- Politics and Social Issues
One in Five Americans is a Moron
For my day job, I work as a political consultant. This means I get to read a lot of public opinion polls. One thing that has struck me over the years of reading polls is the magical line I always look for: "...and 20% of Americans believe (insert crazy belief here)."
When a country has such a large percentage of its population that is not living in the same world as the rest of their peers, that spells trouble. No matter what the question, it always seems that twenty percent of respondents either did not understand the question, or choose to align with contrarian, or moronic, beliefs.
If you you called 500 people right now and asked them if the earth is round, 20 percent would say no, it’s flat.
At a time when nearly 20% of Americans are suffering from mental illness, either diagnosed or undiagnosed, I can't help but wonder if that is the answer to my question. If 20% of a country is just plain mentally ill and unable to deal with reality, do we have hope as a society? Is the 20% who show up in these polls the same group of people, or is the number of morons much higher?
Before we proceed, I must make it clear that I am not associating mental illness with stupidity. In fact, many of the most intelligent people I've ever met are mentally ill.
Here are some crazy things that 1 in 5 people believe:
- Humans are reincarnated after they die - Gallup, 2005
- The sun revolves around earth - Northwestern University
- Witches are real - Gallup
- The world will end during their lifetime - TIME Magazine
- Marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol - Rasmussen, 2010
At this time, I can't decide what is more damaging, what we know or what we don't know. I tend to lean towards what we “know.”
The Dunning-Kruger Effect suggests that many people are simply too ignorant to know just how ignorant they are. But it's those who think they have the answers that run for office and shape the policies of our country. The Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that more intelligent people question themselves more often, and tend to doubt their own intelligence, which can lead to inaction and the idiots taking control.
Crazy beliefs can be dangerous to the majority. While it is easy to roll our eyes when someone says something assinine, it is clear that many of these morons have invaded public life.
George W. Bush and Rick Perry (nicknamed “Bush, without the brains”), for example. Perhaps no one has done more to encourage anti-intellectualism and a hatred towards curiosity than George W. Bush. He made it cool to be dumb. And when this type of ignorance reigns, we see environmental policies rolled back, and government regulations stripped.
It’s no wonder that someone who thinks the world is going to end in the next 50 years would not care how much smoke and smog is released into the sky, or that our children can’t read.
This has led to climate change deniers, intelligent design, and a general disdain for knowledge, all while our nation burns to the ground, our waistlines expand, and our children get stupider. There are plenty of things that even more than 20% of people cannot understand, like maps. A 2006 Gallup poll found that 37% of Americans could not point out their own home country on a map.
If you are waiting for me to offer a solution, there isn’t one.
There is no hope to fix this. Twenty percent of us are mentally ill. That will probably never change. The only thing we can do is motivate the 80% who can be rational and get them to start paying attention again and take society back from the dunces who think that all they ever needed to learn, they learned in kindergarten.
While the intelligent form committees and study groups, the morons are having tea parties and electing “leaders.” It’s time to focus on what we know, what we can agree on, and get to work before we become the first generation to leave things worse off than when we found them.
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” - Confucius
“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” - Goethe
“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” - George Bernard Shaw
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