Punchinello’s Chronicles

March 16, 2011

The New Dumb America

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 6:32 pm
Tags: , , , ,

If you’re older than around 50, you’ve likely grown up hearing about the dumbing down of America. The idea came to light back in the 1980’s, with a famous book about Why Johnny Can’t Read. Since then we’ve had numerous books and reports telling us that our children are getting less and less of an education. It’s not that we, as human beings are getting stupid, it’s that we’re not getting educated. We’re becoming more and more ignorant.

Think about it: This report on why kids can’t read came out in 1986. That’s 25 years ago, and by the time the book was published there already was a decade of information and data about the problem. We’re looking at close to four decades of diminishing education — forty years!

Let’s suppose a kid went through high-school in 1990, graduating at 18. Now, in 2011, that child is 39 years old. Who are the managers, directors, corporate C-level managers? Who are the politicians, scientists, authors and editors? Who runs the country, if not people in the prime of their adult lives? Those people are usually between 25-45 years old.

Now consider the people who go to the so-called elite colleges and universities. These are the graduates of Harvard and Yale, along with other ivy-league schools. Setting aside their lack of education and preparation, we find out that almost nobody ever fails out of these schools when they’ve been accepted as part of the wealthy class. And who runs our banks, institutions, universities and other upper-level organizations?

For years and years we’ve heard about the dumbing down of America. It’s been an odd bit of trivia, something that’s probably important but doesn’t really affect us directly. We think!

And so, here we are in a nation that’s the recipient of decades of outcome-based, multicultural education. We benefit from generations of people who’ve had almost no competition, whose self-esteem is more important than their ability to think. Do we notice?

Yes, I think we do. How many times have you walked out of a store or fast-food place, shaking your head in wonder as you review the interaction with sale clerks and cashiers? It’s astounding, watching healthy American teens or even adult managers and supervisors. They can’t think, can’t count, don’t know how to do much of anything, and have nothing to offer in the way of any kind of help.

Oh, but they listen to the news! They have conversations! They DO think and talk and express themselves! Really? Have you ever actually listened to what passes of conversation nowadays? Have you read forums, Tweets and Facebook posts? How many times have you heard a conversation sound like cable news, going around and around, filled with feelings and imaginary beliefs, but empty of facts and logic?

There’s a national debate about the massive federal deficit, the economy, bank abuses and political corruption. The Tea Party speaks to issues of Constitutional disregard, financial dereliction, political stupidity, and social disintegration. We have a major earthquake in Japan, and a significant population believes that Mother Nature is mad at those folks.

Conspiracy theories abound, some of them running counter to the most basic theorums of physics, biology, science and mathematics. Yet people all over the country believe these conspiracies are absolutely true. People can’t write, can’t spell, can’t read, can’t think and don’t know the basic principles underlying much of today’s technology. To many folks, a lot of what they see everyday is pretty much magic.

Following the Japanese nuclear emergency, we now have a possibility that the entire concept of nuclear power might be terminated, ending clean energy and proposing something like wind or solar energy as a replacement. That’s ridiculous, but in order to prove it we have to use what? Reading, numbers, logic, thought, analysis, and science.

I’ve encountered more and more people in the past few years who tell me they don’t “believe” in logic! Like this is the Tooth Fairy or something?

Want to know why we won’t get any action on fixing the budget deficits, or why unemployment continues to stay high? Would you like to know why the financial sector now makes up nearly 25% of the US GDP? Want to know why we’re losing our purchasing power through inflation, taxes, and collapsing trade?

It’s because we’ve had decade after decade of children pass through an educational system that doesn’t work. Yes, there are some kids who learn things. There are many kids being home schooled. A lot of kids educate themselves, knowing how important it is. But a tremendous number of kids exit the school system as dumb as a box of hammers!

Too many people have almost no attention span, with complex ideas having to be reduced to comic books and 3-minute sound bytes. Anything longer than 1 page of material is too hard to follow, too complex to understand, and too difficult to handle. Life becomes an ongoing series of mysteries, anxieties, and fog.

Add to the problem of a dumber population, we now drug our kids into oblivion whenever they show any signs of activity beyond a fence post. Do we know what all those pharmaceuticals are doing to their brains? Not really; we just accept whatever some “expert” tells us is going on. Then, a few year down the road we find out those experts were wrong!

Oh well, too bad…so sad, we say with a shrug. So we’ve wiped out the cognitive function of a generation of people; so what? There’s always more kids we can make.

I’m not saying we need an educational overhaul: everyone knows we do. Instead, I’m pointing out that we now have such a dumbed down country (and society) that anyone can come along and convince whole majorities of people of just about anything.

The money pouring into the economy is a good thing, we’re told. Debt is actually money, we’re told. Nuclear power is bad, we’re told. Drilling for oil is bad, we’re told. Doctors know what they’re doing, we’re told. Banks are bad, we’re told.

Without critical thinking, analysis, logic, and a rudimentary knowledge of science, what’s left? A population of primitive fools, governed by warlords and priests of magic. They look with suspicion on business merchants, considering anyone who makes, manufactures or owns something to be a problem. We have adults with the maturity level of 12-yearolds, politicians who throw temper tantrums, and a President who doesn’t know what to do about complicated world problems.

We have voters who don’t understand what’s the meaning of a ballot, an election, or how those things came into existence. We have people with no money who believe they have a right to a wealthy lifestyle. We have people who believe they can hope or wish or dream themselves into a successful life, but who can’t spell “success,” and can’t define what it means.

The tipping point is here. We don’t have enough people anymore who can put together the solutions being proposed every day. There aren’t enough voters, politicians, or authorities to put into action the many action-plans that will fix today’s problems. Bureaucrats don’t understand new ideas, so they toss them in the trash.

And we have a nation governed by bureaucrats. They’re people who grew up with the education system, graduated with no mental development, and are happy sitting in front of the television eating empty-calorie food. Do you wonder why nobody’s fixing anything? Do you wonder why those who are trying to fix things are called “idiots?”

Just think back to how the smarter kids in school have been treated over the decades. We call them nerds, geeks, retards, teacher’s pet, goofs, wimps, and wuss. Then we wonder why there’s nobody left who’s capable, competent, and smart enough to actually get the country working again.

Part 1 of the movie, “Atlas Shrugged” is due to be released into theaters on April 15, 2011. I wonder if movie-going audiences will be capable of understanding what’s the movie about, now. Hopefully, there’ll be just enough people left with a mind, that perhaps it’ll make an impact and change the national debate. We’ll see.

October 27, 2010

Conservatives and Reality

The Washington Post published a recent article based on their own research into the so-called Tea Party movement. According to the article, the researchers identified somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 groups and organizations that had some sort of affiliation with or name association with the Tea Party. Those researchers then contacted the groups with a questionnaire. Approximately 650 responses came back with answers to the questions.

In the resulting article, the ‘Post reports that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of unified political system in place. There aren’t any particular leaders, there isn’t a particular political platform, nobody seems to know the other folks, and there doesn’t seem to be any sort of leadership. And yet, there is this growing “something” that’s having a tremendous impact on the 2010 midterm elections.

Tea Party “somebodies” are “somehow” entering into the primaries, overthrowing long-term incumbent candidates, putting up for election new people nobody’s ever heard of. It began with Utah’s Senator Bob Bennett failing to secure the party nomination for re-election on the Republican slate. That happened back in May, and the news media was astounded. Since then, all sorts of surprises and upsets have taken place. The Washington Post is mystified.

I have a story from many years ago that pertains to the situation. Back then, I was working with a young sales associate who was engaged to be married to his long-term girl-friend. The fella was 21, his girl-friend was 19, I think. They’d known each other for most of their school years. She was well on her way to being a political liberal, he was on his way toward being a conservative. How do I know this?

One evening they decided to go someplace on a date. She said she’d pick him up, and that she’d drive. Right on time, the girl-friend shows up, the guy gets in the car and they take off. He happened to glance over at the gas gauge (back in those days there weren’t idiot lights) and noticed the car was down to about an eighth of a tank of gas.

“Why don’t you stop and we’ll put some gas in the car, real quick,” he suggested.

The girl-friend went ballistic! “You can’t tell me what to do! I hate it when you tell me how to live my life! I can do what I want, you have no right to be so damn bossy!”

Of course the guy was astonished. All he’d suggested was that they put some gas in the car. Why? How come? What was the problem?

What it comes down to is that we, as a society are at the endgame of 400 years of philosophy. The two great arguments have to do with the nature of reality. One side of the argument proposes that reality is subject to and dependent upon the human mind (soul, heart, emotions, psyche, whatever). The other side holds that reality is greater than the human mind and functions independently from that mind.

About 100 years ago we ran into the deconstruction movement, which basically tells us that when you examine words long enough, they don’t mean anything. Using a long, complicated and convoluted bunch of arguments (all based on words, y’understand), super-smart academic theoreticians have created all sorts of “modern” thinking, educational systems, psychological principles and language problems. Today’s political correctness is yet another consequence of the theory that language means nothing.

Along the way, we had something called reality therapy shoved down our collective throats. Once again, this proposes that the words we use define our reality in the moment. We should focus on the “now,” and if we change the words we use, we’ll change all of reality. You may have noticed that in the “modern” business community nobody has problems anymore. We have “challenges” or “opportunities.”

So what’s this have to do with that guy and his girl-friend?

All this nonsense of deconstructionism, reality therapy, political correctness and so forth is founded on the same basic premise. It’s that each of us, using our own personal mind has total control over ALL of reality. Perhaps you also see the connection between this “scientific” theorizing and the concepts of New Age idealism? There too, we find that individual people can “Think and Grow Rich.” The “Secret” is to have happy thoughts, positive thoughts, and never to allow negative thoughts to change anything in your life.

Even so, it seems that no amount of happy thinking, positive thinking, or elimination of language is going to keep the car from running out of gas after it’s been driven a certain distance. No amount of hoping for change, dreaming of Utopia, and wishing that all of us could “just all get along” is going to keep that engine running with no gasoline.

So too, no amount of hope and change, dreamy idealism, compassion, love and flowers is going to overturn the fact that when you spend all your money you have no money left.

The Tea Party is only a journalistic device —- a shorthand reference phrase —- designed to make it easier to quickly summarize a growing body of previously written information. The term defines a “set” of information, regardless of whether that definition is clear or obscure, accurate or false. It means nothing in and of itself, it only serves to “group” a particular type of mindset.

That mindset is part of the overall argument that reality exists. Reality is real, it is objective and it is not a secondary consequence of the individual human mind. That being said, leading-edge experiments in quantum physics are showing indications that the connection between reality and consciousness are vastly more complex than anyone 400 years ago realized. Indeed, there may be a better commonality between today’s physicists and “primitive” shamans.

But we’ll leave magic and quantum mechanics aside for the moment and continue with Ayn Rand’s basic axiom: Existence exists.

If I know you have no more money, that you can’t borrow any more money, and you’re still spending the same amount of money you had years ago, then I can easily predict that you’re about to go bankrupt. If I then say to you, out loud, using actual words, “Hey, I think you should slow down on your spending or you’re gonna run out of money,” am I voicing an opinion?

That’s the problem for today’s journalists. That’s the deep mystery for the Washington Post. Today’s liberals (or progressive thinkers) have been told for hundreds of years that reality is all a matter of opinion. One person’s opinion is no better or worse than anyone else’s opinion. All opinions, just like all people are equal.

An academic professor will say that the statement about your running out of money is “just an opinion.” As such, it might be worth taking under advisement, but there’s no urgency involved. On the other hand, if you’re standing in the middle of a road and there’s a bus coming at you, I can shout a warning and that’s not an opinion.

To account for this bizarre distinction, those academic professors have produced zillions of words (none of which really mean anything, according to their own logic) to separate “real” facts from “opinions” about facts. One problem is that none of them understand (or believe in) facts anymore.

A liberal feels his or her way through life. Just like my associate’s girl-friend, they feel what’s real and what’s not real. The girl-friend, in this instance felt that she had enough gas to get wherever she needed to go. When her boy-friend “told” her that there likely wasn’t enough gas, she considered it to be an antagonistic opinion. He was introducing negative thinking into her sphere of illusion.

Following that logic, none of which means anything to liberals since they don’t “believe in” logic, IF the car ran out of gas it would be the guy’s fault! If he hadn’t said out loud, like a magical incantation, that the care “might” run out of gas, then nothing bad would ever have happened.

(If you don’t follow this, don’t feel badly…nobody with a functioning mind can follow it.)

This so-called Tea Party movement is made up of perhaps half the current population of the United States, which mirrors pretty much the same percentages in most of the developed nations. They’re the people who hold that reality exists independently of the human mind. They hold that effects follow causes, actions have consequences, and that human beings must work with the basic principles of reality.

Nobody in this group of people needs to communicate at all with anyone else in the group in order to understand that when it gets cloudy out, there’s a chance it will rain or snow. They don’t need a consensus to “believe” that truth is based on facts. There needn’t be a committee meeting, congressional hearings, or expensive research studies commissioned in order to understand that when you spend more than you earn, you go broke.

The Washington Post represents what many people call the Mainstream Media. These are the journalists, pundits, commentators, editors, writers, entertainers, comics, talk show hosts and “intelligentsia” who form The Narrative. That’s a term I picked up from Stephen Hunter in his book, “I, Sniper.” A great book, and an excellent term. The Narrative is that undercurrent of consensus belief that makes up our daily conversation and accepted premises.

Right now, the Tea Party is disrupting The Narrative. They’re the child pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes. They’re the ones seeing the natural consequences of actions by our political leaders. But those consequences ALL are dependent upon a foundational understanding that reality is larger than and contains all of humanity.

Reality dictates that the United States of America must have a referendum on the founding Constitution. Either we uphold that original formulation or we decide to eliminate it. From that decision, the consequence will be either the continuation of the nation as it was created, or the dissolution of that nation in favor of some different society.

We no longer have a social contract, that’s been removed and gone for years. Now, in November of 2010 we must decide whether or not to make it permanent; to tear up that original contract and come up with something else. Liberals, moderates, “undecided” voters and the apathetic voters don’t see it that way. They “feel” it’s only an opinion, and that like any other opinion, if we re-elect the current group of political leaders, so what? Things are getting better.

Conservatives disagree. Anyone who disagrees, arguing that there’s a very big, very bad, and very painful catastrophe about to arrive is just a negative thinker. They’re a crazy person, holding grudges. They don’t understand “reality.” The irony is that the very people arguing in favor of some kind of illusion also claim there’s no such thing as reality. Even so, conservatives don’t understand whatever it is.

The problem is; how can this unknown nothingness be somehow coordinating all those people in the Tea Party? How are they communicating? How do they pass their plans to each other for whatever they’re doing? It must be some sort of secret system! A mystery! A deep, abiding, inexplicable, unknowable mystery!

January 31, 2010

GOP Tries to Buy In To Tea Party

Filed under: Butterfly Wings — Punchinello @ 2:20 am
Tags: , , ,

We have a primary election about to take place here in Illinois, on Tuesday. For some stupid reason, the powers-that-be decided that having an early primary would somehow give somebody an advantage or something. Regardless, we have this primary and we have a national Senate seat in play. Rollie The Boo, otherwise known as Roland Burris, isn’t going to run for the seat. He was our interim junior senator installed by ex-governor Rod Blagojevich.

The political machine is running smoothly, thank you very much, and “everyone” seems to want Mark Kirk for the Senate. The problem is he’s pretty much your standard business-as-usual Republican. You can tell he’s part of the machine because he has all the other GOP candidates on the ticket putting out ads in his favor. And he’s doing the same for them. All the GOP machine candidates tell us the same thing: We won’t raise your taxes! We have A Plan!

What plan?

We hear they have a “plan.” They’re “conservative.” They’re wonderful, they’re perfect, and they’re who we should vote for. Why? Because they can win! And we’re told that winning is what it’s all about. Who cares what they do when they get to Washington? The fact that they’re Republicans is all that’s supposed to matter. Except…what if they’re Republicans In Name Only (RINOs)?

Up until that last election in 2008, we conservatives were told that we should hold our noses, close our eyes and vote the GOP ticket. To an extent, that’s probably what helped block the national health-care reform “bill.” It’s also helped having a block of minority Republicans stand firm, vote as a block, and try to prevent the runaway congress from simply blasting into law the entire liberal agenda.

The problem is that most GOP politicians aren’t voting principles. They’re trying to bring back the pork, they’re voting compromise, they’re wishy-washy, and they really don’t stand for anything in particular. The Tea Party, so-called conservative activists, really is only a grassroots movement to separate conservatives from Republicans. As it should be.

Conservatives have almost nothing at all to do with the GOP. That’s what so sad about watching the Republican leadership try to figure out what they can do to “co-opt” the Tea Party members. They can’t. Well, that’s not strictly true. It would really be quite simple: All any politician has to do is develop some principles, stick to them, hold to some character, and ignore all further polling numbers.

It isn’t about programs and strategies. It isn’t about being more fiscally responsible, socially aware, willing to compromise, or whatever other idiotic nonsense the lame-brains in Washington come up with. Being a conservative means thinking rationally about the world, the country, and the overall context of government. It means a clear valuation of freedom to choose, individuality, and limited government.

The reason so many voters now classify themselves as Independent is that we’re tired of agendas. We’re tired of political gaming, tactics, bargains, and “bipartisanship” whatever. What we want is representatives who actually represent us in the national government process. We don’t want people going to Washington with $1,000 and coming home with $1-million!

All these Very Wise GOP leaders and thinkers are trying like crazy to figure out how they can buy the conservative vote. What’s pathetic is that the foundation of conservative thinking is that ideals and principles can’t be bought. They aren’t wil-o’-the-wisp blatherings meant only for cocktail parties and drunken complaints.

The Tea Party isn’t properly a political party, nor is it a movement. It’s a simple way to separate conservative thought, values, and principles from all other political groups. Conservatives aren’t Libertarians. They’re not Constitutionalists. They’re not Green something. It used to be fairly easy to say someone was a conservative. But the mainstream media insists on calling conservatives “activists” and “fringe crazies,” lumping it all in with progressive liberalism.

Too bad, so sad. The GOP will stumble along, mumbling about what it will take to convince conservatives that they’re really important. They’ll try to figure out how much it’ll cost, what catch-phrases to use. They’ll talk about feelings, family, values, and whatever other load of crap we’ve been hearing for 50 years. And while they’re doing this, they won’t ever understand why nobody cares, nobody’s listening, and why they likely won’t win much in the coming elections.

Actually, that’s not true. Winning candidates likely will be listed as Republicans. We’re not all that dumb, and we realize that a third party won’t be such a great idea. But, as with Scott Brown, it’ll be a listing “in name only.” Conservatives will be the true Republicans In Name Only! What an irony! They’ll have the label “Republican,” but won’t have much to do with traditional GOP gobblety-gook.

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