Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Americans.

I've spent a good deal of time in the USA, both throughout my life and in recent weeks. As such, I feel qualified to make some observations about them, how they think and act, and what they might have up their sleeve.

If you've never seen the movie Idiocracy, please get yourself a copy. The gist: people in 500 years will be extremely stupid, and an average person today would easily be the world's smartest person in the 26th century.

On the long drive back from Chicago on the Easter weekend, I mentally mapped-out a "spectrum of enlightenment," if you will — on one end, citizens are well-informed about both local and world affairs, think before they make decisions, and are generally "with it." On the other end are the morons in Idiocracy — people who watch TV shows such as Ow My Balls! while sitting on Barcaloungers which double as commodes:


I realize this is a simplistic analysis, and a crappy diagram to boot. But hey, (a.) I'm not a smart guy, and (b.) I'm no artist. At any rate, here's my take on where "average" members of both Canadian and American societies compare:


Harsh? I don't know. Visit both countries, talk to the people, get a feel for both places, and get back to me. I grew up a 30-minute drive from Michigan, and we'd go there at least once or twice a month to shop and buy cheap gas. At last count, I've visited 27 US states — some admittedly in a "passing through" kind of way, others in more depth — and eight provinces.

But, like a wise person once said, "Never try to walk across a river which has an average depth of four feet" — that is, averages can be deceiving. As such, I've tried to capture the range of American and Canadian enlightenment in this next diagram:


If I were a better artist, I would have drawn in the distributions, because they sure aren't symmetrical bell-curves. I think the right ends of the bars are fairly small; smaller than the left ends. I also think the two distributions are sliding around; the US more to the right side of the spectrum, and the Canadian (slowly) to the left. (Michael Adams has an excellent book, Fire and Ice: The US, Canada, and the Myth of Converging Values, which studies shifts in public opinion in much more depth.)

Now, here's the punchline. There's such overwhelming popular anti-intellectualism in the US — they want their president to be a plain-talkin', brush-cuttin', man-of-the-people (despite multiple Ivy League degrees and an ├╝ber-privileged upbringing), for example — that I'm afraid the people on the left end of the spectrum will just get drowned-out. You can see it on TV — I think David Letterman said it best about Bill O'Reilly that when he observed that O'Reilly "would rather be loud than right."

Unfortunately, these days, "loud" trumps "right" — I had to turn CNN off because their Sunday afternoon show, Politics, was going to be a special on Clinton vs. Obama, with a whole boxing-match motif. No policy comparisons, no in-depth analysis... just a stupid, sensationalistic "he said this, and she said that! Wow!" hour of vapidity. Do we see that in Canada? Not really.

Anyway, in the words of Terence Maddox, "I think I've made my point." Whatever that is. And now, if you'll excuse me, an all-new Ow My Balls! is on.

3 comments:

Dan said...

J, I'm going for the lowest common denominator here so...

Statistics are like bikinis - what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.

Also, Idiocracy is a good movie that nobody has seen. Fox pulled all it's advertising budget and it was in and out of theaters quickly. I guess they had it in for Mike Judge since Office Space.

Eve said...

"This is no time for a hand job!"

JTL said...

Joe: "You went to law school at Costco?!"

Frito: "Yeah, I'm surprised too. My dad's an alum, he had to pull a few strings."

God damn I love that movie.