A small but select crew assembled, the HMS Elitist Bastard rides at port, ready for a new mission. It be that time again, when we sail the high seas, seek out stupidity wherever it may hide and send it down to Davy Jones’s locker. We’ve a hold full o’ wisdom, cannon groaning with knowledge, and something else groaning as well.
It be the crew.
“Really, Admiral? Must we really have a sing-song?”
“Lads, we be at low tide. We cannot sail until sunset. We might as well keep ourselves entertained. That’s why I tapped a fresh barrel o’ grog for ye.”
“But… but that song?”
“Aye, that song, ye scurvy dogs! Now sing, or ye be takin’ a long walk off o’ a short plank!”
“There, laddies. Wasn’t so bad, that, now was it?”
Silence on deck, aside from the glugging o’ grog, and then Last Hussar says, “Admiral, ye be owing us such an apology, an apology the likes o’ which the British Government just gave to Alan Turing.“
“I be happy to apologize fifty years or so after ye be dead an’ gone, then, Hussar.”
It’s about that time when our Holocene Hominid, Steven Moore, announces he’s going to bed. And not to any fancy-schmancy man-cave bed, mind:
The Wall Street Journal reports on the growth of that niche market that is men who use beds. You see, men apparently need more than a mattress and manchester in order to use a bed: They need man-stuff, like television, surround sound system, sweat absorbing material, muscle recovery properties (why not just put an ad in the lost and found section of the local paper?) and safes for storing firearms. One presumes the tv has the ability to scramble gay porn, too, lest the man’s masculinity be threatened.
“Real men don’t need man-caves,” Steven states, and then stumbles off to his very ordinary bed with the remains o’ the grog.
“Well.” We stare at the blank spot where the grog used to be. “Since we’re forced into a sad state o’ sobriety, then, I guess we’ll be talking about the mission ahead o’ us, then. Bring me Nonny Mouse!”
There be a good reason we press-ganged the poor lass. She knows stupidity, she does, and asks the right question:
What is it about stupidity that America seems to love so much?
This glorification of stupidity has been consistently promulgated by films like Dumb and Dumber, Legally Blonde, Dude, Where’s My Car, Idiocracy, Borat and – god help me – Forrest Gump. We Americans love stoopid peepul. As much as I enjoy the series Eureka, it’s telling that in a town full of geniuses, the schtick is that it’s the not-genius sheriff (at least he isn’t portrayed as a slapstick idiot) who usually solves the problem by either shooting it, whacking it with a stick or driving his Jeep into it. The geniuses are stereotyped as bumbling, socially inadequate, skinny, malformed, couldn’t get laid if their Nobel Prize depended on it geeks. (Not helped that Bill Gates fits the physical profile). Real life geniuses, like John Forbes Nash, are presented as more cautionary tales – See? See? That’s what happens if you get too smart, you become paranoid and go insane. Told ya so. Pass the popcorn, Ma…
We’ll probably run into plenty o’ people like that on our voyage. Luckily, Woozle’s made bumper stickers for them.
Meanwhile, we at SnS have finally invented an award suitable for someone of Beck’s intellectual attainment – the Douglas Feith Memorial Stupidist Fucking Guy On The Planet Award, AKA, The Dougie. Since stupidity is such a common commodity, potential awardees must be actively involved in politics in some way. That should eliminate about half the possible awardees, I suspect. There’s no cash value to this prize, just the prestige of knowing that no one does stupid better than you. Congratulations, Mr. Beck. May I just add that gray really is your color?
PZ, whom we lured aboard ship with a trail o’ beer mugs, tells us about another stupid person who’s probaby deserving of an award, a man with a remarkable resemblance to a barnacle:
Barnacles are completely lacking in curiosity. It makes sense; they have very tiny brains, and all they want is to be left alone to strain the water for nutrients. For a barnacle, curiosity would be a dangerous vice. Any intrusion on their routine is a risk, and they don’t need to analyze…just slam the doors shut.
While there may be few tidepools in Minnesota, I can find some in the pages of the NY Times. Stanley Fish is apparently some species of barnacle.
We’ve not even sailed yet, and it appears we have stupid on the ropes.
Next morning at high tide, Efrique’s busy performing duty as ship’s doctor, as it seems Steven wasn’t the only one taking a barrel o’ grog to bed. He’s been researching health care recently, and has some figures to report:
I’ve seen it in words and numbers, but this makes the point very clearly. For the countries I had figures on, in 2004, the US paid more than twice as much in overall healthcare costs per person (adjusted for cost of living)… for easily the worst expected lifespan (2009 figures), almost a full year worse than the UK, which is easily the worst of the countries here (other than the US). Most of these countries manage to get more than two extra years per person average life span while spending less than half as much money.
The graph he created says it all, really.
It’s no wonder we drink.
Healed o’ hangovers, we sail on, stopping here and there to skirmish with boatloads o’ stupidity, but our main objective this sailing is the Academic Archipelago, where there’s a conference on about improving education. Z has an intriguing suggestion:
The American education system needs fixing in a lot of ways. It’s a complicated issue, but one relatively simple reform that I think would result in significant improvements is the elimination of teacher tenure.
Howls of protest turn to hmms of possible agreement as Z lays out his vision.
George W. follows up with some excellent points:
Education should empower us from the inside just as good software should empower us from the outside. It should enable us to handle not only new problems, but new kinds of problems. I want to know, does our education establishment make us clever? Or like badly-designed software does it pose constant pointless obstacles, making us feel stupid, so that we grow up with an ever-increasing resistance to learning? Could we do better than the equivalent of Microsoft Windows for the learning child’s brain?
I’m betting we can. We be Elitist Bastards, after all!
Cujo359 gives a presentation on the importance o’ education for other subsets o’ the population:
I have a suggestion for this guy, Steve Harvey, and any other pig-ignorant bigot who wants to assert something like this without a shred of proof. Go to college. A lot. Study biology, physics, mathematics, and cosmology. When you know biology as well as this guy, know physics as well as this guy, mathematics as well as this fellow, or the cosmos as well as this man did, then maybe you’ll have learned enough to show why there’s a physical or mathematical reason why people can’t learn morality without believing in your god. Maybe you can tell all those other “idiots” who missed it what they were doing wrong. Personally, I think you have about as much chance of that as you do of being struck by lightning with a winning Powerball ticket in your hand. Maybe less.
We believe he be right.
Last Hussar informs us o’ a powerful new book available for those who wish to battle ignorance:
Prof. Richard Dawkins, one of the worlds most famous atheists, has published a new book- “The Greatest Show on Earth” subtitled “The evidence for evolution”. (UK 1st edition Bantam Press, £20, 467 pages plus 32 pages full colour photos, as well as line drawn illustrations, bibiography and full index) [snip] This is very much an ‘everyone’ book- not just for those who already know evolution to be true. It will cover those gaps left by the time pressured teaching of biology in schools, and any literate teen could read it. In addition it would be a great book to lend to freinds who are open-minded enough to explore evolution, even if they never understood it beyond the soundbite culture of how it is presented in the modern media.
We shall be filling our hold wi’ copies o’ that book, ye can be sure o’ that.
The last day o’ the conference, John makes the startling announcement that Ray Comfort can learn! Or, at least, lie a little differently when he be trying to hand out copies of The Origin of Species with his creationist introduction:
In another sign of the coming Apocalypse, there is an actual indication that Ray Comfort can learn … or else yet another creationist is lying through his teeth depending on what audience he is speaking to, which would be a sign that everything is normal.
After weighing the evidence, it be determined everything is normal, and furthermore, Ray Comfort should be made to walk the plank.
Loaded wi’ ideas, we sail for home, eager to put what we’ve learned to good use. O’ course, since I be helming the ship this time round, there be a slight detour to have a look at some rocks. Knowledge o’ every sort be o’ use when we be battling ignorance.
Well done, me hearties! Ye’ve earned yer shore leave.
(Postdated so everybody has a chance to peruse)