Dumbed Down Without a Fight

I think it’s time for rational, mature adults to step up to the plate and tell the truth about the state of humanity. I’m going to do that right now. But even more important than my telling the truth is your spreading it so that we can deal with it. Here’s what I would appreciate. If what I write makes sense, please send information about this blog to everyone you can reach.

Although Random House recently approached me to do so, it would mean absolutely nothing for me to write another best selling book in a society where 95% of all citizens do not read one book a year. But with your help, we can get this information to the masses in time to alter our course somewhat. Without your technological assistance, these ideas will continue to be overlooked and ignored. We’ve all got a dog in this fight and most of us realize that our societal direction is becoming psychotic.

First of all, I take no credit for the ideas I am about to share. I’m a simple Missouri guy who, thanks to risk, sacrifice and hard work, created the wealth and time freedom to embark on two decades of pleasurable study and research. For the past twenty years I have made it my hobby to read as many as five books a week by some of the greatest minds in business, science, technology and culture.

Second, I have purposefully read books on both sides of issues so as to not fall victim to confirmation bias by reading primarily those authors who support my personal opinions.

Third, I’m not a conspiracy theorist who finds adversaries behind every tree, nor do I believe that our current social and economic problems are hopeless.

Fourth, I have no political agenda in spreading this information. It’s up to you and me, and not some new president or celebrity, to make changes. What we need immediately is a widespread return to common sense which no celebrity or politician has been able to facilitate.

It’s all up to you and me.

Finally, if you’re happy with the human condition as it exists, you need read no further and certainly need not recommend this essay to anyone. If for example, you are better off emotionally and financially than you’ve ever been or if you feel that spending trillions of our tax dollars to send Americans to Mars by 2020 makes more sense than solving the mortgage crisis, the US deficit and feeding the 30,000 kids who die each week from hunger, this essay will only anger you. Stop reading right now.

Before I begin, I would like to give some of the credit for the ideas shared in this essay to Benjamin Barber, author of Consumed, and consultant to numerous civic leaders on every continent in the disciplines of democracy, citizenship, culture and education. Barber serves as Distinguished Senior Fellow at The University of Maryland.

I would also like to call your attention to a book called Moving Cultures by Andre Caron who holds the Bell Chair at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Emerging Technologies at the University of Montreal. And I learned a great deal from Marc Houser’s book Moral Minds. Hauser has a background in evolutionary biology, and psychology and serves as Director of the Cognitive Evolutionary Mind, Brain and Behavior program at Harvard University.

Now to my thesis concept. I believe that North American Society is being dumbed down and its citizenry systematically converted from energetic producers to passive consumers. I believe that you and I can and must reverse that process if we are to preserve capitalism.

In this first essay I’ll offer some insights into how we arrived here. It does absolutely no good to assign blame to any sector of an economy for creating profitable systems when that’s the stated objective of every for-profit company. My purpose is to eliminate stupidity, not draw attention to those who have figured out how to profit from it.

The dumbing down of America was officially launched when the corporate world discovered that people could be seduced into a world of digital communications and trapped there. Corporate strategists facilitated a slow addiction to social connectedness by convincing people that they don’t just need tools for urgent communications, but rather that all communications are themselves urgent. They aren’t. In fact, most are irrelevant.

The result is a culture of widespread attention deficit disorder where meaningless, superficial and shallow dialogue have become more important than focus, concentration and productivity. “Quick, pull your car over. Your babysitter is calling because she can’t find the ketchup!” Or worse, keep right on driving while you talk to her and risk a head-on. Cell phone induced traffic fatalities occur every 16 minutes.

By popularizing a widespread attitude of infantile habits and behaviors that legitimize childishness and immediate gratification, an army of mindless consumers has been ushered into a kind of “Stepford Existence” where everyone gets to be master and commander of their own little screens and ringers.

Once rational adults are frozen in perpetual adolescence, they remain youth consumers even when they become adults. The process is what I call the Peter Pan syndrome. In case you’ve forgotten Peter’s philosophy, here’s a direct quote from the book and movie: “I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to be a man. I want to always be a little boy and to have fun.”

In fact, if it hadn’t been for his sister Wendy’s common sense, Peter and his siblings would have been flying around in their pajamas flinging tinker bell dust right into adulthood.

Or to put it in today’s context – unless rational adults start telling the truth, many will continue rolling around on skateboards listening to Moby, answering cell phones, flinging e-mails into Cyberspace and playing Grand Theft Auto well into their fifties.

And who can blame all the intelligent, responsible thinkers among us for keeping quiet? Many of us see the insanity, but what sane person likes to be emotionally hammered by special interest celebrities?

We’ve all witnessed the same scenario over and over. The second step in the infantilzation of America has been for special interest groups to trot out pseudo experts in order to systematically discredit those who point out that the Emperor has no clothes. Nobody likes to be publicly ridiculed as “dinosaurs, technophobes and ludites who, ‘just don’t get it’.”

It’s gotten to the place now where any credible authority who holds a magnifying glass up to America’s cultural stupidity becomes the victim of public attacks. Let a PhD in quantum physics point out anything that diminishes the stock values of some aerospace or pharmaceutical giant, and you can bet that within a week there’ll be a panel of experts on Larry King spinning some rumor about that expert’s former relationship with a goat. Or you’ll find out that his daughter used to be his son and now heads up Lesbians Against The Bible. I think you get the picture. Thinking people have become a bit gun shy. Credible experts are mercilessly attacked by hired guns with minimal expertise.

So back to my thesis. The problem is that we are allowing ourselves to be systematically dumbed down without a fight. We’ve been led to believe that communications are urgent, immediate gratification is more of a priority than focused effort, consumption is more fulfilling than production, and being stuck in adolescence is not only possible, but desirable.

The self-esteem experiment initiated into our school system twenty years ago has churned out an entire generation of narcissists who believe that they can achieve all their goals with or without skills or experience if they just dare to dream. If you want to know much more, read the fabulous book Generation Me.

Books like The Secret perpetuate that same myth among adults. For the first time in human history the Internet has opened an infinite portal of human philosophy, history and wisdom. Yet according to Google’s own statistics, the top searches from 2001-2005 were Eminem, Britany Spears, Pamela Anderson, Harry Potter, Janet Jackson and Paris Hilton. Go figure.

Clinical obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Grand Theft Auto III outsells Beethoven, Bach and Mozart combined. Millions of people have decided to take prescription drugs for PR-created maladies like restless leg syndrome, rather than depending on the former cure known as walking. And those who do walk have been persuaded that they need ski poles.

With all this going on, it would seem that most adults with an IQ above room temperature would be highly cynical, negative and demoralized. Millions of Americans are! Others, like me, are incurable optimists. I give thanks every day for the good fortune of having been born in the greatest country on earth at the greatest time in human history.

I believe in the intelligence and resourcefulness of my North American brothers and sisters and I think the solutions to the challenges we face are not only within reach, but doable.

First though, we all need to take a deep breath, stand back and view our civilization from a posture of common sense and clarity.

The purpose of this essay was simply to get your attention. If I succeeded and you share some of these same concerns, tell other people the truth and we’ll get a dialogue started. I think you’ll agree that the path forward is not nearly as daunting as our celebrities and leaders would have us believe.

We have to begin by giving up a few bad habits and before you know it, stupidity will gradually begin to wind down and rational adult decision-making will return to its rightful position in society.

Believe it or not when I was young, air was clean and pornography was dirty. Drive-bys are nothing new – that’s what our family did every Christmas Eve. We kids put on our pajamas and Dad drove us around town so we could look at all the beautiful lights. There were two gangs on our block. I was in the gang of guys that played baseball. The guys in the other gang were more into fishing.

You may think of me as an old guy, but I must tell you, the 60s were cool years to be a teenager. Like dude, real cool. So chill and help me spread the word.

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