My Ignorance Rules

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King Jr.

We live in the age of smart phones and stupid people. An age when it’s okay to be really really ordinary, think nothing of it or anything else and be famous, if even for an instant on some reality tv show.

The digital revolution has brought boundless access to information and entertainment choices, but the lowest common denominator – or your kitchen – rules.

There’s no end to the flow of stupid. Instead of educating ourselves via the Internet, most people simply use it to validate what they already suspect, heard rumoured, wish or believe to be true. Most perplexing is that supposedly more sophisticated news consumers also do a damn good job of filtering out what they don’t want to hear.

We’re lucky in New Zealand because our Prime Minister, John Key knows what stuff matters to us. That means we can predetermine what we need to know and never know what we don’t. Snapper quotas matter. Expanded powers of our foreign intelligence spy agency to spy on New Zealanders and our surveillance of friends and allies for trade purposes do not – in fact should not, John says, reminding us of the nothing to hide nothing to fear axiom so loved by secretive governments worldwide.

Reality Bites, We need to know

Reality Bites, We need to know

As the arbiter of public taste, John Key, is the perfect man of our times, so loved for being so ordinary and so revered for being so rich following his so impressive career as a forex dealer. He knows that right thinking New Zillanders don’t really value quality new and current affairs and won’t miss the advocacy journalism of the only quality current affairs show, Campbell Live, on free to air tv. Waiting for me to grab the remote will be a soap, a banal homegrown comedy or perhaps a rip snorting reality tv show endorsed by reality tv queen and arbiter of bad taste, Julie Christie, who also happens to be an executive director at the station seeking to axe Campbell Live.  Shock, horror, probe!

John-Campbell-1200_620x310But wait John Key, in his role as media commentator, not just a  sound bite, has some awesome insights and a new take on the role of the fourth estate.

“Well, its [Campbell Live’s] role in life is not to hold the government to account. It’s to entertain its viewers and basically to follow news stories,” says John. (We call him John because we’re cosy, informal here and mates).

And here’s the cruncher: “Look in the end we live in a world where it’s largely about commercial returns of what is a private station. It’s not funded by the government, it’s not subject to anything. It’s got a bunch of shareholders it needs to make a return to.”

Thank goodness for choices about how, where and when we view television – or even if we view it – and we can of course subscribe to paid news or cable news or get sponsored news that has paid for its space and was formerly known as advertising.

But I digress. It’s ironic.

Averroes, 1126-1198, moslem scholar and philosopher credited as one of the leading lights of the Renaissance.

Averroes, 1126-1198, moslem scholar and philosopher credited as one of the leading lights of the Renaissance.

In an age when enlightenment should be blazing and personal empowerment and knowledge leading us to new zeniths, we’ve joined what science fiction writer Isaac Asimov described as a cult of ignorance, best viewed from club sofa on a giant digital screen where reality comes in 3D.

“The strain of 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’.”

Anti-intellectualism is a trademark of totalitarian regimes — like the military junta in1960s Argentina or the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, where people could be killed for wearing glasses, a sign, apparently, of intellect, and of governments who curb debate, dissent and questions using outmoded internal security laws allowing detention without trial.

Clearly that’s not our fate. We’re a democracy. We must make sure we can pa rticipate in it. But as one American pundit cautions “a misinformed and anti-intellectual citizenry is a politically docile and vulnerable citizenry. And that’s dangerous to the freedoms we all want to preserve and protect.”

And there is creep.

Since 2001, the U.S. government has engaged in an ever-widening programme of spying on its own—and foreign— citizens, tapping phones, intercepting emails and texts, and monitoring social media to track the movements, activities and connections of millions. Still, many Americans seem less concerned with the massive violations of their privacy in the name of the War on Terror, than imposing Taliban-like standards on the lives of others. Oh good, New Zealand is right up there with the play.

And there are creeps.

Take George W Bush, described by journalist Christopher Hitchens “as a man who is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things”.

President Bush’s political success, in part, came from his position as the candidate with whom more Americans wanted to have a beer than any other and showed he was more like you and me — that is, more average. Sound like someone you know?

To be successful politically, to avoid being called smug, aloof, elitist, or out-of-touch, you have to pretend you’re not educated, smart, or qualified to run the country. And our elected leaders are brilliant at this. John Key knows it’s the ticket to success and he shares many of the same traits, particularly his jokey blokey behaviour and mauling of language to prove to anyone that ever doubted that he is just a “normal guy”.

And there are creeping tendencies, subtle, insidious and aimed at soothing any progression from the comfortable confines of dumb and dumber – the use of casual, colloquial matey language – which diminishes and implicitly denies the seriousness of whatever issue is being debated and trivialises big decisions like sending ‘boys’ off to war or spying on your mates.

images (1)That inarticulate legacy, says American columnist Jonathon Gatehouse, author of America Dumbs Down, didn’t end with George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, who have moved millions with their mangled language. He says the U.S. is being overrun by a wave of anti-science, anti-intellectual thinking and asks: Has the most powerful nation on Earth lost its mind?

“Barack Obama, the most cerebral and eloquent American leader in a generation, regularly plays the same card, droppin’ his Gs and dialling down his vocabulary to Hee Haw standards. His ability to convincingly play a hayseed was instrumental in his 2012 campaign against the patrician Mitt Romney; in one of their televised debates the President referenced “folks” 17 times.”

We don’t have to worry about that though. We’ve got John whose speech could never be described as crisp and its content substantial e.g. “I have quite a strong sense of wanting to sort of, wanting to help others. I’m not claiming I’m a saint, but I have a genuine, genuine belief in trying to help others.”

You don’t have to be an intellectual or a cynic to see that the “rise of the idiot” is good for profit and good for political advantage but not good for the pursuit of knowledge.

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And the youth generation, better known as “The Dumbest Generation” is alive and well, dumbing down 24/7 on a diet of “aversion to reading anything of substance and an addiction to digital “crap” via social media”.  Go to: http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/dumbestgeneration/ or read Mark Bauerlein’s book.

“It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert,” says journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.

So are we reaching a point of maximum dumbness as has been claimed? Let me leave it to the reliable online news source,  Daily Mash 

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

“The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

“The problem is that although our culture cannot get any stupider, human intelligence may continue on its downward trajectory.

“The result will be a world in which nobody understands anything. Even a film about The Rock driving a jeep into explosions will leave viewers confused and angry at its pretentiousness.”

However TV channel boss Mary Fisher said: “Don’t worry, I’ve just commissioned Jamie & Jimmy’s Paranormal Antiques Auction Sex News.

“And I’m confident we can go even lower. We must keep striving to find new depths of idiocy.”

Read more at: http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-entertainment/things-cannot-be-dumbed-down-any-further-warn-experts-20140115825990)

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Keeping Mum

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There’s a new women’s lib movement underway.  

Babyboomer women, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are coming out and staying out.  

Mummy is not going to keep mum. She’s going to be seen and heard – alot.

o-OLDINVINCIBLE-570Rather than turning into the retiring woman she’s going to be invincible not invisible because she has hit 51 and has lived a life.

This lady’s not for turning and doesn’t need to burn her bra – no – she’ll buy the company instead. She can. She doesn’t need to look like Barbie, though she can.

And she is beautiful at every age.

So advertisers and marketers get with the programme and shape up to take a giant leap for womankind. Throw away the lazy prejudices, stereotypes and vapid messaging and take a really good look at today’s female consumers.

It’ll help too if you can see that the woman shopper is not anmorphous mass aged between 18 and 59 and cares for her family!

Let’s start with a small step for man.

It’d be great if we 50 pluses could be given a brain, bladder and mental faculties.

And can we have more interests than finding a 1001 ways with plastic wrap or power walking around the retirement village?

downloadYou could wipe the screen clean too with those beloved by adman, cheap in every way, chatty, animated characters. I am struck dumb when confronted with that parade of little Misses and Misters like the dancing yoghurt, the singing bad breath veges and sweeties, the shiver me timbers damp house, super hero fly sprayer and those boring old farts who are planning their funeral night after night for what looks like forever.

Pink can go there too. It’s stink and only appropriate when it is Breast Cancer Awareness month and for rugby referees.

Baby boomer women, at least in the developed world, have financial clout and they’re on the way to wielding even more. The new money women already represent trillions of dollars in buying power and they’re going to have more.

They are well educated, have successful careers, bring up families, have money to invest and – take note – they make most of the big household purchase decisions including the house, car, bank, investment fund, insurance, healthcare , phone, internet and pay tv provider.

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They are also habitual online shoppers and nearly always pass along information on a deal or customer experience to others.

They’re also more likely to buy environmentally friendly brands if they have the choice and they like green products.

But, they also feel badly misunderstood by marketers and advertisers.

Take my advice and say goodbye to Mr Blobby and his animated gal and guy friends.

It’ll be good riddance too to that loutish boyfriend sticking panty liners on his torso as he channels his inner ninja and Mrs LBL will no longer have to surreptitiously leave the party to whisper confidentially to us that she’s not the least bit inconvenienced or embarrassed by her light bladder leakage problem now she has her liners! In this brave new world she can say it out loud and proud at the table.

Just as women are shamefully under represented at the executive and board tables, and still can’t achieve pay parity, you won’t be at all surprised to know that less than 5 per cent of the advertising industry’s creative directors are women. That may explain some of the stereotyping but chauvinism, ageism, sexism and banal messaging is not exclusive to men!  We’re all very very good at it.

Feminism or women’s lib was – and still is – about equality of the sexes, and not about women getting even. I cringe when über mutters, now über alles super women, but with perfect hair, teeth and figures, career off in their powerful 4-wheel drive urban assault vehicle for the office, having achieved domination over the male species who is left to bumble around the house, apparently outwitted by the buttons on a dishwasher. It’s pitiful.

Perhaps-a-reason-for-the-anti-lycra-brigade

But hold on, is this not the very same man seen on Saturday morning weaving in a peloton through traffic at breakneck speed on his racing bike? Clad in skin tight racing gear with action gusset, this weekend warrior demonstrates the 11th reason why men of any age should never wear lycra!

It also reminds us that babyboomers are not nearly dead – though a growing number of them are newly wed having exchanged partners for a newer model mid life.

They’re also early adopters. The blogosphere is ringing with women’s voices. And now there’s Sarah Palin’s voice to add to the confusion.  She’s launched her own online subscription tv channel to go “beyond the soundbites and the media’s politically correct filter to get to the truth”. This could be vastly edifying, particularly when she goes on longer than a soundbite!

I’m okay and I bet you’re okay too that part of the babyboomers coming out is that we don’t have to be perfect all the time, in every way.

In fact, women of every age are pushing back and embracing their imperfections in all their glory. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has been a refreshing circuit breaker and so has Beyoncé, who really is perfection personified. She’s on the bandwagon, singing from the rooftops or wherever divas sing from, encouraging women to “find beauty in imperfection and the happiness in their lives”. I’m with her.

stuck

Revenge of the Designer Vagina

I hope she’ll have a word though to the one in five Australian women aged between 18 and 69 who are thinking about having labial surgery.

Apparently their romantic partners told them they didn’t like the way their vaginas looked and no they’re thinking they need to do something about it, according to a survey by Australia’s Flinders University Psychology Department.

My advice is to stop looking, find the happiness within  and enjoy the rest of your life.

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