October 03, 2005
Who you callin' maladjusted?
So, like, I was thinking last week. But I didn't want to say anything, because I'd prefer to avoid having internet stones thrown at me. I was watching "The Simpons" and wondered about smart people, more specifically, the over-achieving kind. And I'm married to one, so think of that before you accuse me of not liking the intellectually blue-blooded. In the episode of "The Simpons" where Bart is in danger of failing the fourth grade (a very early episode), Martin is reading under a tree while the other kids play ball. The ball comes over, and he's clueless about what to do about it. He has no idea of how to be a normal person. Yeah, I'm gonna assume some level or type of normality out there. Yeah. So, I wondered it, to some extent, the over-achievers start to run the country (our present fearful leader excluded, of course). Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, for instance. They run companies. Etc. Is that why nothing works? Or maybe I have my facts all wrong. Maybe the over-achievers never amount to anything usually. Maybe it's the terrible under-achievers (like me, and proud of it, sucka) who run things. Lazy people who don't like to work for work's sake. Maybe they run things, and that's why nothing works. Maybe there's no connection between them, too. I've been known to imagine connections that are not there. But do at least some people become academics because they are too entirely maladjusted to function as normal people? They don't know how to play ball, so they just read under trees? I'm trying to think of some successful academics who are still regular people, and I can't think of very many. I'll brag that I prefer the company of writers, carpenters and computer geeks to my fellow academics, most of the time. The exceptions are the few academics who are still normal people. People who can get drunk or hyped up on caffeine and never once want to talk about some damned philosophy book that "everyone" has read or the current state of public schools. I disagree with the implied adage around universities that a person is fun to be around and an adept conversationalist because of the books he or she can work into "casual" conversation -- because the GRE words one uses daily. I sometimes respect people more to the degree that they can exist without having to mention the latest fucking translation of Twilight of the Idols or anything by Milton in conversation. Or is the problem that we marginalize smart people as a society, so they don't feel like they can play ball and that they have to find something else to do, like read under a tree? That we always lord over smart people that they can't catch a football or get laid -- so that they throw their German-speaking abilities and vast knowledge of Shakespeare in everyone's face in retaliation? Whenever someone makes fun of me because I don't know how to fix a car or rock-climb, I admit that I love to respond that "At least I'm not a stupid piece of shit who can't read Kant" -- whether I actually say it or just think it. And come to think of it, being able to read Kant is not necessarily a desirable quality in a person. I do feel the prejudice against intellect in the United States. And it always makes me want to call everyone I can stupid. I've spent entire afternoons in Carbondale making fun of the stupid ways that people try to drive automobiles: "Look at that dim-witted sumbitch trying to handle that Excursion!" has become my favorite saying. And I love to point out how stupid celebrities and talk show hosts are. I know I'm not alone in this, since my favorite people all do the same thing. Maybe it's a vicious circle (or least a mean one) where smart people act like asses, and we treat them like crap. And they act like bigger asses, so we treat them even more like crap. And so on. Or that we treat smart people like crap, so they act like asses, etc. Whoever does it first, it doesn't seem likely to stop anytime soon. But that's Okay. Watching inane television is all the more fun if you feel superior to the host.