Monday, 29 June 2020

Serious question

Serious question: are people in the aggregate dumber than they were a hundred years ago, or if you weren't born then, would you say are they dumber in the aggregate now than they were before social media?  Just give it some thought, and please, let me have your views. I am genuinely interested in this question. If it is a bad question, and I accept it may well be, then perhaps let me know whether you think it would even be possible to find out whether people in the aggregate are extra specially dumb at the present moment in history. Serious question.

Non-wonderfully, Lenny woke up coughing today. It's the sort of low-level intermittent cough and general chestyness which follows a virus, especially for him, and he did have a cold, established to be a garden variety one, when he was last with me, but I thought he'd got the better of it. D had taken him to multi-generational, multi-household family lunch on Saturday, it transpired, so presumably Len was getting over the previous cold when they went to that, or else he got a new one at it; either way, it's a reminder of the hard but necessary lesson the early days of the pandemic taught me, namely that I can't control what my co-parent does, even in the context of exponential growth in covid cases diagnosed in our neighbourhood.  You wouldn't think this was a picture of a person with a chest infection, would you?

It's good he doesn't mind either the cough or the staying boringly at home. The other thing going on in the photo is I am literally playing scrabble with one hand and writing work emails with the other. 

Because we have no car I can't get him tested except at our GP, which is in cycling distance, and for that I have to wait till 3pm tomorrow - add a few days to that for the test results, and that's the whole week to be endured in this odd, horrible / tolerable fashion. I oscillate between being really, really worried about the cough and feeling sure it's just a mild cold; I feel so sad that Lenny's having such a shit boring lonely time of it through this appalling year; I feel sad about that on my own behalf too, of course; I feel so stupidly lucky to still have a good, interesting reasonably paid job and a comfortable place to live; I feel infuriated and glum that I have a week ahead of essentially the March-April lockdown scenario of trying to work at home and be a good parent and the only playmate all at once. Well, I shall manage. I will probably lose my rag at him at least once, feel absolutely dreadful about it and apologise and cuddle him for as long as he'll tolerate it. He isn't coughing in his sleep so that's something.

I cut off a couple of inches of my own hair last week. I think I took too much and it's definitely not even, but hopefully no lasting damage has occurred. The split ends needed attending to but I do not want to sit in a hairdresser's chair. Well, you know what, having said that I would in fact love to sit in a hairdresser's chair, to have somebody touch me, and to be looked after and chatted to by my nice, clever, funny hairdresser, but by now I understand that I do better at enduring pandemic days if I don't squander the feeling that I've stayed clear of risky situations. Sooner or later that run of knowing you're not exposed comes to an end but I value the sense of agency that comes with knowing you made a sensible decision about what's more important, within the context of not taking greater than negligible risks with your own health or anyone else's. It's sometimes a really rotten decision to have to make, to not do stuff. There was a family gathering of my own people slated for Sunday, just a small one, but with the current situation it had to be postponed. 
Do you know what it is I'm talking about? I'm circling it, not out of an intention to be evasive, I'm just not quite sure how to express this feeling, or phenomenon or whatever it is; it's something lodged just under the surface of consciousness and it's something about the interplay between the boundaries of personal responsibility, the sovereign fact that other adults can, should, may, must and do make their own risk assessments and do what they decide is best, the duties and pains and potential terrors of being responsible for a child, and the giving up of freedom and to an extent of desire that is demanded of us by the exigencies of a population health approach to getting the better of a wildly infectious virus. 

I am quite unhappy today. I had hoped to be able to go back to my gym this week, the psychological benefits of the release that comes with really exerting myself, feeling the burn and the sweat, have been greatly missed, but that will have to wait a little bit longer now. The seven day rota to which we work with Lenny brings with it a by-now familiar cycle of feelings about leaving and being left, and the fewer other activities he and I both of us have access to, the more stark and pronounced is the discomfort. So I need to move carefully through the next couple of days. If I can get to Wednesday night without cracking it I can get through the whole week okay, and that's my aim most of the time now, to get through the days okay.

I was going to explain why I wondered about whether people have ever been this dumb before, but who cares, I'm sure you've seen plenty of data from wherever you're sitting. Well, here are cats. Chanticleer's llama basket did not come yet. Pompey is too troubled to benefit from a llama basket but he will like looking at Chanticleer sitting foolishly in one.  


Liam said...

I'll bite; I think there's no reason to think we're any dumber or more intelligent than people a hundred years ago, either as individuals or in the mass. Consider that a hundred years ago Europe was cleaning up after its smartest, most well-read, well-connected people had spent four years doing the biggest war anyone had ever seen, and that called into question—particularly after the German Army burned libraries—a whole continent's commitment to intellectual life. Are we stupider than the very educated people who created a culture of chauvinism so aggressive and irredentist it made the July Crisis? That's a high bar.

Do you mean are we more virtuous and wise (the opposite of dumb/unwise/foolish) in our public expressive lives, is that what social media alters? I don't know, but I doubt it. I'd hate to think of the Kaiser on Twitter, or the North American roaring twenties on facebook and instagram...

Fyodor said...

Who the fuck do you think you're kidding, Hoges? If Kaiser Bill were a-tweetin' you'd be all over it like pointy helmets on Prussian guardsmen.

I do agree with you, though, that it's unlikely that we're smarter or dumber than folk a century ago. The problem, if I address the subtext as I see it, is that social media makes it so frighteningly easy to witness the spectrum of human dumbitude. As we've discussed before, once They let hoi polloi into the joint social media went to hell, because Dumbfucks Are Hell.

That said, I am frequently delighted by the other end of the spectrum enabled by Teh Tech, e.g. this 'ere belter of bardcore that is nonny AF.

lucy tartan said...

I have forgotten why I started this, I'm sorry to say, but you're both right so the answer is obviously that it was indeed a bad question. Fyodor it's so nice to see you - I owe you an email from some months back and I'll answer it this evening. (Nice to see you too Liam but you exist in other social media bubbles so I generally feel confident from day to day that you're still alive which isn't always the case with Fyodor.)
What I should've said is Why is this specific braying mob, who are annoying the crap out of me, so smugly stupid and so loudly pleased with themselves about it? There's always these people of course but I feel like there are more of them now, with more different kinds of things to be stupid about (which is why I don't remember which particular ones irritated me enough to post about it in the first place.)

If it's anything more than observer bias it's probably mass hysteria, which is really no more than is to be expected