Last night,the TV series Master Chef started screening, a show which my family quite likes. My wife was quite surprised to note that most of the contestants on that show had difficulty following a recipe when written down and given to them. "How stupid can you be?" She said. I grunted, said that's what I see at work everyday, and went back to reading. However what really seemed to bother her was that fact that here were fifty or so apparently middle class people who could not even master the simple task of following instructions on a sheet of paper. What was of interest was that the people who could follow the instructions were usually professional.
What becomes apparent after dealing with literally thousands of human beings is that most of them are capable of simple instructions and are only capable of grasping simple thoughts. Complex issues, like the operation of the human body, sociological phenomena, defence policy etc are all literally beyond their comprehension. People do have a capacity to understand the concrete, proximate and immediate, but the more abstract or remote the concept the harder it is for them to fathom.
This of course has profound political implications. The good management of a society is a difficult thing since a society's well being is dependent on the proper interaction of a host of complex variables. The fact of the matter is, that if the average man does not understand and the variables that affect it, he is more likely than not to make the wrong decisions; this is even before malice or ideology further confuse the issue.
One of the glaring omissions in modern political theory is thorough appreciation of the role that stupidity plays in the body politic. Whilst nearly everyone agrees that men should have the right to vote, there is not an insistence on a test to see if they have a capacity to exercise that right effectively. This this assumption, which manifestly falsified by the most cursory human experience, is one of the fundamental weak spots of democratic theory. History is full of examples of leaders who have made dumb decisions, but a far more thorough analysis would look at the stupidity of the crowd, especially where it matters most; in a democracy.
It was a reflection on two articles in the paper which moved me to put up this post:
The first: Gen Y women facing pressure to have sex included a poll which was responded to by over 15 thousand people. Now the paper from which the article is lifted is a paper read by middle class mainstream Australia.
Poll: Have Western media, music and popular culture become too sexualised?
- Yes, it sends the wrong message. 44%
- No, there is no harm in it. 56%
Total votes: 15475.Would you like to vote?
Poll closed 19 Apr, 2010
The other poll was run in local popular tabloid. One of the local gangland kingpins was murdered in jail, and the question was asked, should his daughter be able to receive compensation for the emotional trauma she suffered:
Should Carl's kids get compo after his death?
- Yes 22.74% (953 votes)
- No 77.26% (3238 votes)
Total votes: 4191
The fact that 23% of people(from a demographic that looks at vicious crime with visceral hatred) felt that his family were due some compensation shows just how totally out of touch with reality large chunks of our community are with reality.
It's these people, given the right to vote, which cause the destruction of our countries. If you want to know why government is so inept, our cities so ugly, our streets so violent, our schools so dismal, don't look for conspiracies. Look about you, it's your fellow man.
Time to sprinkle ash and don the sackcloth.