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The Reign of Collective Stupidity

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By David Solway

An  acquaintance of mine tells the story of finding himself in the midst of a public  demonstration against Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The chant being  raised, so reminiscent of the 1960s, was: Hey, Hey, Ho Ho! Stephen Harper  Has Got To Go. My acquaintance asked a placard-bearing young woman,  obviously a student, what precisely she objected to in Harper’s conduct and  policies. She was unable to respond. He repeated his question and, after some  hesitation on her part, received the answer: “I don’t know, but he’s got to go.”  Ipse dixit!

 

Listening  to CBC radio’s weekly opinion sampler, Cross-Canada Checkup, on the  Sunday before New Year, I was treated to a random specimen of public  perspectives and sentiments on issues regarded as having been of major  importance in the year coming to an end. I learned, inter alia, that  global warming was a dire threat to the continuance of the species. I discovered  that our conservative government has pursued an agenda injurious to the national  interest. And so on. That global warming has been largely discredited and that  temperatures have remained stable for the last 17 years was, apparently, news to the coast-to-coast participants  in the program. They had never heard of premier Canadian climatologists Tom  Harris, Lawrence Solomon, Tim Patterson and Ross McKitrick (oft maligned by the  denizens of the global warming industry) or of the Oregon  Petition with its 32,000 dissenting scientists. (As James Lewis comments,  “Anybody who still falls for climate scare-lines after this freezing winter is  either (a) terminally brainwashed or (b) stupid beyond repair. It’s often hard  to tell the difference.”) That the Harper government had steered the country  through the fiscal meltdown of the last tumultuous years, leaving it in one of  the strongest economic positions in the  developed world, was scarcely a blip on the radar of national consciousness.  People with salaries and the leisure to opine at length on phone-in programs  seem to think this privileged condition is somehow natural and  unassailable.

 

Recent  polls have indicated that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, a youngish wavy-haired  ignoramus whose only credentials are that he is a former prime minister’s son, a  part-time public school drama  teacher and bungee-diving coach, and rather pretty in comparison to our  elder statesmen and pudgy politicians, leads Stephen Harper by a 10 percent  margin in electoral popularity. Harper, for all his faults, kept the country  afloat. Trudeau would have sunk it in record time, with shenanigans like his  vote-trawling outreach to a terror-linked Islamic  organization, his refusal to call honor killings “barbaric,” his objections to the immensely profitable Northern Gateway pipeline (while approving of the  Keystone XL project. Go figure!), his favorable  comments on Quebec sovereignty, and the inevitable tax hikes the Liberal  party would impose on the middle class. Yet the Canadian public has to date  smiled benignly on a man who performs a  partial strip  tease in front of smitten ladies during a charity event. The level of political imbecility we are witnessing is  incommensurable.

 

Canada, however, is small beer in comparison to the  political travesty that is the United States, where nearly half the population  relies on food stamps, welfare payments, tax rebates and a blizzard of  entitlements, whose foreign policy is a shambles of half-baked and destructive  initiatives, which boasts a scandal-ridden and thoroughly inept administration  and is mired in a swamp of economic insecurity, which has exponentially expanded  a “coercive,  intrusive regulatory regime” as well as devastating the healthcare system,  and which twice elects a man who would make a Justin Trudeau prime ministry look  like a feasible alternative to the electoral mayhem, fiduciary malfeasance and  political stagnation that “The One” has inflicted upon his  nation.

 

 

We  have read  of late that the “consensus” may be changing in Europe (and elsewhere) with  the election and rise of several ostensibly conservative or “pirate” parties in  a number of countries and the pallid second thoughts of diverse leaders. But  even a nominally conservative government is no match for the combined might of  the entrenched political class, a treasonous academy, the saurian bureaucrats of  the European Union, and a left-wing media empire for which, like its North  American counterpart, journalism has become the art of dissembling and outright  propaganda. The few leaders  and public figures — Prince Charles and David Cameron in the U.K.,  Jean-François Cope of the UMP party in France, King William Alexander of the  Netherlands, Angela Merkel in Germany — who appear to be reconsidering the  poisoned fruit of multicultural immigration, particularly with regard to Islam,  have not markedly shucked their dhimmi mindset and continue for the most part to  behave like dimwits — or dhimmwits.

 

Meanwhile,  the socialist, top-down economic policies adopted by a majority of European  nations are infallibly bankrupting them,  to the extent that the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank  see fit to raid the bank accounts of private depositors, as recently  in Cyprus. As for the electorate, a large share of whom profit from  cradle-to-grave welfare entitlements and who are becoming strangers to the  habits of entrepreneurship and plain hard work, the jury is still out but the  verdict is troublingly predictable.

 

How  did we get into such a sociopolitical morass? The signs of a culture in  precipitous and perhaps terminal disarray proliferate everywhere, in the corrupt  and partisan media, in an entertainment industry that has devoted itself to the  production of unadulterated trash, and in an academy that has sold its soul to  mere credentialing, politically correct indoctrination and totalitarian  impulses, operating, in the words of Daren Jonescu, as “re-education camps” in the interests of “an artificially  restrictive and pre-packaged pseudo-world.” These forces swoop darkly over the  political landscape like Ringwraiths, further devitalizing a debilitated  population. The result is what political scientist Samuel Popkin in The  Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns called “low information signalling,” a term picked up by comedian manqué Bill  Maher as “low  information voters” and applied to dunning effect by Jonah Goldberg in The  Tyranny of Clichés.

 

Low  information voters, however, are far preferable to the class of citizens — like  the young lady whom my acquaintance queried — arising among us who may be  designated as no information voters, driven by hidebound ideology and  complacent ignorance of almost limbic proportions. Crucial decisions are taken  by those who are either uneducated, having given themselves over to what Victor  Davis Hanson calls a crash  and burn culture, or miseducated, having been lobotomized by a heavily  politicized pedagogic curriculum controlled by the Left. And that, I suggest, is  the root of our dilemma.

 

We  live in a society that has lost both its moral compass and its intellectual  focus. Any serious psephological study would have to conclude that the voting  public is too incompetent to exercise the franchise. As Churchill said, “The  best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average  voter.” Today, I’m afraid, a half-minute would suffice. Nevertheless, it is best  to remember that no political system is perfect and many are patently  reprehensible. The authority of Aristotle should be consulted here. In Book 4 of  the Politics,  the philosopher lays it down that of “the diverging systems of government”  (parekbasis), tyranny is the worst, oligarchy is somewhat better, and  democracy is the most moderate or least worst. Regrettably, as our low-and-no  information voters, subject to the extremophiles who dominate the culture, make  alarmingly clear, democracy is no panacea. As James Lewis wryly puts it apropos  the Progressivist power complex and its deluded victims, “Great power goes  together with great stupidity.” Later historians, if there are any, will  probably describe the years we are living through now as the Age of the Dummy —  indeed, an age that has spawned those aptly named books “for Dummies,” an era  facile, ludicrous, puerile and moronic.

 

I  confess that I don’t see how our current dilemma can be resolved without a sea  change in the gradients and vectors of the culture at large or, as I greatly  fear, a high-magnitude catastrophe that may possibly educate us with respect to  our self-betrayal and compel us to rebuild. Barring the miracle of an  epistemological recovery across the culture, which seems unlikely, we may have  to depend on the most infallible of preceptors, historical agency, that from  time to time may bring what the Romans called a felix culpa, variously  translated as a “happy fault” or “fortunate fall.” Even this is moot, for a  fortunate fall is no guarantee of social revival and cultural reintegration. The  consequence of collective stupidity that causes political, social and economic  collapse may be not reconstruction but archeology.

 

Aristotle  goes on to assert in Book 5 that the best way to preserve a democracy is  education. “For even the most beneficial and widely approved laws bring us no  benefit if they are not inculcated through education and the habits of  citizens.” He could not have been more right. But for the time being, between  the uneducated and the miseducated falls the shadow of our malaise.

   As reported in the American Thinker