Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 17 August 2012

Paradigm shift

You know how you look at something you've seen a thousand times before and suddenly it strikes you, out of the blue; "So that's what's going on here!"

And, after a moment's consideration; "How did we ever let things get this bad?"

It's just over fifty years since Kurt Vonnegut published his dystopian satire 'Harrison Bergeron'.
THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. 
If you don't know it, please don't read on yet - go and look for yourself; it's not very long (the rest of you can carry straight on).
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OK?
Now consider the sneakiest device at the disposal of the United States Handicapper General: 
And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
and take a look at all the the teenagers - and people old enough to know better - walking around with headphones playing so loud that, even though the business-end is buried in the recesses of their ears, those  immediately next to them are treated to, in the delightful phrase of cartoonist Posy Simmons, "A faint noise rather like mice tap-dancing on a biscuit tin".

So intelligence-sapping are these devices that, as Bucko reports, a campaign has been launched to stop earphone-wearers ambling into the path of oncoming trains at level crossings. Researchers say headphones block out ambient noise; I'm more inclined - particularly since we've had the Urchin and his 'music' at home for some weeks now - to think that Vonnegut had it right and that being blasted with noise blocks out rational thought.

It seems ironic that, while we've been well aware of the attempts of various educational theorists to engineer a spurious equality among the young, they themselves have embraced a device that could have been expressly designed to impair their ability to reason.

4 comments:

  1. "they themselves have embraced a device that could have been expressly designed to impair their ability to reason."

    It seems to be one of the main attractions as far as I can see.

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  2. A cynical view, AKH, but, alas, quite possibly correct.

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  3. That rap music will certainly block out all rational thought. (And thanks for the link)

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  4. So intelligence-sapping are these devices that, as Bucko reports, a campaign has been launched to stop earphone-wearers ambling into the path of oncoming trains at level crossings.

    I say that, in accordance with the Darwin protocol, they should be encouraged to walk into the path of oncoming trains.

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