I just watched a two-plus minute video (excerpt) of Noam Chomsky regarding “stupid” people. Actually, the interviewer introduced the words “stupid people,” not Chomsky.
Chomsky had opined that two dire existential threats to humanity are the increasing (apparently) likelihood of nuclear war and the increasing damage inflicted by human-assisted climate change. The interviewer asked, “Why do you care about stupid people?” Chomsky answered by pointing to those newly elected to Congress [5-7 years ago] who were “climate deniers”: people who cheerfully dismiss the science behind climate-studies and consequently perceived no responsibility to take action, either to reduce carbon emissions or to anticipate/address effects of climate change. He also opined that these same representatives a) have a “fanatical” belief in the “efficient market” (unregulated capitalism and b) front enormous, powerful financial interests. Here is a link the video: Chomsky
I take “stupid” to mean not so much unlearned as incapable of learning certain things. For instance, I am not gifted in comprehending mathematics beyond basic algebra. My mind took to geometry quite well but recoiled from trigonometry. Probably if I had set my mind to the tasks with more determination, I could have had more success, but even then, I would not have excelled, I suspect.
I am not “ignorant” of mathematics, and I certainly understand their importance. I can grasp basic statistical evidence. I am not indifferent to their (mathematics) central role, nor am I so cynical that I would like to vote for people who oppose mathematics just to–what?–feel comfortable?
The problems Chomsky highlights seem to spring from gleeful ignorance, a view of the world that implies “I know all I ever need to know.” This ignorance and/or tolerance of ignorance seems to blossom into indifference or cynicism. For so-called Republicans and Conservatives, the known includes a deep disrespect for government, but not enough disrespect to decline to serve in government. It is a subversiveness far more effective than anarchy.
For example, the EPA has been told by its director to scrub websites of climate-change language and information. The known includes the assumption that white supremacy is tolerable if not preferable and that all personal weaponry ought to be legal. It includes toleration of misogyny, a wish to abolish legal abortion combined with an opposition to contraception and sex education (go figure). Now it also seems to include a surreal combination of bellicosity and isolationism and enthusiasm about mixing greed, Christianity, and government.
I assume Republicans and Conservatives like Jeff Flake and Mitch McConnell are mentally gifted enough to understand the science behind human-assisted climate change. I assume they pretend to oppose the science so as to pander to their supporters–who may or may not be capable of understanding the science. Flake and McConnell and their ilk represent legions and wield enormous power. They tolerate White Supremacy and, in the form of the Southern Strategy, maintain its potency. They sometimes say tepid things to critique Trump, but they do nothing to impede him or his harmful cabinet and cabinet-level appointees.
Why do so many people, white people especially, support such indifference, ignorance, and cynicism when it puts virtually everyone, including them and their families, at risk? There’s the rub. Political scientists and economists often speak/write of “rational actors”: people who at least can be counted on to make decisions based on self-interest. The American train is being driven by irrational actors, at ease with current and impending destruction. From an African American point of view (to select one of many possible examples), I suppose this has always been the case. At any rate, how does one, how do many, fight back against and render ineffective the cynical indifferent and gleeful ignorance? There’s the rub, part deux.