False Link Between Kindness and Stupidity
A major Russian writer once said that there are two kinds of people in Russia: Smart and mean, and kind and stupid. In America and Australia I have found that not to be the case.
In both places, I've known professors, engineers, teachers, journalists, doctors, artists, counselors and enterpreneurs who were both kind and brilliant. And in both places there are more than enough people who are mean and stupid - the people who run around killing each other, the people who beat their wives, the people who deny scientific reality, the people who run around howling about a "Satanic New World Order conspiracy" or promote perpetual war or compare President Obama to Hitler.
One direction into which kitsch has been taken is glorifying the country people under such rubrics as "the family farmer." Why not the family computer programmer? Why not the family engineer? Why not the family scientist? Why not the family journalist, the family teacher or the family writer? I've dealt with people from the country, and I have absolutely did not find them better than people in the cities or suburbs. Many of the people I've known from the country were violent, authoritarian and corrupt. Whereas I've seen great personal traits in a number of people who are academics, teachers or entrepreneurs or are otherwise regarded as being a part of "elites."
When a group is lionized, this allows the members of the group to get away with all sorts of wrongdoing. And when stupid and mean people get elevated to the state of being seen as the true character of the country, or as having better values than others, then this empowers the stupid and mean people to do great wrong. No, not everyone in the country is mean and stupid; but neither are they better than other people. The country kitsch protects atrocities on the part of these people and disempowers those who are at the receiving end of these atrocities.
What atrocities do I speak of? Just a short list. I knew an old millionaire in an Australian country town who had a stroke and got put away in a nursing home, where he was not given food or medicine as prescribed, and he was dead in a week. The body was cremated before an autopsy could be performed. I know a young man from the same town who got committed involuntarily for an indefinite period of time for going with a woman his family did not approve of, where he was administered twice the legal number of ECTs and raped in the showers. I know a woman whose child was taken away from her because the judge was bribed and did not even read her affidavit. And this is just the start.
It is wrong - no, it is ridiculous - to claim that country people are better than the rest of the nation, or that they have better values, or that they are a truer representation of its character. The country people, like everyone else, are people, which means that they can do both right things and wrong things. When these people are regarded as being better, this gives the bad ones among them green light to do all sorts of wrongdoing. And that does not benefit the country or its values. It fosters corruption, deception, brutality, and very real crimes.
The intelligent people - indeed all people - should stop buying into the kitsch that makes such things possible. The country people are not better than the people in the city and suburbs, and stupidity and kindness do not positively correlate. Among smart people we will find kind ones and mean ones, and among stupid people we will also find kind ones and mean ones. The stress should be put into fostering both kindness and intelligence, not go by a transparently ridiculous stance that intelligence makes people mean and that stupidity makes them kind.
Nobody chooses the levels of intelligence with which they are born; and the less intelligent people who have developed fine personal traits I hold in high esteem. But this equation that many have in their heads between stupidity and good personal traits has to go; and what has to go even more is the equation that many have in their heads between intelligence and meanness. The kindest people I've known were also some of the most intelligent ones; and the meanest people I've known were also some of the dumbest. The gangster, the wife-beater, the person who beats up on homosexuals or blacks or Jews or single mothers or aborigines, are all both mean and stupid; and none of these people deserve to be seen as possessing a better character than the people in business, media, academia or "the liberal elites."
The less such false identifications are made, the more actions can be revealed for their true character. And then the greater progress actually stands to be made. Both kindness and intelligence are positives; both stupidity and meanness are negatives. And it is time that the society creates incentives for both kindness and intellect and do away with incentives for stupidity and meanness.