The Way of the Word

19. January 2011

Homo Moronicus

Misanthropy week continues. Back when I was young, Homo Sapiens was translated as “knowing man.” Even at the time, that would have been my early- to mid teens, I joked that that label fit – knowing things doesn’t mean you understand them.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of years later, Homo Sapiens was suddenly changed into “wise human.”

Wise? Really? You serious? Honestly, I don’t see that. I mean, look at the standard definition of “wisdom”:

Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight. Wisdom often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions”) so that one’s principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions.”

Be honest: does that really describe humans? I’m talking about the human race as a whole. The human race that is in complete denial of the fact that we’re making our own planet uninhabitable for the sake of our immediate convenience. The human race that indifferently uses up all the world’s resources because, hey, who cares. (With some nations  even taking pride in being the ultimate resource waster — really, pride.) The race that takes those places that don’t have any resources to exploit because, since those spots are worthless anyway, they’re perfect for storing an increaing amount of (mostly toxic) waste. Just so long that it’s out of sight; let the future generations worry about the consequences. Not to mention all the pollution that results from wanting a quick buck, so let’s cut costs. (Here’s looking at you, BP.)

Does that sound wise to you?

Under the circumstances, it’s no surprise that the human race as a whole seems to be getting dumber. Or at least increasingly less willing to apply ourselves. Some people blame the media. They claim that we get so barraged by information from all over that the degeneration of our attention span to that of the average fruit fly is the logical consequence. Evolution in action. The same people claim that in order to capture what’s left of our attention for even the fraction of a second that we can still muster to apply is, one has to be increasingly loud, irritating and, well, stupid. Because, according to this theory, we no longer have the attention span to think about issues. It’s more like, there’s this issue, and what do they really… oooh, shiny…

That doesn’t explain the rise of sub-standard role models, though. When I look at the media, I don’t see anyone who can function as a role model. I see braindead celebrities who are not famous for doing anything, they’re just famous for being famous. I see politicians who, instead of standing up for something and inspiring us, are in it for the quick buck, the media appearance, personal power. Our supposed leaders might as well borrow a page from the Formula 1 racecar drivers and wear stickers of their sponsors on their suits. They no longer care about issues, all they care about is feeding their power base what that power base wants to hear, so that the power base will keep them in power. It doesn’t matter to them that their frequently hateful rhetoric (some of them sound like the reincarnation of Joseph Goebbels, and they aren’t even Nazis, they are just feeding the same base emotions) can incite murder and destruction. All they care about is the spotlight.

I’d say that it’s a shame that we want leaders whose only qualification is that they are hateful and even more stupid than we are. But then I remember that we keep those people in charge, which does lead to the implication that no, we are still stupider than they. If we weren’t, we’d get rid of them, put them back into the backwater obscurity where they belong.

It is, however, something of a trend. It seems that we can no longer tolerate heroes who act brave, heroic, considerate. Heroes who have values and principles. Heroes who, in other words, are better than we. Instead, what we look to as heroes are farces, caricatures. We don’t look to them for inspiration, we look down on them, we despise them, we feel not admiration but contempt.

Why?

Is it because it makes us feel bad to see that there are those who are better than we? There used to be a time when heroes served, as I said, as role models. As inspirations. We looked up at them and resolved to be better than we are, to become like them.

Now we tear them down to our level, or even lower. Is that because it requires an effort to aspire to something, an effort to be better than we are? And we can’t make that effort, because Jersey Shore is on, and it’s far better to mock those idiots on the screen rather than put in an effort to make the world a better place. It’s far better to choose as our leaders people who are even more stupid than we are (or so we think), because those leaders are folksy and might have a beer with us because deep down they’re no better than we are. (If you really think that, dream on. Those folksy folks will never dirty themselves by consorting with the proverbial unwashed masses. That folksy act is just an act, to make you vote for them.)

Or do you choose morons for leaders because they make you think that, since they are no better than you are, it might just as easily be you in charge? Dream on. The simple fact that you choose an unqualified moron as your leader proves that you’re at least as unfit to lead as they are.

The deeper problem with this, however, is that we are on a downward spiral. Instead of looking up, striving to be better, we tear everything down so far that we can look down on it. We ignore the fact that by doing so, we reduce ourselves, so the next time something tries to raise us up from the muck into which we voluntarily jumped, we tear that down too, and trample it down even farther, sinking even deeper ourselves. It’s a downward spiral in which we’re trapped. We can still get out, but we’d need to make an effort.

We don’t want to make that effort. And that, precisely, is why “wise human” doesn’t apply to us, never mind how often we repeat that phrase. We’re not wise. We’re exactly the opposite. We could be wise, though. We could change, we could improve ourselves. All it requires is the will to do so, the will to make that effort.

However, I’m a Star, Get Me Out of Here is on now, right?

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