Today, me and the wife were out walking on a plot of land next to the river. We had an interesting conversation with someone who, at first, sounded intelligent, and I’m sure thought of himself as intelligent. But while explaining in some detail about all of the mountains and lands in the southeast he has traversed, he also related that the people who owned the land we were standing on were African American, but that they didn’t seem like they were up to something. And how he taught himself chemistry and geology and used to take groups of people on field trips but can’t any more because people are so politically correct. And how patriotic he was. And how he didn’t appreciate revisionist history (but not which side of it he was on). And how common sense was disappearing. I asked him if he was a professor and he said that professors were all… a little too much… airy and all… (couldn’t quite articulate his issues with professors). He told me he was a truck driver. By the way, he’s wearing spandex leggings and a pair of blue jean shorts over them that’s three sizes too big. It’s 20 degrees outside.
Every time I discuss something with someone from the right, before the conversation devolves into conspiracy theories, alternate facts, or alternate realities, they always mention how all that book learning has eroded my common sense.
So us learned group of elites have lost these magical abilities that the working, middle class folk have somehow found a way to hang on to. You see, on the spectrum of knowledge, there’s a point you get to where you need to slow down a little, stop gaining all this understanding, and start listening to Fox News, Kid Rock, and preachers. But be careful, because if you read one too many books after you hit that magical threshold of alt-right knowledge, you become… an elite.
There’s this story about an eighteen wheeler that tried to go under a bridge and got stuck. All these engineers and “smart” people tried to figure out how to get it out, but couldn’t. That is, until this old country boy came along and asked them why they didn’t just let the air out of the tires? The people who believe this fable will shake their heads knowingly. Yep. A simple solution is all you need. Not some engineer overthinking things with all his bookish knowledge. A yarn where the simple man is somehow smarter than the more educated man. The problem with this narrative is that, in the realm of public policy at least, it’s bullshit 98% of the time.
I can’t sit here and tell you, as a software developer, that I don’t overthink things. I do. I get paid to do so. And it is true that sometimes I will take an issue with a simple solution and derive a much more complicated path to solving it than was necessary. But remember, we’re talking about “common” sense. Something everyone should share, factory workers and scientists alike should all be on the same page. So common sense should be, well, common.
Everyone should have access to healthcare. This makes sense, but not to the Gallant Old Party, so I would argue that it’s not common.
You shouldn’t separate children from their parents, possibly forever, and place them in cages for fleeing dangerous environments. Republicans can tell you why this makes sense. So again, not common sense.
Climate change is real. Hundreds of thousands of scientists agree. The Right thinks it’s a hoax. That the industries of 7.6 billion people produce no lasting changes on the planet. So, not common sense. The list goes on and on and on.
These people think their cups are overflowing with common sense. They are not. They’re empty, bone dry, hollow recepticals that are filled instead with narcissism, fear, racism, and ignorance. Letting some air out of a truck’s tires means nothing if you don’t believe in science and have no empathy.
So can we please put this bullshit idea to bed that conservatives can run the country better because they, at some point, decided to stop learning? I concede that maybe the good ole country boy could solve the bridge problem quicker than me. But our nation is not a set of truck tires. It’s slightly more complicated.
I avoid stupid people. This is hard because I live in Alabama.
To set the stage, I’m listening to Kevin Hart’s audiobook The Decision. Something funny and inspiring to help you approach this negative world with its negative people in a more positive manner. In the book, Kevin offers up a 30 day, no-complaining challenge, certainly not the first of its kind, but a good exercise nonetheless. Me and the wife decided to try it using stars on the fridge. If we catch the other complaining, they have to go back to day one. I never realized I was such a whiny, little bitch.
I failed the very first day while driving. Driving is my Kryptonite during this challenge. A truck came almost to a stop in front of me to take a two inch high segue into a Subway’s parking lot. “YOU’RE IN A FUCKING TRUCK!” It was like when the doctor tests your reflexes. The idiot in the truck was the rubber mallet and my mouth was the knee. My frontal lobe was watching his cork down by the lake. My lizard brain was sitting in the clock tower, naked and reloading.
But after several restarts, I was getting the hang of this no-bitching thing. You become more self-aware. You re-word things ever so slightly. You change the tone of what you’re saying. I’m not bitching, I say to my wife in a calm voice, I’m only stating the fact that a particular driver in the red car ahead needs to take a sharp right (we’re on the side of a mountain). I’m very proud of my eleven day streak. Then I’m in Birmingham and trying to merge over a couple of lanes. It’s on 280. It’s five lanes in this spot and I only need to get over two. Although it’s hard to believe, for a few hundred feet behind me, as I begin to merge, there is only one vehicle. The lady in the car somehow manages to manipulate her speed such that neither slowing down nor speeding up allows me to get over. I miss the exit. I say things you shouldn’t say about other people’s moms. I say things you shouldn’t say if you’re a drunken sailer who’s just sit down on his own balls. If you were Yosemite Sam on HBO. You get the picture. The tiny devil sitting on my shoulder is laughing with glee. Veins are protruding from my forehead. I look at my wife. She is smiling. No star for me today. I am back to square one on our little calendar on the fridge.
I’m not a quitter. I start again. I am on day two when I walk into a mom and pop grocery store in our little redneck town. You know, the type with the plywood dais right at the front of the store where someone hands out money to the cashiers. There is a lady screaming from her dais down to a customer that’s checking out about ten feet away. “- cause there ain’t but about 10,000 actual deaths from that in the whole world -” It was a very recognizable stream of stupid, and I walked right through it. I immediately shed my cloths, but I am still drenched in it. The portion of my brain that harbors logic is screaming. It has been attacked out of the blue. She continues to yell. I try to close my ears and mind, to create a cone of silence around me as I turn down the isle. But still I car hear the lady in check out validate the lady in the dais, agging her on, the dais lady with her butt cheeks proudly swelling out on either side of the shit that’s spewing out of her mouth.
There are a total of three cashiers. Two women and one young boy. When I return to the front, the dais lady is walking past the cashiers. And for the first time, I simply can’t take it anymore. The profound ignorance. The prideful stupidity. The apparent inability to simply Google something.
I say, “Excuse me, mam. I overheard you talking about Covid. I’d like to make a bet with you.”
She looks at me and then at the twenty dollar bill I’ve pulled from my back pocket.
“If you can prove to me that there have only been around 10,000 deaths worldwide due to the pandemic, I’ll give you this $20.” I offer it out to her. “I’ll give you a week to come up with proof. You can hold the money until then. I’ll be back in a week.” I regret not having more cash. $500 would be something you have to address a little more seriously.
“Well, I don’t want to take your money,” she says, “But that’s right. And by the way, that thing you got (pointing to my mask, as she’s not wearing one) is messing with your immune system. You need all those bacteria and stuff to make your immune system strong. When I was young we used to play in the dirt and chicken poop and everything else and we’re just fine. And another thing, all you need is Zinc. Take that and you can’t get it. I take it every day and I don’t got it.” And she turns and leaves.
My head is in a fog as I check out. I grab my bag to leave, but then can’t help myself and turn around to face all three cashiers. “Any of you guys want to take the bet? Prove the crap that’s coming out of her mouth and take my $20?”
Now the young boy is perking up. That’s a twenty, after all. Three hours take home in one fell swoop. The other two are silent. He looks hesitantly at me and then them, and says slowly, “All you have to do is look it up.” This is an uncertain revelation.
So I say, “Yes! All you have to do is look it up!” I am very happy he has stumbled onto this epiphany. He starts to look it up on his phone and I remind him that to get the twenty, you have to take the bet first. He doesn’t say he will, but continues looking it up.
I turn to the lady that checked me out and say, “I don’t understand, it’s not like this stuff is hiding in a library somewhere on a microfilm. You can literally Google ‘Covid US’ and the statistics are right there on the page.”
And she says, “I can tell you about that. Just ask Alexa. That whole thing is just something to disrupt the election.”
I stare for a moment like I do when someone challenges reality itself. I say, “So the pandemic that’s affecting the entire world is happening just to disrupt an election in the US?”
I walk back to my car. I tell my wife that I made the mistake of interacting with them (meaning Trumpers) for the first time in the real world. I picture aliens, some advanced life forms, coming to Earth and feeling, after first contact, the way I did then. Time to pack up and leave, they would say. The others saying, but I thought we were going to teach them how to-. No! says the alien who bore witness. We leave now!
These are real people in the real world. People who don’t seem to know you can simply Google something to find out what’s true and what’s not. People who think I’m compromising my immune system while they are standing there in front of me, maskless, compromising my immune system. People who think that somehow, somewhere, someone has orchestrated the deaths of almost 900,000 people world wide just to rig one country’s election.
I would like to apologize to Kevin Hart. I am very sorry, Kevin. I’ve lost all my stars again today.
Also, if you’ve read this and don’t know what a dais is, that’s okay. Ignorance of something is okay because you can fix that. Apparently you shouldn’t ask Alexa, though. That bitch is cray cray. But you can Google it. However, if you don’t know what a dais is and refuse to find out for yourself, that’s willful ignorance. If you’re happy remaining ignorant about things, then you’re in the same, shallow gene pool as the People of the Dais, who are both spewing and swallowing each other’s piles of shit like they’re in The Human Centipede 4: Rise of the GOP. And since I’ve already lost my stars for the day, I say to all the willfully ignorant people out there – Go fuck yourselves.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find some chicken poop to play in so I can boost my immune system.
Considering the current state of our country, it’s amazing I can still be surprised. Trump has bathed us in the muddy waters of his bullshit for so long that I’m ashamed to say I’ve begun to rely on little bouts of Apathy to get me through the day. All I have to do is turn on the radio for more than ten minutes and viola! I’m in Bizzaro world.
I can listen to locals talk about how Muslims ain’t gone continue to move into their neighborhoods ’cause they got their guns. The host laughing along with them as if they’re both in 8th grade and telling fart jokes. I can listen to Rick and Bubba talk in Stereotype Chinese voice and make fun of Nagasaki.
The latest Bizarro event happened on February 28th, 2020 during an interview between NPR and the former mayor of Georgetown, SC, Jack Scoville. When asked what he thought of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, he said Pete was too articulate. The anger that began to swell inside me soon dissolved into a low grade, nauseous resignation that ignorance is not only pervasive in our mentally deteriorating country, but is indeed the new status quo as well.
Being articulate means you can fluently and coherently relate information. So in saying this, Scoville is saying he would feel better with someone who can’t clearly relate information. He is saying he would like the next President of the United States of America to be a stuttering, incoherent, and babbling idiot. He belongs on the Right, not the Left. The Right already has someone unintelligible in office, and he takes his job of irrational rambling and disjointed muttering quite seriously.
If you’re the least bit educated, you may not be able to wrap your head around Scoville’s statement. If you listen to Rick and Bubba, you probably understand exactly where he’s coming from. If you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed and you find yourself listening to someone much smarter than you, this usually leads to feelings of inadequacy. Compared to this person, you feel a little dumb. This leads to shame, which finds it must mutate into something else because shame cannot endure. It can turn into an irrational anger, directed at the person who has uttered things you cannot fully grasp. It can manifest as fear, as in fear of the unknown, or the things they know that you don’t. But the easiest state to achieve is doubt. A state of not trusting this person who has all this information and all the right words to go along with it. After all, they’re relating concepts that you haven’t made the time to think about yet. And besides, thinking is hard. You don’t have time for all that. You can leave that up to the morning talk show hosts who seem to have all the answers. They think kinda like you, except, and here’s the rub, they can articulate those fuzzy little thoughts you have. The ones about why people that don’t look like you shouldn’t be allowed in the country. The ones about how everybody should speak the same language you speak. And so on. You latch onto their words because that’s much easier than reflecting on things yourself. And even if you did take the time to think it over and come to some sort of shocking revelation, who would you share it with? You’ve surrounded yourself with people just like you. You’ll only get a side-eye from them. There’s no one with whom you can share epiphanies.
And this is where the propaganda machine reinforces these thoughts. They talk about the Left being elitist. That they’re people who think they’re better than you. This creates more than an intellectual bias. It creates a class distinction. The uppity, know-it-all professor types who think they’ve got it all figured out. And why would you listen to someone who thinks they’re better than you? Who talks better than you? You wouldn’t. There’s no reason to trust the stuck-up and high-and-mighty. Let’s listen to Rick and Bubba instead. They’re just a couple of God-fearin, good ole boys like me. In fact, they’re smarter than me, but not by much so it’s okay.
It’s cute when toddlers fumble over their language while trying to explain why their doggy is the best doggy ever. It’s terrifying when the leader of your country can’t stop gibbering goddamn nonsense to another world leader. Fumbling your words is funny in a college speech class, but not when your diarrhea of the mouth can adversely affect millions of Americans.
We need someone in the White House again who is articulate. If he likes stuttering so much, Jack Scoville can go jerk off to an auctioneer. I’m two years from 50 this year, but I’m going to say something that’s a little ageist. If you are under 30, for the love of God, please fucking vote this year.
I’m not a thumber. I use one finger only, and hit one key at a time on my LG keyboard, much to the chargrin of my son and daughter. I suppose that makes me officialy old now. My thumbs are not surgical in nature. But then again, neither is my forefinger. It’s amazing I can ever make it on an elevator.
Then I heard of gesture typing. I looked it up on the Google. I can say it like that now because I’m old. You basically take a more drunken, lackadaisical approach by sliding your finger carelessly around the keyboard. At first, it caused me not a small bit of anxiety, brought on by my own lack of knowledge. I knew there was an algorithm behind this nonchalant madness, but my finger raced across the keyboard from one letter to the next, a panicked drag racer when I couldn’t think of the next letter. I was afraid of slowing for a second and the algorithm stopping suddenly, punishing my insolence with a randomly selected, brute-force guess, extrapolated from my weak, anxiety-ridden forefinger. Turns out, there was no reason to panic. You can go as slow as you like, even my kind of slow. Zootopia DMV slow.
So I started using this method. But something was still bothering me. It was the algorithm itself. You see, it’s an enabler. It’s not running to the store at 2 am to get you a six pack for your nightcap, but it is allowing you to not try as hard, to not be as exact, in short, not to think as much. It’s not a huge difference in mind-power, think-joules, thought-newtons, however you express that. But it probably does cause a few less neurons to fire. And humanity does seem to be heading in that aloof direction. Long-form articles are disappearing behind headlines with summaries for all the TL;DRs. And that’s what worries me, is that every action we carry out becomes algorithm assisted, allowing us to only have a vague conception of what we wanted to accomplish, as the Al(gorithm) steps in and articulates or manifests our hazy intentions.
What if we applied Al to everything in the near future? It would allow drunken doctors to operate without worry. That would be good. And no one wants to go on Netflix and sit in front of 1500, randomly selected movies to choose from. Those recommender engines let Al help you find what you want without trouble. That’s good.
But what if we transfer the half-hearted attempt at language from written to verbal. Maybe you don’t have to articulate at all. Goyngasto means I’m going to the store. In ten years, we’re deep into some pidgin half-language think-speak where we utter lost syllables incoherently at each other until Al figures out our unique form of garbled chatter. No one will type; just a lot of half-swipes at random boards of letters. I can see someone stabbed in an alley, their last clue to their killer not a name, but some irregular geometry patterns in blood. Another person asking, “Hey, what’s that smell?” “Oh, that’s my ass. I swiped at it. You get the gist.” People will remember when Al broke down for some reason and no one could communicate, just a bunch of people swiping at the air and speaking garble. Another hundred years in the future and they’ll look back and not be able to decipher anything from the 2020’s.
To be clear, I’m not typing the words I want, I’m only getting marginally close to those letters, and Al is doing the rest of the work for me. Enabling me to be unclear, inexact. My thoughts become approximations. I’m not getting at the core of anything, only rummaging around it on novacaine legs. A hazy interest with a lack of complete attention. A bored interest.
And maybe that sums it all up. Nowadays, we cast our mental nets out there and pull in Kardashian sea trash, plastic beads of fourth grade reading level speeches, and toxic alternative facts. Our minds don’t challenge these things, instead nibbling at the outer layers of fact, unable to bring our lazy thoughts to grab a shovel and dig a little.
I’m going to continue to use Al to trace out my grocery list. To tell me what I might want to watch next. To let me know when there’s a traffic jam. But I’m going to always keep an eye on Al.
Al doesn’t seem to have his head wrapped around truth yet.
The butterfly flaps
its tornadic wings; is stepped
on by a black swan
My parrot sits,
on the balcony rail
far above the bustle
turning a wry eye
to watch me eat my omelet.
LOOK! AWWKK! I’M A HUMAN!
His sharp beak scratches at me
Then . . .
I’M SO DRUNK! AWWKK!
His mocking beak spits at me
tottering drunkenly, slovenly
side to side
on the precipitous rail.
Another fluffy bite of chorizo
MY! BEST FRIEND! AWWKK!
His pointed beak darts up and down
SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK! SORRY MARK! AWWKK!
His broken record hawks at me.
The wind whips around the building’s corner.
A tasty sliver of sausage
riddled with fat
slides past my tongue and gets
sideways, my eyes wide
OH GOD! AWWKK! MARK PLEASE! AWWKK!
His insinuating beak accuses as he
falls backward from the rail.
The attenuating wail becomes lost
as I hack the fatty pork
back atop my omelet.
I stare with tears at the plate
and my sarcastic parrot
on the rail.