Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Cult of Willful Ignorance: Part 1

In the early 1980s, as certain new technologies began to gain popularity in average American households, a small quiet sound could be heard in the distance.

Almost imperceptible, at first, the plaintive voice grew, gradually, louder.

"I don't know how to set my VCR."
It was still quiet. Muttered toward the floor. A passive plea for help, tinged with confusion, embarrassment and, maybe even, a little bit of shame. 
"I don't know how to set my VCR."
 As the voice grew a bit louder still, you could even detect a dollop of fear.
"The clock just keeps blinking, 12:00... 12:00... 12:00..."
And as the voice became clearer, one could discern a subtext. This wasn't just an embarrassed confession, it was a desperate plea.
"Do you, maybe, know a fifth-grader that could help me with this?"
As time passed...

A year? Two years? Maybe three?

The lone, quiet voice was joined by another. 

Then another.

The voices multiplied, exponentially into a small but vocal chorus. 

A choir of voices proclaiming, as one, that they were not capable of following illustrated instruction in plain English.  

*At the risk of breaking the flow... A digression.*

In the 1980s, tech products were still being manufactured in America.

And the instructions were written in English. Not "Chinese to English" fed through Babel Fish. No one can be expected to understand that mess.

*End Digression*
In time, the members of the chorus realized that their name was Legion. And, so empowered, their voices grew louder.

And they came out, en mass, from their technophobic closets. They lifted their heads high and raised their voices. Their refrain no longer an embarrassed whine, but an arena rock anthem to technological ineptitude.
  "We don't know how to set our VCRs!"

"We hit 'Record' if we are home when 'Matlock' comes on. Otherwise, that's what summer reruns are for!"

"We put electrical tape over the blinking clock, because we will not be intimidated!"

"We are old dogs who will not learn new tricks!
                                  "WEEEEEEEE are the champions, my friend....!!!!!!!"
"We are the willfully ignorant! And we are loud and proud!"

"Get used to it and get over it!"
It strikes me, as I write this, that this rise of proud, willful dumbfuckery and the subsequent vilification of the educated as "elitist" was a seed planted and rooted during the Reagan years. It seems, to your humble Blog, that this is not a coincidence. We will explore this later.

*If you, my blogglitts are as smart as I think you are, (and I think you are,) you are already way ahead of me and my point. But, stick around.*

Three decades have passed.

The VCR has gone the way of the icebox and the dial telephone.
*Another Digression*

Isn't it funny how changing technology changes our language?

The first time I wrote the phrase, "I don't know how to set my VCR," I actually wrote, "I don't know how to program my VCR." But then I realized that that was inaccurate. We didn't "program" VCRs, we "set" them. Today, in the second decade of the 21st century, we "program" DVRs (among other things, including our coffee makers.) In 1988 we "taped" our favorite shows. Today, we "record" them. And, at the rate that VOD, Netflix™, Hulu+™, etc. are barreling down on us, we "record" less and "queue" and "stream" more.

*End Digression*
VCRs were replaced by DVD/Rs which were replaced by the DVR. And, as I pointed out in the above digression, the DVR is minutes away from being tossed on the junk heap of obsolete quaintness.

Our current tech devices "program," (or, in the parlance of the mid-80s, "set,") themselves.

Leaving the heretofore empowered Cult of the Willfully Ignorant without much to brag about.

Sure, they have glommed onto the default "smartphone argument."

"I refuse to own a phone that is smarter than I am."

This motto of the 21st century techno-philistine is usually proclaimed via Facebook or Twitter, so it must be taken with a whole shaker of salt. "Hang on to your dumb phone," says I, "While you have mastered your home computer or iPad™."

(I feel that I need to add that, as witty as the "smartphone argument" is, in a Reaganesque, ("I'm from the government and I'm here to help." LOL!), sort of way, it is also an admission of the fear that an inanimate machine that is about the size of a cigarette pack and thinner than a pack of gum is, actually, smarter than the commenter.)

In the vernacular of youngsters on the social media, "Derp."

Enough for tonight.

Here is a quick preview of "The Cult of Willful Ignorance: Part 2..."
*One last digression*

I had planned on calling this post "The Cult of Dumbfuckery."

In the interest of keeping it clean for Facebook and Google+ sharers, I made the adjustment.

But, I meant, "Dumbfuckery."

*End Dumbfuck Digression*
 In the final decades of the 20th Century, the battle cry of the willfully ignorant was, "I don't know how to set my VCR."

In the early decades of the 21st Century, as technology has rendered that motto obsolete, a new motto is born...

"I don't pay much attention to politics. But..."

There is a difference between the old motto and the new.

The old one was, mostly, harmless.

The new one is, decidedly, ugly and dangerous.

See you tomorrow night. 

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