Intellect is a weird topic for people. Generally speaking nobody likes to think they’re stupid. Everyone believes they know at least one thing better than most people. A lot of people base their intellect on their pop culture prowess, their political knowledge or their pseudoscientific google research. We live in the information era where we have access to everything in the world so it’s easy to think that you know everything but truth be told it seems like we’re more misinformed than ever. I want to start this off by saying, I’m pretty stupid. I realized I was pretty stupid when I learned about how I process information. I regurgitate information because that’s what I learned in school. We were taught stuff and we memorized it, recited it and then answered those questions on tests and that was the majority of my schooling. And that way of processing information is great when discussing pragmatic issues. It’s great when you’re discussing 2+2 because the answer is gonna be 4 every single time. But I noticed myself and a lot of people around me carrying those same traits into other conversations.
Everyone is plugged in to a certain frequency on the news and they come up with their conclusions based on what information they were just fed. So if I’m watching liberal news I’ll come to you with my liberal buzzwords and alternative facts and use them as gospel without actually doing independent research. And the same thing happens if I’m watching conservative news. And that would be okay if we didn’t live in democracies where your vote allegedly counts. I get why we’re so prone to just taking whatever information is given to us. Independent research is difficult and we all have jobs and real lives that don’t give you a chance to do all this research so we take the summarized versions. And in an ideal world that would work but the summarized versions of information we’re getting aren’t from experts. You’ll go on TV and watch Bill O'reilly or Wolf Blitzer talking about climate change but neither one of them is a climate expert. Neither one of them has done extensive research, gone to school to master that field, none of that. They’re just 2 guys getting paid from multiple streams of income and some of those streams of income might have a vested interest in controlling what climate policies are voted in by us.
It was very difficult for me to admit to myself that I was stupid. Intellect is one of those things in our society that we hold dearly. We have IQ tests and other tests throughout our school years that determine our intelligence levels and impose an intellectual hierarchy. A lot of people hold their intellect as a personality trait. It’s one of their main values and they’ll ignore anything that threatens their existing paradigm. We live in an era where certain ideas and opinions are frowned upon. The perfect example of this is when Kanye West showed his support for Donald Trump. Now instead of asking why he had those beliefs and opinions, he was shunned and destroyed by the liberal media. Everyone from Don Lemon to Joe Budden were tearing him down. And when Trump first won the election in 2016, a lot of politically left leaning people decided to paint this image of the Trump supporter. The Trump supporter is supposed to be a racist old white guy that lives in the woods in Missouri and wears a red hat, but in reality the average Trump supporter is at least 51% of the United States. That means Blacks and Hispanics too. But if you’re coming from an existing paradigm that everything you believe is right then it’s easier to paint the world as the racist patriarchal straight white man vs the black transgender gay Mexican Muslim refugee who supports climate change.
The world is way more complicated than that and these paradigms that are handed to us are really just using people to spread agendas. It’s like when corporations put up products with rainbows on them during pride month. They don’t give a fuck about gay people year round but all of a sudden they’re LGBT inclusive, that’s just to sell products to people that wanna feel like they’re supporting a cause without actually having to support a cause. That’s why they’ll put out black movies, documentaries and products during black history month but stay oddly quiet when a black kid gets killed in the street.
I personally think intellect isn’t something you possess. Curiosity is a personality trait I value more than intellect. If at a certain point you’ve put a cap on the information that you know and begin to assume that you know everything, that’s when you’re finished. There’s so much information in this vast universe that’s expanding every second and there’s not a human being that knows it all. We’re all born into this world within the past 100 years, the planet has been around for 4.5 billion years, homosapiens have only been around for 200,000 years and civilization as we know it only started approximately 8,500 years ago. Modern science as we know it isn’t that old with terms like scientific method really emerging in the 19th century. And even further than that a lot of our views are Eurocentric, capitalistic and built off of an agenda based paradigm lacking objectivity. For example pseudoscientific practices and beliefs like Phrenology, which is a study of the shape and size of the cranium as an indication of character and mental abilities, and Eugenics, which is the practice of improving the human race by selectively mating people with specific “desirable” hereditary traits, were used to continue the agenda of white supremacy on the world. We’re still living in that world where Europeans colonized, raped and pillaged and then instilled in us their beliefs and ways of life. And not being able to see past that keeps us looking at the shadows like Plato’s Allegory of the cave.
But a lot of people walk around with rigid convictions and opinions about how the world is. A lot of people think they’re really smart without actually having to do any research. I’m 21 years old and my generation grew up after the “Self Esteem Movement”. In 1969, Nathaniel Brandon wrote a paper entitled "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" that suggested that "feelings of self-esteem were the key to success in life". Hearing this, many people started to find ways to instill confidence in children. This resulted in competitions where everyone gets a trophy and no one actually wins. "New games" attempted to engage children without any winners or losers. We were raised on participation awards and everyone was a little genius winner. And self esteem is a good thing to an extent but too much unnecessary esteem is just narcissism.
The self esteem movement is why a lot of us walked around feeling pride over our intelligence without any justification being needed. But that unnecessary pride allows us to be uninformed. And none of these points would matter if we didn’t live in a society where being informed matters. It matters that we know at least enough to be able to make the right decisions. But there’s a worldwide misinformation agenda. We’re kept dumber by people with vested interests in a dumber population. If we’re subdued and picking one of two paradigms with a checklist of buzzwords and moral absolutism, then we can’t find common ground and have the discussions that need to be had.
Even the way politics in the West is set up is strange. Politicians have debates where the person with the best clapback wins and now they subtweet each other and diss each other with campaigns. Politicians today are the live version of the Shaderoom. They have debates on television where they’re given about 2 minutes to debate about a complex topic like climate change against 4 other candidates so that the network can sell ads but people will watch that and feel like they came out informed. And people have personal stakes in politicians and are unable to view them objectively to be able to pick the right candidate. Instead they pick a team with a horse they’re emotionally invested in and just bet on him. A lot of people’s voting behaviour is decided by what party they associated with in the past or even what their parents associated with. There’s conservatives that vote for the party because their parents voted for them for years and the same thing goes for liberal voters.
Consent for economic, social, and political policies is manufactured in the public mind through corporate media which is where we get all our information from. There’s an inherent conflict of interest that acts as propaganda for undemocratic forces. Corporate media’s agenda is to sell advertisements rather than quality news to inform the public. And a lot of times you have to look at who owns the outlet, who funds the outlet, where do they get their information from and so much more but that’s difficult. When I realized all of this is when I realized how truly stupid I was. I only know as much as I know at the moment and all of that could be completely wrong. I’m trying to stop holding intellect as a core value or personality trait and starting to see it as something to be sought after. I’ve replaced my arrogance with genuine curiosity and interest.
School imposed this image of intelligence on us. The smartest kid was the kid who could regurgitate all the information they were told. And the grading system established a hierarchy that some people carried into adulthood. A lot of people who got good grades in school didn’t care for critical thinking because we just went through 12 years of being the best at regurgitation, which meant we were smart. And as a black kid I vividly remember teachers and students treating me differently and having assumptions about me just based off of my skin colour. I noticed that they expected me to be stupid or inarticulate and it always felt like a surprise or an uphill battle. I’ve been told “you speak so well” my entire life as if it's a shocker that I’m able to speak. No white kid has ever been told “they speak so well” because it's supposed to be a given that they’re articulate. We’re walking around filled with so many opinions, implications and biases that aren't ours and once I decided to look past that lens, it made the world a blank slate again and brought me back to that place of childlike wonder and awe at our complex universe and how little we actually know about it. It’s easy to be arrogant and think you’re smarter than everyone and walk around like the real life version of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons and it’s really hard to critically think about information and do independent research on it, but that’s when you have to decipher your own motives. Is your end goal to actually be smart and informed or to appear smart and informed? And if the goal is to appear it then, cool. Get a thesaurus, use some 4 syllable words from time to time and regurgitate whatever you heard on CNN. But if the goal is to actually learn about shit in this one of a kind experience called life then actually try to learn.
And I’m not gonna act like that’s completely how I’m living. I still have opinions that I’ve heard from YouTube comments or whatever, but as I’m getting older I’m choosing to adopt curiosity instead of rigid opinions. I’m unlearning a lot of stuff that I thought was true and trying to understand that you can learn something from everyone. Obviously be critical about information but you can learn something from every single person because everyone knows at least one thing that you don’t, and even if it’s incorrect information you still get a glimpse of their worldview. And that level of curiosity opens you up to different cultures, beliefs, actions, ideas and worldviews that you wouldn’t have even considered. And that’s where the real fun in life seems to be. The real fun seems to be In the various art, food, music, communities, societies, ideas and facts that exist in this strange and complicated little world.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing"- Socrates or so