Tuesday, October 25, 2005

85% OF AMERICANS ARE COMPLETE FUCKING IDIOTS

Yesterday evening after I returned home from work and in the middle of my daily, rigorous, uphill-both-ways, eight mile run (which I perform while wearing a specially-designed, twenty-pound weighted vest), I became lost in an embarrasing sort of personal reverie. As I ran I imagined a parallel American Mastodon, one who didn't sleep through most of his sophomore year of college; one who had a little more amibition and a little less fear of risk - the ultimate American Mastodon: my prime potential person. I imagined the successes I may have accomplished and, since I've always scored well on standardized tests, my imagined achievements were of the academic variety - finishing up my final year in orthopaedic oncology at Stanford or researching the variance in soil composition among African river basins. As I ran, I thought back - were those tests just flukes? Why did I score so well? Should I have flaunted those scores more than I did? Used them to score some hot pussy? But then I tried to think of the women who may have been attracted to statistics like that and, truth be told, could hardly imagine any at all.

I remembered what my math teacher in high school said once in the middle of a class: "When I was in high school, I knew two men who scored perfect scores on their SAT's. One went on to work for NASA, and the other became a drug addict." His fable was obvious and crude, a dagger meant to strike at the impressionable hearts of the teenagers in the room: Even those who are gifted can fall to great depths. Was I the drug addict? Certainly a case could have been made at one time. A benign case, a funny case, a hungry and sort of sleepy case, but a case nonetheless.

I kept running. I tripped on a crack in the sidewalk and cursed. As I ran, I thought back even further. Elementary school. ISTEP tests, Iowa tests: halt is to go as dark is to (light, night, day, white). I scored well on those, too. But while scoring well on high school tests seemed like an imperative - everyone clambering to get an edge before applying to college - the tests in elementary school were largely anomalies, more an indicator of who was going to get a wedgie that day than who might end up at Yale. I remember getting those tests back and discovering, to my delight, that I had scored in the "99th percentile" of all test takers. It didn't take long, though, to realize two things - first, a number of my friends had also scored in the 99th percentile and second, if I were being compared to all of the other fifth grade students in Indiana, then saying that I was in the top 1% was an achievement on par with receiving a blue participation ribbon for running a 10-minute mile.

Last eveing, as I ran, I thought about what happened to those fifth-grade friends of mine that scored similarly to me. And do you know the revelation I had? Those students moved away, they got into drugs or alcohol or glue or D&D (a truly ruinous addiction) long before I even barely knew of such things, their parents got divorces and they gave up on life for awhile, or they just couldn't hack it when long division with numbers became equations with letters (letters!). The revelation I had was the understanding of my exception - not the exception of my intelligence but rather the retention of it (and the retention of my desire to demonstrate it to others) through the turbulences of high school and adolescence. It wasn't until college that my belief systems shattered and the idea of choosing to take a class in chemistry became as dreadful to me as cutting off my right hand - my good hand, my jacking off hand. It was the realization that many intelligent people don't care enough about the fact to have to prove it to other people. To, for example, write a blog post about it.

As I ran, I pondered these thoughts for awhile longer, dodging old women and babies in strollers, jumping over small hatchbacks in single bounds, ducking under moving semi-trucks. I synthesized my thoughts and came to a greater understanding of how I had seen myself then and how I see myself now. I came to understand that though I had long ago tossed aside the notion that tests can calculate intelligence or signify some future success, I still must come to grips with the fact that I am more intelligent than some people. I wish this weren't so. I wish everyone were capable and bright and interested in physics and literature. I wish everyone shared an appreciation of the films of Wim Wenders and the philosophical musings of Kant, but they don't.

This is the cross I bear. This is my prison. I don't ask for your sympathy.

I ask for your ear.

I thought of the 99% of fifth graders of the past, the ones that even then had yet to experience death, drugs, dead-end jobs, betrayal - where are they now? Is the world truly so full of stupid people?

I finished my run and walked back to my apartment. As I sauntered down the dimly lit Santa Monica street, my heart rate slowed and my head cleared. My adrenaline slowed and dissipated and I returned to a state of regular perception, of clarity. I shook my head at the foolishness of my thoughts, of their grandiosity, their pretension and their unfounded superiority. I chuckled, briefly, shaking my head, then paused in the darkened, cold alley behind my apartment and stared in the starry night above. So large, the galaxy; so small and insignificant, our time here. My thoughts churned and my mind, becoming angry, quietly admonished myself - American Mastodon, all men and all women are struggling with the same joys, frustrations, failures, and hardships! We all are neighbors, friends, lovers, and penpals - we are the ones who make this grand village!

In the blue haze of the October moonlight, I recited to myself, aloud, some lines from Emerson: To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men - that is genius.

Later that night I went to bed satisfied, content, feeling connected to the grand web of human development, achievement, destruction, pain, happiness - a web that, together, we all weave.

But a strange thing happened this morning, friends. I awoke and, after having read this news article, a singular, frightening thought dawned on me: the people of this country may be much dumber than I thought. As a matter of fact, I've overestimated the lot of you - a truly foolish thing to do, and a mistake I'll not likely make again.

So, to sum up, for all intents and purposes, I don't know who among the great unwashed out there is an idiot and who is a reasonable person. Surely, you can not only see my predicament but empathize with it. In turn, then, you will not be offended when I state that I must, from now on, surmise that the overwhelming majority of you are senseless, slobbering idiots, not capable of a single coherent or rational thought and that I have no reason to take anything any of you ever say again seriously.

Ugh. You fucking morons.

10 comments:

Danny Fisher said...

There are many things to appreciate about the above post--its eponymous point, the AM's work-out regimen, his blue participation ribbon (er, test scores), and so on. But, being a card-carrying member of the great unwashed, I most appreciated this...

It wasn't until college that my belief systems shattered and the idea of choosing to take a class in chemistry became as dreadful to me as cutting off my right hand - my good hand, my jacking off hand.

Danny Fisher said...

Given the staggering lack of comments about this post, I'm beginning to think that I'm the only one who actually read the whole thing.

Mathis said...

I read it.

Danny Fisher said...

I read it.

With your jacking-off hand, I'm sure.

Mathis said...

To be honest, I don't read with my hand.

Trevor Jackson said...

ITEM!!

Masto may be blind says Danny Fisher!!

Perhaps due to "polishing the bishop"!!

MUST CREDIT DRUDGE!!

Danny Fisher said...

All right, that was an ill-conceived punchline. But I don't think the joke gets lost in translation (i.e. when you read your own prose you touch yourself).

Mathis said...

No, Danny.

When I think about you, I touch myself.

Danny Fisher said...

If I had a nickel for everytime a brilliant internet comedian said that...I'd have a nickel.

Grace said...

That evolution survey was bogus. The options were so limited. Among the missing critical options were: (1) There is no god. (2) There is more than one god; in fact, there is a different god for each area code of the world and that god "guides" evolution in that particular area code. Areas without phone service do not evolve. (3) Screw evolution -- my gas and heating bills are bankrupting me.