Why are people so eager to be useless?

The proud ignorance of the redneck…

“I voted twice and I failed political science twice,” said Darin Stevens, leader of the Spokane 9/12 Project.

is the flipside of the giddy trivia of the self-proclaimed nerd.

[comic via xkcd]

[Times quote via Matt

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4 Comments

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4 Responses to Why are people so eager to be useless?

  1. Or, on the other hand:

    (From Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground)

    “And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something.”

  2. fictionadvocate

    Good quote. (And good book!)

    Maybe this is old news, but I was surprised to realize how similar these two attitudes are. “I’m [just a simple American / a hopeless geek], and I’m never going to fit in your society, so why try?”

    For Dostoevsky this would have been a misanthropic, and therefore taboo and revolutionary idea. But for us, in a society that’s broken into so nany niches, this kind of carefully cultivated misanthropy is a badge of honor. Doestoevsky’s revolutionary idea is our day-to-day.

  3. Two things. First, Larry the Cable guy is a character of Daniel Whitney, who doesn’t sound anything like Larry. Second, it’s worth unpacking what defines a redneck. The fact that Darin Stevens took Poli-Sci suggests he went to college and, presumably, has a typical middle-class job. Is a redneck just someone with poor taste in culture and political views? I think your point about people who take pride in their own ignorance is a good one, but I’m not sure “redneck” is a useful term, even aside from being an epithet.

  4. And the UM’s ideas are just the logical endpoint of Enlightenment/Modernist rational thinking, which implied a determined world. So, it follows, according to the UM, that you can’t really become anything unless it’s rationally determined and really out of your control. It gives him an excuse to sit out life in his little corner. I like how you put it: Dostoevsky’s revolutionary is our day-to-day.

    With Americans, it’s a combination of things that leads to general apathy or justifiable (even celebrated) ignorance. I agree with what you’ve pointed out, and would also add the demonization of the “intelligentsia” (witness Sarah Palin) and educated culture in general.

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