Cream rises to the top, or so I used to think. I always believed that the best and brightest would be recognized and lauded as such, but this is false. Intelligence and talent are not necessarily considered virtues, especially by those who resist change and new ideas. In an era littered with words like progress, hope, change, and forward it is mistake to believe that this is what people actually desire, even if they purport to. Many people, professionally and personally, are faking it, perhaps incompetent, and are barely keeping it together. They abhor truly remarkable people in their sphere. Fear is the most primitive emotion and a strong one at that. Talented, intelligent people are often feared, because they are so capable, and challenge others’ self esteem.
Earlier this year I read an article that pointed out that persons with limited intelligence are unable to appreciate the complexity of thought and abilities of those with high intelligence; and the highly intelligent cannot appreciate the limited conceptual understanding of the more simple minded. That is how it is; one can only comprehend what one is able to. While most people can handle a few concepts and relate them to form some basic understanding, highly intelligent persons can synthesize many concepts and make connections to see a far greater picture. Media, politics, and special interests create propaganda narratives meant to prey on the average person. Most will fall victim because of their inability to understand complexity and nuance. Those with greater intelligence will see the larger game, but will be scorned or met with contempt for pointing it out.
For most of my adult life I have lived in large east-coast cities where there is some appreciation for highly capable people, but not too far outside of these areas attitudes change. Today, I live in a smallish town in the South, while I enjoy the laid-back lifestyle; there is a cult of mediocrity that protects its self from intruders. This drove me a little crazy at first, but now I accept that this is a part of what makes living here comfortable, ignorance is bliss I guess… until its not. I figure, this is how most of the country must be outside of the notable innovation hubs.
There is a common misconception that those in charge know what they are doing. In some cases this is true, but in many it is not. Being clever should never be confused with being intelligent. Even the dimwitted can play a Machiavellian game and manipulate their way into positions of authority. These people are sometimes dangerous as they must fight to protect their position and will often craft cunning ways to do so. For them, the greatest threats are those who are gifted and competent. In an increasingly narcissistic and self entitled culture, those who are challenging and truly capable of positive change may receive hostile responses by over-confident fools blazing a path to mutual assured destruction.
This reminds me of an Isaac Asimov quote:
“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”