Monday, April 05, 2010

In which I become kind of bitchy and ask disparaging questions about stupid people

(Please note: the fact that I'm writing about stupidity guarantees I've made some sort of ass-hatted typo in this post, so I'm asking your forgiveness in advance. Thank you!)

Every time someone rockets into rush-hour traffic like a happy-go-lucky, dumb-ass Starsky and Hutch or uses the word "anonymous" when they mean "unanimous" or insists that Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt are the same interchangeable person, I ask myself the following question: are stupid people happier? And if so, how do I sign up?

Now, I'm no brainiac. Science makes no sense to me and I'm half convinced that physics is some kind of voodoo magic. The only foreign language I ever mastered was a dead one. And math, in my opinion, was something invented by a cruel man with an overfondness for parentheses. The elitist in me, though, does think I'm smarter than the average bear.

I used to think this was a good thing. Being smart meant I could do crossword puzzles and answer questions on "Jeopardy" with enough accuracy to make Alex Trebek choke on his own mustachioed smugness. It meant I could boast about my SAT verbal scores and secretly nursean esoteric crush on William Seward, way-dead secretary of state for Abraham Lincoln. My smartness made me feel special, different from the rest of the herd. (Moo.)

My brand of braininess, though, has yet to earn me a six-figure salary or the ability to figure out the difference between a stock and a bond. (One's a thing you make soup with and the other's played by Daniel Craig's abs, right?) And it hasn't really made me any happier. In fact, it's just given me more things to worry about. Will an asteroid hit the Earth and annihilate us like the dinosaurs? Stupid people don't worry about this -- mostly because they don't believe in dinosaurs. What if climate change kills our crops but someone forgot to close the door on the Doomsday Seed Vault? What if J.D. Salinger was just sitting on his ass all these years and never, ever wrote another story about the Glasses? Stupid people aren't stressing out about this stuff. They're putting quarters up their noses.

I've observed a lot of stupid people in my time, like the guy across the street who can amuse himself for hours by jumping up and down on his doorless car and then chasing the ice cream truck with a baseball bat. (That really happened, by the way. I'm pretty sure our local ice cream truck driver is some sort of pervert, though, so who knows who the bad guy was in that scenario.) There are people who don't even know the Holocaust happened or that Stalin starved millions during World War II -- their brains are untouched by these downers of reality, leaving more room for memorizing Daughtry lyrics. (Sorry, Daughtry fans. And when I say "sorry," I'm apologizing to your ears on your behalf.) And I have to wonder, are these ill-informed people happier than those of us who pay attention to the world around us?

I'm starting to think they are, and it hardly seems fair. Did I study hard in school and read book after book just so I could learn enough to bum me out by middle age? Would I be a more gleeful bunny if I just stopped paying attention and dumbed down? For example, today I found out that NASA is retiring the space shuttle at the end of this year and after that, anyone who wants to go to the International Space Station has to fly in one of those Russian Soyuz spacecrafts, which I'm pretty sure is like being rocketed into space in a Fiat with the windows open. Now, if I'd just remained ignorant about this fact, I'd still be under the impression that space shuttles were flying around in space like perky ten-ton ponies. But no, now I'm wondering if the Soyuz has seatbelts.

So what do you think? Are stupid people happier? Are we brainy types just making life harder for ourselves?

30 comments:

Leah said...

I think stupid people *think* they're happier. Whereas smart people get the full spectrum-- all the mountains and valleys.

So yeah, we're the ones who get anxious over the melting polar ice caps, and twitch when the cafeteria offers "Mashed Potatoe's" (true story.)

But we also laugh when Moist says "I kind of thought I'd be going out with Bait" in Dr. Horrible, because we can understand complexly-built puns. And of the two options, I'd rather take the one where I'm in on the joke.

This blog post, btw, was fantastic. Laughed out loud several times.

Christina M. said...

You've written perfectly what I have pondered over the last year after being laid off. Reminds me of my yearbook quote "Now that we're old an wise, don't you wish we were young and stupid?" Sometimes I do. I worry about what changes the world will go through over the next couple of generations. And whether Soyuz has seatbelts.

Loved this post.

Sleepy mama said...

You're a very happy person; you're just too busy thinking to realize it. Ponder that a while. :)

Happy Spring! Great post to start the new season!

crone51 said...

I was one of those kids who worried about the universe expanding and radioactive fallout and diseases I read about that my friends had never heard of. I have always been bright enough to worry and yet dumb enough to not figure out something clever to do with all that energy I use up fretting. I am too smart and not smart enough all at once. I would settle for one or the other extreme. Being mildly above average is a drag. I thinking happiness is for stupid boring people. And it's probably overrated as well. Frak it.

LaurieM said...

and who else could relate to Holly Hunter's character in "Broadcast News", when pretty boy/stupid anchor William Hurt said, "It must be great to always be the smartest person in the room," and she said "No it isn't, it's awful!" - and knew exactly what she meant... because ignorance really would be bliss sometimes...

Belinda said...

Happiness is fleeting but stupid lasts forever :-) Great post!

Angielala said...

What a great post!

I really believe that ignorance is bliss. At least that is how it appears to those of us on the outside.

I am going to nursing school, have a 3.9 GPA, and my co-workers think I'm crazy for going back to school. One even told me that she can't stand to read. I can't discuss my classes with anyone I work with, and cannot share ideas, as they have no individual thoughts.

I think it would be easier to be so involved in my own little world that I could ignore someone using your instead of you're, or their, there, or they're interchangeably, but I can't.

My job is answering emails from our online customers. I am getting more and more concerned the older I get because of the stupidity I see and read on a daily basis.

Would I change myself to be more like most everyone around me? No. I like catching the little inside jokes, having "I am disappoint in your grammar" on my email signature and never having anyone laugh at it as hard as I did. I like being able to be a bit of a snob because my term papers never get marked off for grammar, and I like being able to do crossword puzzles in ink. :-)

I'm too smart for where I'm at, but not smart enough to get myself out, or to stop thinking about the crazy things going on around me or in the world.

Oh, and if anyone finds spelling or grammar errors in my post, you can just have a good laugh at my expense! :-D

Ivy said...

I cannot even count the number times I have pondered this very fact.

Especially now that people seem to be getting dumber. That, or there are more stupid people. Depressing either way, really.

I figure at some point, though, we're due to have some sort of massive collapse/apocalypse/zombie invasion and the smart people will be the ones to survive and it will all be okay. Right? RIGHT?

Ahem. I mean....yeah, I'm going to go drink some more wine now. (Also, to the commenter above me who answers online customer emails--I feel your pain.)

Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity Music said...

When I was growing up I somehow got the notion that everyone was a hidden genius about *something*. The older I get, the less likely I know that is (but I'm still hoping. That may be a sign of my own little mental "challenge"). I lose a lot less sleep over impending doom than I used to, but it still feels like I'm the only one who can feel it in the wind sometimes. Glad you mentioned the shuttle. I actually teared up a little about it this morning. Ground control to Major Tom!

dramatikpanther said...

A recent Simpsons episode had Lisa fail a test. Horror stricken, the other girls thought she was cooler for it. Her teacher shows up on the playground, says "There was a mistake. You got an A+++." The other girls now mock her in a circle, pointing and shouting "Gifted! Gifted!" My brother and I laughed with the sad realization and painful memories of being kids teased at school because we were in the gifted program.
Am I frustrated when a coworker at my retail job asks "How is school going" (I'm in grad school for English education) and as I start going into detail about annotated bibliographies, they look at me like I'm crazy? Yes. But I ignore it, stop talking, and give them the easier answer: Yeah, it's going great!
I've been lucky to have a smart family and luckier to find smart friends as I got older, people who get the Dr. Horrible jokes and at the same time can laugh at potty humor. Those are the best kinds of friends a smart girl can have, the best of both worlds!

Lissy said...

Of course stupid people are happier! I try my best to remain as ignorant as possible. I like to pretend bad things don't exist. It's hard, especially when people are so frelling wrong ALL THE TIME and someone needs to tell them. You hear me stupid people? You're wrong! You're wrong! They're so stupid though, they never believe they're wrong and are always happy to live in the made up stupid world they love so much. They're everywhere too. In every city in every country in the world. They're everywhere and they're taking over. They're plotting. I seeeee them. *shifty eyes*

Maria S. said...

I don't think stupid people are happier...just stupid.

Felicia Kramer said...

Great post! Whenever I bring up something new that I just learned or something about how I feel about the "big issues" a certain person in my life says, "Why do you care?" Stupid.

Red said...

I think people have expertise or are more knowledgeable in some areas than others. I have a grad degree in sociology so I really care about what's going on in the world, we talk politics at work, and my friends are social activists and/ or elected officials. Yes, I am an over educated liberal.

However, my own brothers and brother in law are clueless about these things. My brothers don't even vote! Otoh, they are really knowledgeable about thinks I am cluelessabout, like psychology, electronics, and exercise, all very worthwhile topics.

I think the stupidity is that they, whoever theyare, don't agree with what I agree with & so we label them stupid. Otherwise, I'd have to acknowledge that Republicans are actually using their brains when they do what they do & and that just hurts my brain.

Otoh, I live in Georgia which consistently ranks at or near the bottom of the educational scale and has done for decades. Add to that the legacy of racism tand poverty that continues to this day. And, oh yes, the (Rep) gov's decision to furlough teachers instead of raising taxes including my own, to balance the state budget.

So I am as impatient as any of the other posters here about people's stupidity. My pet peeve is the improper use of quotation marks. But really the target of my ire are tea baggers who want 1) small gov't and unemployment benefits but 2) don't think there should be a public safety net, and 3) cannot spell even as they 4) want English to be the only language is the US.

qtilla said...

I think that we all choose to be happy or not.

It is easier for thinkers to find things to struggle with. Thinkers choose to feel conflicted because it gives them more opportunity to do what they want, which is think.

I wonder if you are asking the right question the wrong way. Maybe the right way is, why can't smart people let themselves be happy?

Rebekah said...

They do seem happier, don't they?

My SAT verbal score was great, and in the decade since, I've been disappointed to find the only time anyone has ever asked (or cared!) was when I filled out college applications.

It hardly seems fair, does it? ;)

Quilt Monkey said...

I used to keep up with all of the current events and stay as "aware" as possible, but I found myself getting more and more depressed. Just watching reality tv can be a downer seeing how seriously stupid people can be. (Yes, I know I dangled a preposition - this is something I do knowingly and willingly now!!) I finally stopped watching the news all together, and I stay out of political conversations. I had to make a conscious decision not to think about certain things in order to maintain my sanity. I don't know if I'm "happier", but definitely less depressed!

Jeez - reading through my comment is making me depressed. Ugh.

Mark said...

I try to take the scientific outlook (because I find that science works even if -- especially if -- you're stupid). Casual observation tells me that people in aggregate may well be getting stupider. But I see nothing to lead me to think that people are getting happier. To the contrary. I conclude that dumber and happier do not necessarily correlate. It's a flabby and unconvincing answer, but it's the best I can do without fat stacks of grant money.

So I guess I don't really know.

I do know that nobody who ever asks you "How's it going?" really wants to know how it's going.

Also, people like having opinions better than they like thinking about their opinions.

Jen said...

Of course they're happier... Years ago when I worked in a bookstore I had an argument with a customer who INSISTED that his son was, in fact, asking for the correct book. That book: The Diary of Ben Frank. Another favorite was "I have to read Dante's Inferno, but I don't know who wrote it."

Then again, the first thing I thought of when you mentioned William Seward was "Seward's Folly."

Emily said...

Oh the stupids. The poor, poor stupids. And the poor poor us's for having to live in the world with those stupids. I've cut myself off from watching the news during election season because I just can't cope with the rampant stupidity. And now no more shuttle? Good lord will it ever end?

I really like Ivy's idea about the massive collapse/apocalypse/zombie invasion that would only leave the smarties. That is a day I can look forward to!

Until then those of us who can put a sentence together and who get the heady jokes put out there for our amusement must stick together. I'll keep right on reading what you write because you, my friend, are one of us.

Valeria said...

I have often wished aloud that if I could go back in time I wanted to be a high school cheerleader. They seem so happy, so clueless.
I think that in many cases people that seem stupid are really just ignorant and/or apathetic, and as far as I can see Ignorance and/or Apathy is bliss.

Distinction Escorts said...

I think stupid people are happier, but this comment made me happier without making me dumber- "I'm half convinced that physics is some kind of voodoo magic"

reedsandstrings said...

Anatole France said that a person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance.

For me though, most of the time, that's too high a price.

(Sometimes I boycott the news, though, when it all gets to be a bit much.)

olivia said...

Happier? No. For the stupid masses must, on some level, realize they are missing out on such intelligent humor as yours!

stardreamed said...

Well, you could just do what Homer Simpson did & just stick the blue crayon up your nose & into your brain if you think it'll make you happier & more popular. ;)

JusticeRobin said...

It's tough. It looks so much easier to just not have to think. To not have to worry about what I'm going to do after grad school. But I've been around enough people on the other side to know they can be just as miserable, just about a different subset of stimuli.

Valeria mentioned cheerleaders-- the thing is, my sister was one (think "Daria," that's my life) and she was just as miserable as I was, but for her it was having to bake several dozen brownies for the football team and have their locker room decorated before friday practice (as feminist me twitched silently), except that the other cheerleaders had refused to help, where for me it was a Mock Trial competition when I had an AP English paper to write and her hair glitter was all over all of my stuff. Granted, she's a lot smarter than the average cheerleader, but you get my point.

I gotta admit the ignorance thing is tempting sometimes. But then other times I look at the people who are terrified that America is being run by a ferrin-bornded muslin [sic] and I think maybe I'm better the way I am.

kristy said...

whatever you do, don't watch the movie Idiocracy (if you haven't already). I found it both hilarious and disturbing/depressing, as I could seriously see the human race headed toward a future where stupidity is more highly valued than intelligence. aaaah!

Megan said...

The older I get, the more my priorities shift. Sure, I remember some stuff from undergrad and grad school, but in my day-to-day life, I rarely call upon specifics from this era. I have to apply a different skill set to my job, to being a mother to a preschooler and so on.

Sometimes those brain candy shows such as Entourage are a nice outlet precisely b/c I can watch without thinking. Granted, I don't want to go through life like this all the time but sometimes it does feel good to tune in, drop out, with TV being the opiate.

So am I happier, having dumbed it down? No, I'm the same worrier I've always been. Now I just worry about different things, such as something terrible happening to my child. It's more of a reality to me than some of the world's greater problems at large.

Is it more laziness than stupidity b/c I don't keep up with trends in the academic and literary worlds? All I can say is, I bet I know more about breastfeeding, potty training, fairy tales and Disney song lyrics than some physics prof at Harvard.

P.S. Having a degree in English, it does irk me to hear and read how people butcher our language every day. What is so difficult about grasping the concept of using the apostrophe for the possessive, NOT the plural. Idiot's, every one of them ;)

Red said...

Here's a blog that fits right in: Hyperbole and a Half. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/04/alot-is-better-than-you-at-everything.html

I found it via Wil Wheaton's tweets. Best part are the illustrations.

Sample post:

"The Alot is Better than You at Everything"
As a grammatically conscientious person who frequents internet forums and YouTube, I have found it necessary to develop a few coping mechanisms. When someone types out "u" instead of "you," instead of getting mad, I imagine them having only one finger on each hand and then their actions seem reasonable. If I only had one finger on each hand, I'd leave out unnecessary letters too!


If I come across a person who seems to completely ignore the existence of apostrophes and capital letters and types things like "im an eagle and im typing with my talons, so dont make fun of me cuz this is hard," I like to imagine that they actually are an eagle typing with their talons. It would be a hassle if you had to hop in the air and use your feet to karate-chop two keys simultaneously every time you wanted to use the shift key to make a capital letter. Also, eagles lack manual dexterity, so I can understand why they'd want to leave out apostrophes. Eagles are all about efficiency.

Kristen said...

Great post! Very smart (although, considering the topic, maybe that isn't a compliment). :)
I just heard someone mention the name of your blog at starbucks the other day and thought I'd check it out. I think I'm a nerdy woman. At least, I used to be. Now, I have a toddler and often feel like my brain cells are starved for attention. Although, I do feel happier...hmmm...