Thursday, June 10, 2010

Peter Carey You Pretentious Dumbass

Who are these dinosaurs who think they can determine the true measure of intelligence? At the Sydney Writers' Festival one of Australia's most prominent "literary novelists", Peter Carey, whines about how we are turning into a nation of idiots. As regards to the purported dumbing down of our culture I addressed that in this post. Peter Carey might want to learn something about the vagaries of statistical analyses the douchebag. He might also wish to remember that the earliest recorded instance of someone complaining about the younger generation goes back to the Assyrians.
In this speech Carey is demonstrates a selfish disposition worthy of a cultural elitist, which he obviously is. He should remember the wisdom of Oscar Wilde:
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
I don't think we should aspire to a more "cultured" language with flowery crap and  be possessed of a huge vocabulary. Sure it can impress people and be very entertaining to read but for myself the goal of language is to communicate ideas. Don't get me wrong, I have read many of the literary greats, Knut Hamsun, Joseph Conrad, Herman Hesse, Albert Camus, Saul Bellow, John Updike, David Malour, Patrick White etc etc, those tediously depressing Russian authors, those turgid Victorian novels, but one novel that I very much enjoyed was Dancers at the End of Time(Michael Moorcock). Now the latter is not a "literary novel" but is a great read.

Peter Carey might also try to remember, if his decaying hippocampus can manage to summon up sufficient LTP, that some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century were not particularly gifted in the language department. Bohr and Einstein, and it has even been suggested that Feynman's IQ of 124 was substantially driven down because he did very poorly on the language parts of the IQ test. So let us examine just how intelligent Mr. Carey is ....

"We are getting dumber every day. We are really literally forgetting how to read.''

"WE" Mr. Carey? Referring to yourself then or just a pretentious use of the royal "We"? Twit. Actually Mr. Carey, most people are getting smarter everyday though obviously this is not true of yourself.
'We have yet to grasp the fact that consuming cultural junk … is completely destructive of democracy,'' 
 What utter rubbish. Any evidence for that assertion Mr. Carey? Does Mr. Carey cite any studies showing an unambiguous causative effect to support the argument? I trust Mr. Carey knows the meaning of the word "research". He is setting up himself up as an authority figure on intelligence and its relationship to culture. Gee Mr. Carey, have you ever heard of the epistemological concept, the Authority Fallacy. Listen to Me is his demand, that atavistic assertion that somehow great novelists(and Mr. Carey is most definitely a great novelist) are great intellects. I for one am not beguiled by his proclamations of all pervasive wisdom and insight into the human condition.

What is destructive of democracy? Oh I don't know, perhaps it was those socialists who think that everyone must think like them, that human behavior is infinitely malleable by environmental manipulation, perhaps destruction arises when people begin insisting that everyone read the same books, think the same thoughts, and dictate to the populace at large how they should behave and pronounce from on high moral imperatives that all of us must aspire towards. There is a wonderful old Zen saying that directly addresses this: look after your own paddy field and don't mess up your neighbour's paddy field. Good enough for me.

Another great piece of wisdom from Mr. Carey:
Teachers were ''the only profession that can save us from our deep, dumb future'', he said, adding that he hoped by next year that every 14-year-old child would ''understand and adore'' Shakespeare.
"Deep, dumb future"? Will Mr. Carey please explain what a "deep future" is? Teachers?! We have more education than any other culture in any other time, we are exposed to teachers for up to 16 years of our lives! If Mr. Carey is right in asserting that we are dumbing down then he should be speaking to teachers not us the doofus. If this critique keeps going it would appear that Mr. Carey is well into mild cognitive impairment.
He feared current methods of teaching English analysed books to such an extent it was to blame for young people not reading.
Saved by the Bell Mr. Carey because I fully agree that great novels should be experienced not analysed. I studied literature at University and greatly enjoyed the experience. I only did first year subjects because it introduced me to a huge range of literature for which I am very grateful. I had an epiphany that year. I was doing research for an essay on Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". A beautiful poem. Walking into the library shelves I was confronted with shelves of literature on this poem. Madness, endless speculations about the hidden meanings and interpretation of the poem. Experience literature, don't analyse it.

By way of contrast, consider the wisdom of Sir Robert Winston in these comments he made on Lateline, an Australian current affairs program:
It's a very, very important question and there's no question, I think, that in order to try to improve things we need to up the ante with regard to science education in schools and I think what we should argue now is that science is as important a part of our culture as Shakespeare.
It's no longer satisfactory for people to say, rather proudly, "of course I didn't do science at school" believing that therefore "because I know Hamlet I don't need to know science". 
Mr. Carey needs to appreciate that all of us are blessed with differing styles of intelligence and we should never rush to judgement on the intellectual capacity of others. For example, I am skilled at plowing through mountains of data and picking up all sorts of interesting linkages and ideas. In fact if not for my vision I would be doing this as often as possible. But I am hopeless at managing my personal life, probably a direct consequence of frontal lobe injury, I am terrible at "reading people", I tend to over complicate some matters, and I am often completely bewildered as to why so many intelligent people can be swept away by ludicrous ideologies and concepts. Well not that bewildered because I've done that myself quite a few times ... . This is a good lesson:

*Gelett Burgess

If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.

Intelligence is no big deal. Don't sweat it. What matters is that we look after ourselves and along the way give others a helping hand. That's all. Oh and this: "And learning better to feel joy we learn best not to hurt others or plan hurts for them."(Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra) Though as Mr. Carey has chosen to belittle all of us I will gladly make him an exception.

1 comment:

Steve Edney said...

The amusing thing about Feynman's 124 IQ, being dragged down by the language component is that amongst physicists he is not only reknowned for actual physics acheivements, but for his ability to comunicate ideas.