“When you have learned something, my dear, it often feels at first as if you had lost something.”
— George Bernard Shaw
By Dan Hagen
I have come to loathe the term “common sense,” a foggy form of flattery for faux knowledge that ordinarily serves to disguise intellectual laziness and provide a veneer of respectability to pig-ignorant prejudice.
Sense is not “common.” Like everything else of lasting value in life, it must be earned by considerable effort.
With transparent defensiveness, America’s uneducated scornfully contrast their beloved “common sense” with something they smear as “elitism,” but which is actually well informed intelligence.
Yes, friend, when you have surgery, make sure it's not performed by one of those “elitist” physicians with all that fancy book-larnin'. Just grab your beer buddy, hand him a butcher knife and tell him to use his common sense.
“Common sense” informed people that the world was flat, remember.
But common sense marches on, and its champions even have their own TV news channel. What Fox News offers its audience isn't really information. Instead, it scratches the itch of their shame.
“(Fox News chief Roger Ailes) takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes,” Tom Dickinson observed. “Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin's politics of resentment.”
The Fox News fans fear they are inferior to better-educated, more cosmopolitan, less gullible American citizens, and are furious because they're sure that liberals look down on them for their self-imposed ignorance. Fox News reassures them that they're victimized and so much smarter than those smarty-pants smart people who lack “common sense.”
During the 2008 election, for example, thanks to a relentless GOP propaganda campaign aimed at know-nothings, craven and wretched reporting by the corporate media and the general willful, thundering stupidity of the American public, what we were offered as "issues" were such topics as Hillary Clinton's capacity to sob, Barack Obama's middle name, the fear of his "secret Muslim religion," whether he and his wife indulge in "terrorist fist bumps," and his bowling score.
That is what burned up the media oxygen on channels supposedly dedicated to “informing the public.” That was what the voters in this country supposedly wanted to discuss while deregulated financial fraud collapsed the world economy. And that’s because America is a land full of uneducated dupes who require a big damn dose of that “elitist education” they envy and fear and pretend to despise.
Of course I'm an elitist. Anyone worth his salt is, or aspires to be. I've worked and studied throughout my life for my career, for my awards, for my library, for my philosophy and for such understanding of human nature and the world as I have.
What I don't require is to be told by some lazy, loudmouth ignoramus who was frightened in childhood by a book that his whim-driven, knee-jerk "common sense" is superior to the vast, painfully acquired sum total of human cultural knowledge and science.
Stupidity and ignorance, the enablers of cupidity and self-destruction, have nothing to recommend them, my friends. All they really offer is ripeness for exploitation and blind destruction. I'm afraid civilization is inherently "elitist." The willfully ignorant will just have to get over it, or bring it down.
There’s no exception to the rule, not even when stupidity and ignorance are deliberately disguised through comforting nonsense phrases like “American Exceptionalism” and “common sense.”
“Ignorance is not bliss,” Philip Wylie said. “It is oblivion.”
Rejecting the fruit of the tree of knowledge and calling it “common sense” leaves you stuck in that well-known paradise that has traditionally been reserved for fools.