On The Money
Financial Advice for the Working Class
It’s Smart to be Dumb
Some people say my writing is dumb. They say it’s base, vulgar, silly, low-brow, sophomoric, knuckle-dragging crap, and it really hurts my feelings. Did they really have to say it was crap? But screw them! They think writing should be sophisticated, restrained, measured…”smart”. They want to read stuff that makes them feel smart. Really, they are no smarter than I am, and I’m as dumb as they come.
A lot of people like to read stuff that makes them feel smarter. Then they like to make a big deal about how much they know. They post degrees on the wall that proclaim that they know damn near everything there is to know about X. They make such a big deal about it that they forget how fucking boring it all is.
Why are people so obsessed with being smart? … as opposed to being, say, competent? Why does our culture value “smart” so highly? Look at what “smart” does: Albert Einstein, the smartest guy ever, what did he do? He invented the atomic bomb. Rocket scientists, what do they do? They make missiles that carry atomic bombs and spy satellites. Who else is smart? Derivatives traders? Our elected leaders? Just “smart” people doing “smart” things.
We can’t all be smart. “Smart” is like a sport. It’s a contest. You only get called “smart” for being smarter than normal. Smarter than normal people go to college, study physics and economics, which prepares them for a career of being “smart” for the rest of us. They become the “experts” and “professionals” who run our businesses, guide our national policies, and engineer the machinery of our society. In other words, they make most of our decisions for us.
Meanwhile, they expect the rest of us, the “dumb” working-class, to be “competent” for them. They expect us, to prepare their food, clean their clothes, fix their cars, build their homes, install their high-speed internet, even raise their kids.
The working-class has always done a great job of this, by the way. The working-class have proven their competence again and again. We can build homes a million different ways. We can build and maintain cars, electric cars, steam cars, diesel cars and gas cars, cheap cars and luxury cars. We can cook to all tastes, with a world of traditions to draw from. We have to be flexible, because what we do is rarely our own choice. We mostly make the stuff that the rich want, and that “smart” people think the rest of us need, want and can afford.
While the working-class has, historically, done a fantastic job of adapting to a ghastly array of horrible situations in this endeavor, the “smart” people have, in contrast, done a spectacularly terrible job of engineering our society in a way that meets people’s needs without destroying the planet. Who can we blame, for so many competent people, living in a world so full of extreme poverty and tremendous waste? The “smart” people of course.
How did the “smart” people manage to screw it up so bad. To be fair, it’s not exactly the “smart” people, who make all of the decisions. They work for the “greediest” people. It’s the “greediest” people who have been sifting out the smarter people all along. That’s why they built schools in the first place. That, and to get the rest of us used to doing what we are told for no good reason.
The “smart” people all believe, however, that somehow, through their collective “smartness”, and with the backing of the “greediest” people, or at least big bucks from the taxpayers, they can engineer a solution to all of our problems. They all believe in a technological solution. A high-tech solution, that only “smart” people could ever figure out.
They continue to believe this despite their unbroken string of catastrophic failures. Throughout history, from plagues of locusts and frogs resulting from, then new, agricultural techniques, to war, famine, the black plague, crowd diseases, genocide, slavery, sweatshops, habitat loss, pollution, and global climate change, to name a few. These problems have all resulted from technological advancements that were supposed to make life better for everyone.
Fifty years ago, most of us believed in them too. Sure we had just been through the most horrific technological war in the history of the world, culminating the explosion of the first atomic bomb, and all that, after living through “The Great Depression” the very first global economic collapse. Fifty years ago, we still trusted “smart” people, in service to the”greediest” people to engineer a society for us. All we asked in return was “jobs”.
They gave us suburban sprawl, smog, pollution, burning rivers, habitat loss, inequality, poverty, more bloody technological wars, and global climate crisis. Do you still believe in them? Do you still believe that “smart” people, in service of the “greediest” people will ever engineer a “solution” to a problem that doesn’t make a bigger problem? Do you want to bet money on it? Do you want to bet your life on it?
You see, without “smart” people, the “greediest” people don’t wield nearly as much power, and without the “greediest” people, being “smart” really isn’t that important. This bears repeating: Without “smart” “greed” has little power, without “greed”, “smart” is not very important.
What really matters in life, is competence, knowing how to build your own home, clothe yourself, feed yourself, and safely dispose of your waste. Everyone should know that stuff. Competence is its own reward, and involves no competition. You don’t have to be more competent than your neighbor, you just have to be competent enough to meet your own needs.
If you happen to be “smart”, do something fun with it, something delightful. Don’t just whore it out to the highest bidder, just so you can afford to pay someone to clean your toilet for you. How smart is that? I think we’d all be better off, if we didn’t worry so much about how “smart” we are, and worked a little more on our competence.
As far as writing goes, I believe that if you can’t find a dumb way of saying something, maybe it doesn’t need to be said at all.