By Tim Jones
Anyone approaching the musty quagmire of human intelligence needs to have thought very carefully about this, the most obtuse of abstractions. There are real consequences for dancing recklessly into minefields, but discussing the intelligence of others really is one of the last great social taboos of the modern age.
Let’s imagine that I have a right to speak very broadly about such a universally personal matter and just get to the bloody point.
A lot of time can be very shrewdly wasted/invested on the subject of intelligence, and a surprising number of Australians do just this. They quietly while away their years of unrequited but dignified existence with a long, slow train of thought about thought itself. There are quite a few of us, you know, hiding away like sullen cockroaches in the dark, waiting for the day when individual and collective intelligence merge by popular decree. Thinking is its own reward though, and this will have to do for the time being.
Each person has a different innate capacity which allows us to become one of those gallant and noble CEOs or just another of those dribbling mouth-breathers whom we all know and love. The mashing together of the intelligence quotient, the purported emotional quotient and bitter-sweet experience produce individuals of hugely varying capability and ethical merit. We live in a time where there are so many of these units sharing the planet with us that our own opinions seem diluted to a homeopathic degree. We one can easily begin to feel that we should just shut our stupid mouths and die as slowly as possible.
The nature of society for the individual has diminished in the last fifty years, from an individualistic notion of whether you might have something valuable to say back to the simple matter of your net financial worth.
Our children are raised with the unedifying notion that only Darwinian principles apply and that only suckers would think otherwise. Population pressures accelerate this notion, panicking the young thinkers into becoming aligned with philosophies that reflect their competitive notions. Panic produces simplistic thoughts and when the huge array of possibilities is crudely distilled into a catch-phrase then we are all poorer for it.
Most countries have some form of the old Conservative/ Progressive split, and ours is no different; a party for the rich and a party for the poor. I have always been interested to hear the rhetoric of both sides but lately I have heard one phrase that really stops my barbecue: “Moral vanity.”
This term is a vicious all-encompassing and very effective put-down of all that’s decent and good. Well done guys and gals of the Crypto party. If ever the dim candle of hope were to sputter back to life there is always a clammy pair of right-wing fingers to damp it out. Just imagine all those beady-eyes work-shopping this term into existence with all the enthusiasm of rats eating their young.
I watch as this phrase emerges from their faces, hard little eyes and sneering lips, I fight down feelings once reserved for goose-steppers, I feel foolish as the disgust replaces my thoughts. I try to understand how a term like this has emerged as a rhetorical weapon of such value to one side of politics. I want to avoid anger. I want to know. I want to know why the left tend to see the situation as a fight between good and evil and the right see it as a simple fight between the smart and the stupid. A battle between the histrionic and the unfeeling which throws bub out with the tub.
So, back to thinking, that to invent a term like “moral vanity” would mean that there must have been a compelling need for it to be created. The pressing constipation and eventual impacting, as they call it, must have been a terrible thing to experience. So what is this compelling need? Is it disgust with other people who purported to have a greater goal to their actions than mere self-advancement? Is it the distrust of genuine human emotion that cynicism defines and mandates?
Is it the fact that this supposed ‘well-meaning’ aspect of “Darwinians” (feel free to read this as “anti-crypto-fascists”) is as difficult to argue against, as it is difficult to grasp, as it is to articulate?
Obviously the challenge of being a fully-functioning adult is so daunting to some that they must reduce goodness and decency down to a speeding gob of spite. Spitting is dry work.
I can understand that do-gooders tend to attract all mentalities and temperaments to their causes and that intemperate gushing can undermine the self-evident worth of great ideals, but every intelligent person has to be able to see past the surface of things. All schools of thought have their crazies and it is easy to draw attention to them. It is also tremendously disrespectful. The central theme of a way of thinking can often be expressed very clearly indeed, but not in an adversarial context. We are denied much understanding by the intemperance of our interlocutors, mine included.
The problem for Australian thinkers and thinkers anywhere is that it is very hard to throw muck without getting one’s hands dirty. To deal with wrong-headedness makes one cringe with doubt about the probability of an indelible cross-infection. To condemn a condemner is banal and trite. To be intolerant of the intolerant is hypocritical. To hate haters is simple-minded. Dear, oh dear, oh dear.
The misuse of intelligence is one of the world’s biggest problems. I see it everywhere and I cringe at the way we are trained to respect this misuse. We all should know better, but most of us know that nobody is watching us.
Think about it. If an intelligent being only succeeds in making you feel helpless and stupid, what is their motivation and why do they use their intelligence in such a way?
That, my friend, is the nastiest of secrets.