the markedly anti-intellectual sentiment that has become so prevalent, most markedly among adolescents who affect a sort of pride in ignorant thought and antisocial behavior (QED: ‘nerds’ versus ‘jocks’, to cite only one example) and among poorly educated lower class individuals who feel they are somehow 'entitled' to things they don't have and won't work for.
I have often thrown out the remark that ‘dumb people have dumb kids’ in my frequent disparagements of American demographic dysgenetic transitions, but sadly it is true (apart from having the appearance of a gross generalization and simplification). When there are ever increasing greater numbers of ‘dumb people’ out there spawning more little dumblings than the educated, bright, and social altruistic parents, it’s simply a matter of time before the entire society comes crashing down in a figurative sense. Tragically (and ironically), at such times, the ignorant crowd all but dismisses the important role ‘elitists’ play in society and those whom they really must depend to govern, rule, and regulate any form of organized society that they hope might emerge. In instances where violent revolution overthrows governments, the elitists (i.e. ‘intellectuals’) are also the first ones to be sacrificed in whatever catastrophic social chaos attends these events (innumerable examples abound, perhaps the most notable being those of the French Revolution’s ‘Reign of Terror’, Stalin’s purges of the 30s, etc., etc.).
In modern America, everyone now has a voice and everyone has been told that their opinion has genuine merit. Under the precepts that have emerged from and been fostered by disastrous doctrines of political correctness, the millions of truly not-very-bright in our nation (viz. the ‘dim-bulbs’ I constant refer to) have been encouraged to believe that they are fully as astute, as perceptive, and as discerning as the finest thinkers to be found in our society. Aside from being a great big unhappy joke, this is a disaster in the making as far as any chance the modern American model of democratic capitalism has to perpetuate itself. As this lowering of the bar continues and we pander to the lowest, basest, and grossly unimaginative interests of these bottom elements of society, we lose any significant chance our nation may have to rise to greater heights of cultural achievement.
As far as it goes, we are kidding ourselves if we feel for a moment that adopting uniformly low expectations throughout society serves any genuinely useful or productive purpose (other than making the incapable ‘feel good’), the research and hard scientific assays of the available data show exactly the opposite: that embracing ignorance will only result in eventual social and cultural ruination. Whether that fall into intellectual limbo occurs now, in the near future, or even 50 to 100 years from now, is really not important. What is important is that we, as both a nation and a culture, absolutely must rise to higher standards of thought and behavior. If that means curtailing the creeping socialistic mechanisms that now delude fools into thinking they are geniuses, so be it. Knowledge and learning must be sought after enthusiastically and ignorance must be severely discouraged, if not eradicated altogether.
Someone long ago coined the delightful phrases ‘pearls before the swine’ and 'silk purses from pigs’ ears' to describe categorical impossibilities. If there is to be any long-term chance for America (or for any specific aspect of our culture, including the Hawaiian Islands) to embrace excellence, we must indeed attempt to covert pigskin into silk and educate pigs to appreciate pearls (of wisdom, perhaps?).
There are no simple ways of achieving this turn-about state of affairs in politically correct America, but the result of not recognizing the threat and dealing with it looms over us like a great dark storm cloud, steadily building on the horizon.
Each of us may make a start, however, in our individual lives: by embracing intelligence, respecting wisdom, seeking after truth & integrity in our lives, and encouraging enlightened behavior on the part of ourselves, our families, our groups, our kauhales, and our indigenous cultural milieu, the resulting example can and would be illuminating, indeed.
In California, a commonly encountered creedo is “Diversity is our strength”. It would be criminal not to note in the very next sentence that diversity induces incredible complexities into any society, and that diversity can indeed be our strength, but only if the masses recognise the importance of rising to one’s highest level of potential…rather than taking the least-resistant path, following the nation down the toilet into the cesspool of social, political, economic, and educationally ignorant excess.
See what a simple visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles can do to an otherwise semi-rational, pseudo-intellectual who thinks too much? If you have the opportunity and don’t mind a read that will take you weeks to wade through, but that promises to richly stimulate your mind, acquire a copy of Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve. Your brain will be eternally grateful, even if those dim-bulb thugs you hang out with won't be!
Aloha kakou! Malama pono!
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