You may label me a cultural illiterate,
an ignoramus —
and that’s more fact
I don’t know anything about professional sports, for example. I know there are innumerable magazines, cable channels, radio stations and websites devoted to such things. Many Americans can rattle off sport statistics back to the 19-aughts and name every player, team owner and sponsor. I know the amount of money in sports at all levels is equivalent to the gross domestic
product of most nations put together.
I also ignore celebrity incarcerations, romance novels and television series. I have zero interest in what most of what people spend countless hours of study
and participation — in much of what has become American culture.
But let me turn the mirror around, and I hope you don’t take it badly. More than
90 percent of you — in matters of war versus peace, justice versus cronyism, economics versus promises, prosperity versus institutionalized theft, fact versus newspeak, and, of course, our short and simple United States of America and Indiana constitutions — are a bunch of ignoramuses as well.
The Obamacare consultant Jonathan Gruber’s “exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter” wasn’t at all new or unusual. “Viable” and “electable” politicians not only take advantage of what Gruber called the “stupidity of the American voter,” they depend upon it for all the corrupt, violent, thieving and stupid things they do.
Two thousand years ago, the Stoic Epictetus said, “Only the educated are free.”
A hundred years ago, Vladimir Lenin wrote, “People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learned to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes.”
We could live in peace, prosperity, security, liberty and justice right now. But we’d have to care about that at least a quarter as much as we care about video games or diet plans or cellphone apps or other distractions that take so much of our time, money and precious attention.
Only a tiny fraction of you ever show up to public meetings, debates or candidate forums. Nor do you tune in to televised or otherwise easily available interviews, videos and other information sources that could make you well-
educated citizens. We certainly never interview political candidates to even the degree we do janitors and drive-thru attendants.
At the same time, we’ve played politics as if it were a spectator sport. We talk of odds, dollars and statistics more than right and wrong. We tolerate and even expect criminal behavior from our politicians as long as they win on Election Day. We act as though we can just tune out violence and injustice as if it were only a television screen.
And we speak of politicians as only “winners” and “losers” as if we’re not the ones really winning and losing, being affected by government. It is difficult to imagine another aspect of human interaction treated with such numbed ignorance.
I can ignore basketball and Miley Cyrus without messing up our world. Your political ignorance and failure to govern your government, however, is not harmless. Your nation is no more than the sum of your choices, your sins, your tolerance, your vision. For good or ill, politics is delegation.
So don’t blame Jonathan Gruber for calling you stupid. That, too, is more fact than denunciation.
Andrew M. Horning is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation living in Freedom, Indiana. Send comments to awoods@