You and I are underdosed and we’re ready to fall
Raised to be stupid, taught to be nothing at all
-Marilyn Manson “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me)”
Another idea that came out of this film for me: could it be that the stupidity Nerenberg portrays is a reaction to the availability of information, the sheer number of issues playing out across the planet every day? We have more choices than ever now for learning. The world is smaller; the information available is massive, and maybe the whole array of choices is intimidating. I wonder if the emphasis on stupidity in popular culture is a sort of reaction to that, a way of saying, hey, we’re not quite ready. We’re afraid. Thus the strange appeal in vacuousness.
Then again, despite the availability of information and the time we are afforded to study it, a good deal of TV and popular entertainment is pitifully stupid. So maybe the answer is a more prosaic one. Maybe people are just reflections of the vapid shit they consume on a daily basis.
In my opinion, the most serious problem facing our culture right now is not stupidity, it is desensitization. You bump into the pitifully stupid; it’s true, but most are more than smart enough to grasp and make informed decisions about the issues in their lives. It’s just that with so little say in them, they feel there wouldn’t be any point. As much as the ruling elite may have succeeded in obscuring the truth and dumbing people down, I feel a more serious issue is their success in numbing people down.
It is true that chronic stress and worry reduce intelligence- literally, scientifically- as does exposure to chemicals and toxins. They seriously degrade the body’s ability to heal itself, and without an enriched, stimulating, safe environment, the brain and nervous system suffer. Stress during pregnancy appears to lower the child’s IQ.
Disempowerment, depression, ennui, chronic stress and worry, however, all have the effect of numbing us, making us more susceptible to false outlets and addictions. Mindless consumerism. That, combined with economic stress and worry, tends to make us less likely to speak out on cruelty and injustice, even if we perceive them at some level, like a distant cry we tune out.
Why think about an oil spill that destroys a coastal ecosystem? Why should we contemplate US aggression, domination and flagrant violation of international law in which hundreds of thousands die so that politicians and war profiteers can further enrich themselves? This is football season, and they’re running repeats of Baywatch.
It’s painful to face up to it, but in my opinion, more difficult not to. The worst nightmare is the one where we refuse to admit we’re living a nightmare, where we numb ourselves, wear fake smiles and speak in strained voices but are dying inside because we sense something is horribly wrong. Waking up, even if it is painful at first, is better than that.