Monthly Archives: June 2012

Anti-intellectualism

This is an issue with many different aspects, but I’ll only focus on the one that is most prominent in Australia; the view that coming across as an ‘intellectual’ type of person who uses ‘big’ words is scoffed at and looked down on, whilst the one doing the scoffing uses such vulgar and derogatory words in their daily speech, generates next to no condemnation.

What brought this post on was an internet forum I came across where some member asked if “intellectual GLBTs” exist; but the topic quickly descended into an anti-intellectual bash fest. It was an Australian website that catered to homosexuals of all ages and I quickly realised that the majority (if not all) of the members (along with the websites news section) were heavily left-wing oriented (not that I was surprised). All of the members that replied to the post had something to say against anyone who sought to educate themselves, bar one person who defended ‘textbook knowledge’ as someone called it. And it wasn’t an attack against say politicians who think they know what they’re talking about, rather against young people (whether at university or not) who use ‘big’ words and don’t have a clue about the real adult world.

Well first of all, of course any young person won’t have a clue about the ‘real adult world’, just as a 6 year old doesn’t have a clue about the ‘teenage world’ or whatever other type of world we end up encountering. I found it interesting and somewhat hypocritical for all these people making fun of those who have ‘textbook knowledge’, yet not realising that the ‘rights’ they all scream for can properly be won over by those ‘textbook knowledge’ people who are lawyers, policy makers, and others that know how to string a coherent sentence together and defy the stereotype that their ilk readily endorses and encourages.
That brings me onto my second point. The fact that the use of vulgar/derogatory language is seen as “ok” by the general Australian population (along with these people on that forum where I inspected a number of the other topics being discussed and found nothing even remotely of substance) and wouldn’t be looked down upon as much as styling yourself as an intellectual. Why is it that if you show a certain confidence in what you say, in what you do, if it shows that you’re using the power of your brain/mind, then it’s something to scoff at?

I’ve observed this at my work as well. Every single time I have a lunch break greater than 30 minutes, I make sure I bring a book with me to read in the lunch room and I’ve noticed the way some of the other staff say certain things to me, or smirk as they ask me what I’m reading.

The other thing about harbouring such negative views to education and ‘textbook knowledge’, is that, like them or not, such people end up influencing the country that you live in. Those that go on to become politicians or even philosophers, end up influencing your life in subtle and obvious ways. I can understand the anti-intellectualism against politicians and the likes of philosophers, but scoffing at them isn’t how you’ll ‘defeat’ them, rather equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and vocabulary to challenge and question their ideas.

To me an intellectual is basically a person that can think for themselves and comes to their own conclusions using nothing but their objective, rational minded self (so to have an active mind). Spouting what you read in a book, or what your professor tells you, or re-wording all of that and integrating it into your non-existent ‘personal’ views does not constitute an intellectual, rather a conformist (hence having a passive mind). This is the state of many young (and young adults) people these days. You see them on youtube, at protests, at gay pride parades, on internet forums as the one I mentioned, and anywhere else you encounter the same style of arguments.

This almost turned into a rant against the ‘gay community’ but I’m saving that for a later post.

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Irrational people

Every now and then I hear (or read) something that is so unbelievably moronic/stupid/irrational/etc, that after a moment passes by, I actually say to myself the following: “Hold on, did I actually just hear that? Did that really happen or did I somehow twist the events?” And I hate that I’m questioning my reality, questioning my mind in such a way that suggests I have no confidence in my mind. I quickly ‘snap out of it’ and realise that yes, it did happen, and no, I’m not twisting the events in some subconscious way. It’s just that, what was done or said, the severity of that action, the level of irrationality strikes at me in such a way that I guess I can’t help but to question whether it was what I perceived. And I’m not talking about foolish things, or something that someone said out of ignorance, but rather, a statement said or action done using nothing but the thinking faculty of your mind, and relying on nothing else but your mind, no knowledge of anything, just a simple statement/action that requires a process of mental thought.

I won’t get into examples, because I honestly don’t want to think about them. This entry is more of a rant as I found myself thinking about certain things, as I do. For instance, I came to the realisation a short while ago that there’s perhaps a subconscious reason as to why I’ve always been drawn towards the likes of science and maths. That fact that there’s so much order, all these laws/identities that can’t be broken or contradicted, the fact that this computer I’m using is functioning on technology that was made in an absolute reality, technology brought about by human minds applying reason, applying their knowledge to bring about order; it’s this that I admire most about engineering.

There was a time where I tried to involve myself in the “Arts” side of things, mainly in senior high school (and a bit after), and I’ve wondered why I never picked up on a lot of the stuff that was being taught. Was it because I just simply could not understand the book/play that we were reading? Or could it be that there is such a lack of order, of contradictions in the humanities, that I was just put off it all? I remember reading a statistic somewhere, that the vast majority of college students in America who have either experimented or are regular users of drugs (so the likes of marijuana, ecstasy, etc) are from the humanities departments. I’m not surprised and I can see why. It’s a shame that the arts/humanities is so low today, where a series of books about a teenage girl who wants to become a vampire sells more than actual quality novels. Or how a lot of people end up reading a book after they’ve seen the movie adaptation, because they wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise (better late than never hey?)

If I can get into an electrical/electronics engineering firm with mostly rational, intelligent people, then I’ll be happy (although going from what I’ve heard, it’s not usually the case). Otherwise I think I’ll just establish a lab of my own and live out my life amongst oscilloscopes, function generators, voltage sources, PCBs and countless components. At least I know what to expect when working with those devices (and when I don’t, the results are always pleasing), or what response I’ll get out of a circuit if a number of components are positioned in a certain way. I can see why scientists are stereotypically portrayed as staying indoors, away from other people, having no ‘lives’ (according to todays standards), etc, because there’s an element of truth to that stereotype. And the reason why such people would have lived detached from ‘society’ may as well be that they couldn’t stand the irrationality of the world, and perhaps they couldn’t identify the nature of this irrationality, so the natural response is to immerse yourself into a world of order.

Well I might not go so far as to become some sort of a ‘recluse’, just that at times the idea is so tempting. /End rant.


Living in fear and the cycle it brings about

This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. But I’ve come to the realisation that a lot of us (including myself) live in fear. It’s not a direct type of fear that you can immediately identify (for instance, fear for your life), but it’s more of a subconscious type.

I’ve observed that all of my friends (and other acquaintances) live in this state of fear where they dig out this niche for themselves in their own life, and reach a level of contentedness, having avoided all risks and opportunities (plus obligations). I know that they don’t like changing their surroundings if they’re already comfortable with their life; even if it’s living at home, on welfare, or working at a coffee shop, or working in your chosen field, yet living your life as if you expect to be homeless at any moment (keep in mind they all have degrees and live at home). I know that they’re afraid to make big decisions that will put them on a completely different track of self-development, career development and ultimately life-development. They’re the type who say “Think of what could go wrong” where they always focus on the negative, on their fear.

The problem with this mind-set is that, once a person grounds it in themselves that they won’t make any major decisions that will derail from their mediocre existence (and possibly lead to an exceptional existence), based on the premise that “something could go wrong”, you enter this cycle of thought. Perhaps every now and then you’ll make a small step in a direction that requires you to take risks, and if something doesn’t work out the way you expected, you quickly retreat back into that niche, into that familiar shell, and you (sub)consciously reaffirm that thought to yourself, that something will go wrong, and because it did, it’s best to stay where you are; thus the cycle ensues. Or if you know someone who ends up taking those risks that you’d never see yourself doing, you might think “that’s crazy, don’t they see how risky that is?” and if it turns out that things didn’t go to plan for that person (a business start up fails for instance), you enter that cycle again where you reaffirm that thought pattern to yourself, of avoiding anything that takes you away from your comfortable, mediocre life.

I know that this mindset isn’t limited to my friends, but to many other people. I once harboured such fear driven thoughts, “think of what could go wrong”, and looking back it was silly of me to think in such a way because now I see what opportunities I have missed out on. But I’m not the type to dwell on the past. I don’t like this type of mindset, and I know that it’s hard to change your surroundings, to throw yourself into something unknown, but isn’t that what everyone’s life should be about?

These days it’s all about getting that secure job (we all want stability, but at what price to our inner freedom?), all about pleasing everyone else (at what price to our integrity and confidence?), all about getting into that monotonous routine that will guarantee you a safe, near stable life, where you won’t have to venture outside of your comfort zone, because by then the breaks you applied to your mind years ago have completely stopped any progress and all there is left to do for you is wait and die.

Another fear driven action is doing a job that you hate, but you’re afraid to quit because of the pay, because it brings you financial stability, security, etc. Aren’t you better off to be doing something that you genuinely love to do, and not doing it out of fear? I realise people have mortages to pay off, families, and so on, and in those instances there isn’t a whole lot I can say, but I’m mainly talking about people who are mostly independent of such obligations (or who have the choice before they take on such obligations).

We shouldn’t have to do things because of fear, rather because of the happiness that comes about. Another example is pursuing a relationship with someone because of the fear of being alone. I won’t get into explanations on this one but it revolves around the whole idea of living in fear. Basing your life actions/choices on fear will ultimately lead to unhappiness and this is the reason why I think a lot of people these days are unhappy. They’re either in a job they hate (but it’s too late to quit or make a dramatic change if they have a mortage/family) or they’re in a relationship with a person whom they know isn’t right for them, but are afraid to be ‘alone’. There’s also another fear driven lifestyle; people who are afraid of what others will think of them, so they act accordingly, they don’t show their true selves, and by the time they realise this, they don’t even know who their true self is.

Edit:

I just want to add this great quote by Theodore Roosevelt. It relates to my post because it shows what it means to live a life as a fearless human:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

It’s from a longer speech of his, which you can read here.