Today went from a regular Juxtaposition to a three-part Juxtaposition and then to a theme.
Over in Prickly City, Scott Stantis began the week riffing on the Obamacare (and Romneycare) consultant who, in an unguarded and unfortunate moment, basically said that oversimplifying and perhaps shading things made the programs acceptable because, well, perhaps he meant that Americans would not accept nuanced explanations but what he said was that voters are stupid.
I've thought that both the gaffe and the gaffer were being overplayed by conservative foes of affordable health care, but, as the arc progressed, Stantis turned it into a more general examination of what we want, what we say we want, what we do, how we act ... and today's strip is telling.
I mean, why can't you explain complex, nuanced issues in a nation with a 99 percent literacy rate?
Answer: Because knowing how to read is not the same thing as knowing how to think.
Thomas Jefferson not only talked about literacy and education, but founded the University of Virginia. But I think he overestimated the connection between literacy and intelligence, perhaps because, in his day, there was a lower literacy rate and so maybe only the more intelligent people were also the more literate.
I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution.
To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro' the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.
The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.
It is true that, once he was President and subject to the abuse of the partisan press, his opinion of newspapers altered somewhat, though he actively opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts and allowed them to expire during his administration.
But he wasn't entirely starry-eyed when he wrote that letter, either:
Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves.
It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
As Winslow checks his Facebook page, the scenario Jefferson feared is unfolding.
And we can't count on people applying Arlo's impeccable logic and restraint.
Bread and circuses remain a dependable means of keeping the masses out from underfoot, and it doesn't matter whether they are offered as part of a conspiracy or simply to make profits.
In either case, you can sniff over the idiocy of Honey BooBoo and the Search for Bigfoot, but nobody is forcing anyone to watch. Nor can it be seriously argued that much of anything else out there is all that superior.
Much of cable and the Internet is simply an extension of the old carnival midway, in which the rubes line up and pay to see the freaks -- some genuine, some fake -- and then buy a bottle of snake oil and head home.
The only difference is that the carnival is now in town all day, every day.
You would think we'd get tired of it, that, having seen the dog-faced boy once or twice, we wouldn't come back every day to gape some more.
And you would be wrong.
Today's Buckets riffs on our collective ignorance, and it's nice to see a twist on the usual prideful take.
I might sympathize with those who complain about having learned "useless" stuff if they would say "trigonometry" instead of "algebra," but, of course, not everyone had to learn trig, and most who took it realized what it was.
Everyone had to learn algebra and the popularity of the "and I've never used it" memes is truly depressing, because algebra is basic math literacy and anybody who has ever cut a recipe in half or decided how many gallons of paint they need to paint the livingroom has used algebra.
When Beavis and Butthead first appeared, I thought they were a clever parody and that MTV was courageous for satirizing that segment of their audience. Then I realized that they were being embraced as folk heroes and that MTV was courting, not mocking, them.
What can you say about a people who pride themselves in pretending to be more stupid than they could possibly be?
Maybe you have to step outside to see the toxicity of the images we celebrate. Sarah Glidden has done so, and this is very much worth reading for her reflections on how we prefer to see ourselves and our families, and how it contrasts with how other societies picture themselves.