Friday, May 10, 2013

What is Society Fail, Really

 About 15 year ago, while at a party that involved some alcohol, I made a comment to a group of acquaintances, that it seemed like there was an increase in the level of stupidity in the U.S.A., and possibly Canada too.  Someone responded that I had no proof of that, and that often people mistake stupidity for opposition to their own ideas.  Which I would have to admit was true, at least as a general statement.

But in the years since then, I have not been able to shake the idea that stupidity is on the rise.  So it's time to come up with some identifiable characteristics of a stupid society.  First let me distinguish between a stupid society and stupid people. A stupid society means that the society as a whole does stupid things, not necessarily the people within the society being more stupid.  Maybe I should substitute the word "ignorance" for "stupidity".  I hope that does not change the basic argument, because I was not trying to get into an argument about the meaning of these words, What I meant was that society was becoming more stupid or ignorant, making wrong decisions when knowledge and logic could have helped make a correct decision to benefit almost all.

Here are the top ten ways I think you can spot a society that is stupid.

1. Low literacy rates.  I feel like the less that people can read, the more stupid a society becomes.  Or, Increasing numbers of school dropouts.

2. Lack of respect for formal schools and education.  Preference for fundamentalist religion and religious teachings including miracles, superstition, magic, witchcraft, etc.

3. The media heaping scorn on scientists, theoretical researchers, intellectuals, free thinkers.  Praising people with no formal education, who also have very little knowledge of history, science, math, economics, or world geography.

4. The rise of charlatans, who make fortunes in tricking gullible people into believing their false stories.

5. Intolerance, xenophobia, and racism.  Religious freedom does not exist, or is threatened.

6. Political ideology becoming more like group-think than a real vision for the future.

7. Important national decisions based more on religion or political loyalty, than on evidence. e.g. starting wars vs. protecting the environment.

8. Erosion of democratic power.  Apathy about voting.

9. Concentration of all wealth in the hands of a few. Everyone  is out for themselves, including both the haves and have-nots. Greed is a higher motivating force than the common good.  Also, quick profits being more alluring than a sustainable future.

10 Breakdown of the rule of law, where more and more exceptions are made to allow torture, invasion of privacy, racial profiling.  Probably more people being jailed, more crimes committed also.  Some people being exempt from the law. People taking the law into their own hands.  State-sponsored assassinations.

By most of these measures, you could rate a medieval kingdoms as ignorant and stupid.  But to be fair, it takes a long time to acquire wisdom about how to govern a country fairly.  But it is "society fail" to have a country with a tradition of democracy and universal education, and to let that slip away to superstition and brutality.

Some quotes as to what makes a good non-stupid society

Above Picture of Fry (In the Futurama TV show, a man who is transported 1000 years into the future) from

Poster from:


  1. Very difficult to come up with an objective metric with respect to the relative 'stupidity' of a society.

    Much of the assessment would, inevitably, be value-based. However, if it is deemed important that society, in general, consist of informed and rational members, we certainly do appear to have a fail.

    Average educational levels have increased over past decades. Canada currently boasts the highest percentage - at 50% - of post-secondary (excluding trade and vocational) education completion within the G7.

    However, for such a purportedly highly educated population, its demands on the media seem disappointingly pusillanimous, evidently being willing to accept the largely superficial and distorted pap that passes for print and broadcast journalism (and is largely owned and controlled by a handful of media conglomerates).

    And almost half of Canadians read no non-fiction books once they've completed their formal education - relying on the biased and distorting media (including the Internet).

    (And who the heck is Lindsay Lohan - and why does she matter? Another sign of failure ... panem et circenses?)

    1. I can believe it, but I'm still surprised Canada has the highest post secondary completion in the G7. Makes me wonder what the contributing factors are to a high completion rate.

    2. Reduced academic standards? ;-)