FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Ass Clown Epoch

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

How do we define “dumb” in the Age of Stupid? Whether you call it the Anthropocene, or the more scientific ‘Ass Clown Epoch’, stupid is the defining feature of our “smart” everything society: From our phones to the lampshades and corkscrews that increasingly depend on them to function. When the greatest minds of your generation came up with the idea of enriching themselves to the extent that no one else can survive – financially or even physically – it’s time to acknowledge that we are in the throes of irreversible human cognitive collapse. Some would point to the Supreme Dotard at its apex as symptomatic of its underlying causes rather than the cause itself. After all, stupid is the fertile foundation from which both “intelligent life” and Donald Trump evolved.

Not all of us have the neural capabilities to say, drive a car, fill out a tax form, solve a math problem (ahem) or any of the other tasks required to gain access into the “normal” range of human activities deemed necessary to fully function in a capitalist society. No one will credit you for not splitting the atom, or consider this moral victory remotely significant. The only word that describes ‘stupid’ as it applies to people we consider “all smart in the brains and stuff” (leaders, “innovators”, tech gurus, policy wonks, etc.) has been retired, making it next to impossible to adequately mock them.

Are we, by omission of an offensive word, upholding the dignity of disabled individuals, or simply sparing an elite class of criminals an accurate assessment of their real world abilities? For these people, “asshole” is less an insult than a badge of honor since it denotes a rugged and “alpha” disposition. Science has confirmed that the smell of sulfur has its own aphrodisiac underpinnings if it’s emanating from someone dressed as a banker or a tech bro. By the same token, “crazy” is only an aspersion if its human host hasn’t figured out a way to turn it into an electric muscle car orbiting earth for no reason whatsoever.

Still, there’s always the risk of unfairly maligning those with actual disabilities who bear the brunt by association with those who use their intellects to devise ways of driving species essential to the continuation of life to extinction, and then talk about moving to Mars and nuking it for their own survival. We can’t call the latter “retards”, since the word still has unpleasant associations with hate speech directed at vulnerable people, yet not calling them out on their intellect-driven choices misses a valuable opportunity to reassess what it means to be “smart” and how this designation puts us all at risk as in . . . “The decision by educated and well-informed bureaucrats and corporate executives to build nuclear power plants close to the coastline of a seismically active island prone to tsunamis was monumentally . . . misguided”. As was the decision to invade Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya . . . The list is as long as our capacity to unlearn history is boundless.

Understatements like “misguided” only serve to insulate evil-doers from their evil, and even evoke sympathy and admiration for their “plight” as remorseful serial killers with the benefit of hindsight. Even “psychopaths” enjoy a sort of cult status, and considered role models in tech and banking circles. “Retard” on the other hand, still carries the stigma of powerlessness and defect. Redirected at the people who actually deserve our scorn, rather than the blameless recipients of the slur might just give them pause before embarking on yet another scheme to hasten the destruction of the Antarctica’s permafrost. An evil genius hell bent on bringing about the end of the world seems beyond our control to thwart. A more aptly, and less intimidatingly labeled phenomena, however, might just compel us to try.

The people we deem “genius”, blessed, gifted, or even capable, are too often committed to the destruction of everything or anything that sustains balance, harmony and joy for short-term, ego-driven gains that have endlessly cascading consequences for organized life on earth. Very bad ideas, once monetized, become “innovation”, while the criminal masterminds behind them them are dubbed “visionaries”. It takes a genius to devise ways to integrate banking systems, airlines, hospital equipment and vending machines so that they all crash simultaneously in some foreseeable future without running water or electricity.

These profiteering “prophets” use their full cognitive functions to make bold and necessary decisions like streamlining human activity out of the workforce, bombing a school children thousands of miles away, or making your phone a radioactive surveillance device that transmits pictures of your dick and then stores them in a “cloud”. They do this with the full knowledge of the outcomes, but somehow their clean bills of cognitive health (or their large bank accounts) exempt them from permanent exile into institutions that reward good behavior with birthday cakes.

We trust almost anyone in an official capacity, based entirely on the assumption that someone who ticks generally worthless boxes along a petal-strewn path of life, regardless of their track record, (or body count) can be relied on to make informed decisions on our behalf. Spoiler Alert: They don’t and no one survives.

We mostly nod along with them as they announce that the presence of carcinogenic pesticides in breakfast cereal is less alarming than the existence of Mexicans in Iowa, or Russians on Facebook. We assume that it’s all for the best when they blithely sign a bill for increased war spending, even as infant mortality rates and homeless numbers soar, as wages stagnate, infrastructure declines and wildlife disappears altogether. We reward them with a get-out-of-jail-free card when they prove spectacularly wrong on a criminal level. Most significantly, we only question their intelligence when their hair plugs come unhinged during a meltdown on Twitter.

If a person is somehow able to mathematically chart a course for himself to a distant, freezing planet, having helped mastermind the destruction of his own, we somehow consider this development an achievement milestone, more noteworthy than the realization that capitalism makes us dumb in ways that destroys all potential for survival anywhere. So dumb, in fact, that we are “triggered” by the only word that adequately describes it, rather than the phenomenon itself.

Human dumbness is so multi-faceted, layered, and labyrinthine that it could be compared to an ant colony designed by the bonkers heiress of the Winchester Rifle fortune, constructed entirely of endlessly winding passages leading to dead ends, and ultimately resulting in equally dead ants trapped in a sadistic, logic-eschewing maze. The surviving progeny of the famed gun maker insisted that the ghosts of individuals shot dead by its namesake product were guiding her hands as they drew up the plans for her uninhabitable, deliberately ill-fitted house of horrors. If you consider the number of victims of US made weapons everywhere around the world, then it’s entirely possible that their lingering and unappeased spirits might have had a similar influence on the architects of late capitalism.

More articles by:

Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.

July 08, 2020
Joel Schlosberg
“All the Credit He Gave Us:” Time to Drop Hamilton’s Economics
John Feffer
The US is Now the Global Public Health Emergency
Nick Licata
Three Books on the 2020 Presidential Election and Their Relevance to the Black Live Matter Protests
Elliot Sperber
The Breonna Taylor Bridge
July 07, 2020
Richard Eskow
The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House’s Military Spending Bill
Daniel Beaumont
Gimme Shelter: the Brief And Strange History of CHOP (AKA CHAZ)
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s War
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Racism May be Blatant, But the Culture He Defends Comes Out of the Civil War and Goes Well Beyond Racial Division
Andrew Stewart
Can We Compare the George Floyd Protests to the Vietnam War Protests? Maybe, But the Analogy is Imperfect
Walden Bello
The Racist Underpinnings of the American Way of War
Nyla Ali Khan
Fallacious Arguments Employed to Justify the Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s Autonomy and Its Bifurcation
Don Fitz
A Statue of Hatuey
Dean Baker
Unemployment Benefits Should Depend on the Pandemic
Ramzy Baroud – Romana Rubeo
Will the ICC Investigation Bring Justice for Palestine?
Sam Pizzigati
Social Distancing for Mega-Million Fun and Profit
Dave Lindorff
Private: Why the High Dudgeon over Alleged Russian Bounties for Taliban Slaying of US Troops
George Wuerthner
Of Fire and Fish
Binoy Kampmark
Killing Koalas: the Promise of Extinction Down Under
Parth M.N.
Back to School in Rural India: Digital Divide to Digital Partition
Ed Sanders
The Burning of Newgate Prison: a Glyph
July 06, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Foreign Election Interference: Who is to Blame?
JoAnn Wypijewski
On Disposability and Rebellion: Insights From a Rank-and-File Insurgency
Marshall Auerback – Jan Frel
There’s a Hidden Economic Trendline That is Shattering the Global Trade System
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Just and Talented Government for Our Hazardous Age
Manuel García, Jr.
Biosphere Warming in Numbers
Ron Jacobs
Kidnapping Kids: As American as the Fourth of July
Tasha Jones
Pyramids. Plantations. Projects. Penitentiaries
Binoy Kampmark
Criminalising Journalism: Australia’s National Security Craze
Eve Ottenberg
Re-Organizing Labor
Mike Garrity
How We Stopped Trump From Trashing a Critical Montana Roadless Area in Grizzly Habitat
Nino Pagliccia
The Meaning of the 1811 Independence for Today’s Venezuela
Michael Galant
We Need a Global Green New Deal
Jill Richardson
Learning Not to Look Away
Marshall Sahlins
Donald Trump at 130,000 and Rising
Weekend Edition
July 03, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Peter Linebaugh
Police and the Wealth of Nations: Déjà Vu or Unfinished Business?
Rob Urie
Class, Race and Power
John Davis
A Requiem for George Floyd
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mutiny of the Bounties!
Richard D. Wolff
Revolutionary Possibilities: Could U.S. Capitalism Turn Nationalist?
Richard Falk
When Rogue States Sanction the International Criminal Court
Louis Proyect
Smearing Black Lives Matter…From the Left
Ralph Nader
Trump and Pence – Step Aside for Professional Pandemic Scientists and Managers
Ramzy Baroud
Tearing Down the Idols of Colonialism: Why Tunisia, Africa Must Demand French Apology
Philippe Marlière
Challenging the French Republic’s Color-Blindness
Richard C. Gross
Attack, Deny
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail