Friday, February 19, 2010

Ceding to the Idiots

Q: What do the following have in common: Evan Bayh, The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM), and expert chowhounds who bail from the discussion because too many know-nothings come around?

A: By taking themselves (or, in the case of the VHEM, their genetic material) out of the running, they cede everything to the idiots, much exacerbating the problem.

It's a bug in the human operating system: When things get dumb, conscientious people bail, leaving behind an ever-greater proportion of dumbness. By contrast, the idiots, who inherently act from a less high-minded position, always stick around. In fact, they're nearly impossible to remove (dogged tenacity being one hallmark of the sort of idiot who exasperates the high-minded into quitting).

Giving up may seem to make sense in the narrow view. Yes, Congress is ridiculously, unendurably beset by partisan strife, so moderates feel a strong compulsion to recoil and leave. Unconscientious human beings are destroying the planet, so the conscientious choose not to reproduce. And postings about Cheesecake Factory on Chowhound make serious eaters want to bolt. But this reflex leads to extremely short-sighted behavior.

We often hear the phrase "It's what you make it", cried, usually in vain, by the few who understand how things really work. Having grown utterly passive and consumptive in our outlook, we forget that we, as individuals, are part of the picture, not external observers. Life isn't happening on TV. We're actually a part of it all, making things happen. Our actions have ramifications; what we do, how we vote, what we support, what we buy - all these little individual decisions - determine absolutely everything. When the pineapple, perturbed by an over-abundance of coconut, opts out of the piña colada, it leaves behind a completely coconutty piña colada! We vote with our feet, and everything truly is what we make it. When we leave, we haven't switched a channel on our end; we've left a palpable vacuum in the real world.

It should be noted that this human blind spot sometimes works in the converse. Consider, for examle,people who keep picking up and moving farther and farther away from it all to escape suburban sprawl...never realizing that in so doing they
are the suburban sprawl.

The blind spot needs to be illuminated. We need politicians, like Evan Bayh, who see how wrong things are going. By checking out, he lessens hope. Similarly, if environmentalists fail to pass forward their concern - and their genetic propensity to be concerned - then there's less hope. Same when food experts leave a food discussion, ceding to the less expert. Less hope. When the pineapple storms out of the piña colada, the result is pure coconut juice.

The less moderate, less conscientious, less high-minded people always prevail. There is, alas, no symmetry here, though. Partisan congressional pinheads, callous anti-environmentalists, and mindless eaters have no compunction about anything, so they're not going anywhere. Assholes stick around!

The fallout? Look around you, and you'll notice an awful lot of decent good people (mostly quietly aggravated) and a small minority of loud idiots (mostly highly geared up). So, which side seems to be prevailing? And what about those vast hordes of people - nearly half the country - who decline to vote in national elections? Why did they pull out of the process? In most cases, blame the same spirit of disgust that disenfranchised Evan Bayh.

The pushiest loudmouths always win.

Here are some observations about the Evan Bayh situation from Robert Reich (thanks to Barry Strugatz).

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