Stupidity is fashionable. I began to recognize this trend many years ago while watching a beer commercial on television in which a bunch of guys were slobbering into telephones. I couldn't understand why this annoyed me so much, but I think it was one of those stand-out moments, the kind during which you know that trouble is coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
I got the same feeling in 1981, when regular people started to buy computers, and then again in 1984, when the AIDS epidemic had ramped up enough that even straight people were starting to panic. I was standing in the hallway discussing it with some people I worked with, and a guy walking by overheard us and said, "The party's over." Truer words were never spoken.
I'm not going to go into the entire history of stupidity, but comedy got really stupid in the early '90s. Comedians began to ignore subtlety and only make fart and tit jokes. Movies like Dumb and Dumber became all the rage. By the first few years of the aughts, satire had vanished almost entirely. Thanks to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it's making a comeback.
But I have a horrible admission to make: I am beginning to understand the need not to know. Ignorance, I've decided, isn't all bad.
Personally, the more I know, the more miserable I become. I can't remember the last time I went a whole day without hearing something about global warming and the tragedies sure to ensue. I want to be geopolitically aware, but once I become so, every bit of news I understand makes me sick. Every politician running anything in this country seems to have an IQ lower than my dumbest dog. Why should I ponder the decisions they make when I know the bottom line as well as everybody else? Politicians make decisions based on avarice and greed and then dress them up with their expensive educations.
But the people I feel the sorriest for are kids. Learning about the world these days has got to be a lot like the Monty Python cheese-shop sketch. In the cheese-shop sketch, a guy goes into a shop anticipating all the myriad varieties of cheeses he's about to taste, and every kind he asks about is all gone. Brie gone, cheddar gone, Swiss--the cat's eaten it. On and on it goes until the poor schmuck realizes there's not a single piece of cheese left in the shop.
A little kid goes to school, learns about something cool like a mountain gorilla or a tiger, and gets all excited, only to be told at the lesson's end that by the time he's old enough to actually go and see one of these creatures, it will no doubt be extinct.
Maybe it's better not to know about gorillas and tigers in the first place, and not have to face so much disappointment. You can't miss something you've never had. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a kid these days? To constantly get the message that the world's almost all used up, and there's probably not a thing you can do about it? No wonder kids are turned off by science. At the end of every lesson, they get their noses rubbed in the fact that the processes shaping the world they've been born into are obviously spiraling out of control for the simple reason that everybody who came before them used all the shit up.
Junior might see a tiger, but only in the zoo. Same with a mountain gorilla, but as he looks into its eyes, he'll feel the sorrow and the loss, for the simple reason that he's a kid and can still feel.
I get such a kick--only not in a good way, more like a steel-toed boot up the ass--with the way environmentally correct adults harangue the youth about environmental awareness and "going green." Kids didn't make this mess; grown-ups did. Yet every single day, kids get the message that they're the ones who have to do something about it.
This is depressing shit, and it makes it hard to indict anyone for wanting to remain ignorant.
People used to be fond of saying, "knowledge is power." I think these days, knowledge, at least without a full bottle of Prozac, is pretty crushing.