Do You Want to Remain a Dumb-ass Forever?

DumbAssby Brad Nelson
I was tickled pink (can real men be that way?) when I read Victor Davis Hanson’s article earlier this morning: America The Trivial. It’s as if VDH reached right inside my brain and stuffed it into his word processor.

If I had it to do again, perhaps I would have chosen a different name for this site. My affinity for John Adams is strong though. And overcoming the avalanche of lies, delusions, and propaganda of the Left (and “Progressives”) is certainly central. Facts matter enormously and are one of the things, if anything can, that can puncture and destroy the various false “narratives” that the Left likes to lather on thick like a cheap aftershave.

But life is more than about politics. Life has to be more than about bitching about what some airhead politician had said or done. So when I read Hanson’s article which basically stated how trivial many Americans had become (I call them “the silly people”), it struck a chord in me. Perhaps we should have called this place “NoDumbAsses.org.”

Don’t get me wrong. I like Jim Carrey movies. I laugh at stupid things from time to time. I think the Muppets are cool. But what I’ve done of late is to make a concerted effort not to be a dumb-ass. I’ve turned off the TV. If I watch it at all it is to watch old movies on Netflix. I spend much more time reading books, bicycling, and spending time in nature (usually tinkling on the trees, not hugging them, by the way).

And I urge all my friends to do the same. I urge all Americans to do the same. We  can’t exist as a proud and vibrant nation if we take our cues from the Kardashians. Please unplug from this vulgar, stupid, and superficial pop culture. If aliens tried to design a system whose purpose it was to make all humans so stupid that it would prepare the way for their invasion of earth, they couldn’t have designed it better than the inane one that we have now.

Learn Greek. Learn how to cook. Read a book. Take a walk. Volunteer at the Humane Society. But get the hell out from in front of the idiot box. And that truly is a name worthy of that brain-sucking electronic device. This is one reason I keep telling people to write an article and submit it to StubbornThings. It’s not just because we need to fill the place. It’s a method of disconnecting from the idiot culture. It’s a habit out of the morass of mindless mediocrity.

One reason I started this site along with my cohorts was to take my writing to the next level. It was no longer enough to just be in the peanut gallery sniping at the stupid things that RINOs were saying at NRO and elsewhere. I had already blogged at other places, and continue to do so, but the NRO comment section itself had become like the idiot box, another boob tube.

Let’s start replacing the trivial with the substantial. We don’t have to be dead serious all the time. This isn’t about being serious. It’s about not being trivially stupid. Hanson’s best line in his article was this:

Why is the country consumed by the trivial while snoozing through the essential? We have become a nation of instant electronic communications — Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, and the Internet — even as reading and math scores plummet in our schools, and newspapers and magazines go broke. We can communicate information at the speed of light but have trouble finding anything meaningful to send back and forth.

Why indeed? Why let your life be guided by the lowest common dedumbinator? Learn to play drums. Write some poetry (Haikus are fun and easy). Volunteer at the Rotary Club. Fly a kite. Bake a cake. But get out from in front of the idiot box and turn off that insipid video game as well.

Unplug from “reality” TV and have your own reality, no matter how humble. Quit eroding your brain by texting sweet stupid nothings to people. Write something substantial. Read something substantial. Feed your mind, heart, and soul with good and noble things.

And do not do any of this for your ego. Do not do it so that you can be seen doing it. Do it to feed your soul the nutritious food of doing (something, anything) rather than the soul-sucking typical pastime of Americans which is idle and passive amusement.

Now, go have a noble day. And don’t be a dumb-ass. • (1263 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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15 Responses to Do You Want to Remain a Dumb-ass Forever?

  1. pst4usa says:

    OK, I’ll be the first dumb-ass and reply, very good article and post Brad. I think you do not have to worry about most of the posters here though, I do not see any of the mind numb robots, that are clinging to their joysticks and remotes that fill the “lowest common dedumbinator” tag that you referenced. Great line by the way.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Pat. And I thought VDH did a very fine job as well. There’s still some life left in NRO, at least every once in a while. VDH wrote a piece that showed the human aspect. Usually these columnists are all competing with each other to be the smartest guy in the room. I just thought VDH sort of shot one from the heart with some pertinent observations on the state of our degraded culture.

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    We can communicate information at the speed of light but have trouble finding anything meaningful to send back and forth.

    That line makes me think of the polyglot about whom it was said, “he can speak forty languages and has nothing sensible to say in any of them.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yeah, I think it’s a great line. I believe in freedom. But I also think we humans should keep one eye on refinement. This is why I like listening to Dennis Prager or talking in real life to pst4usa. You get a lot more then “Hey, howzit goin’?”

      And I’m not talking being a snob. But I like what I’ve read about the early colonists. Apparently even your average farmer was interested in becoming educated or at least staying in touch with some of the learned books. And didn’t Noah Webster tap into this latent desire?

      One thing I was thinking about tonight while on the trail (took a jaunt out on my bike) was how our generation was being torn asunder by the “Smart People.” Whether talking education or government, the smart people are consistently wrong. Everything they touch they make worse.

      This superficial “smartness” has even gotten to the point where a university degree can be a worthless piece of paper — accept as a sort of free pass to the hobnobbing, back-slappin’, inbred “intellectual” class. And they’re all smart because they tell each other they are.

      That is not the kind of refinement I am talking about. I’m talking substance, not image. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. That’s why I know a thing or two about it. Rush was talking today on how everybody wants to BE someone. I think he’s got that exactly right. Now, there’s nothing wrong with ambition. But the celebrity/entertainment culture we are all immersed in has run amok and has most of us running to BE someone in whatever way we can, and ALWAYS in ways that are shortcuts.

      If someone wants to put in the hard work to be, say, an astronaut, then that person has earned whatever fame they get. But every one wants the fame on the cheap. They don’t want to earn anything anymore. And many try to earn that fame simply by being outrageous.

      I have a friend who says something like, “Any successful person has to burn those first 10,000 hours.” He means that you have to put a lot of work and commitment into being good at whatever you want to do before it even begins to pay off. I thought that was a very wise thing for him to say. He’s a recording artist, at least in a medium-to-small way. He knows some of those ropes.

      Right now I view our culture as stark raving mad. And I want to hang out with people who might appreciate life in some of it subtitles. There’s more to life than just texting inane nothings. If there’s not, I’m going to make it so anyway.

      • Black JEM says:

        But we need to be careful to not lose sight of the culture – too often we just check out. Most people will take the easy path – in the past you didn’t have the leisure available today, so life was self regulating now it isn’t.

        So I read alot – but also listen to a lot of music (can’t get my ears around rap – what a total waste), and watch a little of the idiot box though no prime time or cable news. I too love to come across the old movies, especially historical or western themed ones. And well then of course I have to watch my Blackhawks whenever I can.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Indeed. Rap is a waste. I listen to a mix of classic and 40’s/50’s oldies.

          Rap music fits the template that Dennis Prager has for the Left. In Prager’s view, art has always been about (or mostly about) espousing beauty. But the Left has concentrated people’s minds to a different area. Now much of art is about portraying the ugly, vulgar, and angry.

          Rap music is simply anger set to music. This isn’t The Beatle’s “Love Me Do.” Yes, there are various less noxious artists doing rap. But it’s still inherently anti-music and anti-beauty. It’s a separatist form of music.

          You’re so right about the leisure available today forcing us to set a path for our life. In earlier times, as you said, life tended to be filled with vital moment-to-moment duties. There was little time for navel-gazing or generating artificial angst.

          In fact, one could perhaps trace the degradation wrought by the Left to people having too much time on their hands. Most of the intellectual poison came from people such as Marx who were spoiled brats who were well off and didn’t have to work. So they were free to pontificate.

          This is another thing to keep in mind at StubbornThings. Let’s stick tightly to reality and not go off on tangents just because the modern word processor and the internet has made it easy to do so. This is why Thomas Sowell remains my Patron Saint of Groundedness and anti-BS.

          Yes, the NHL is one of the last places where you’ll find real men, real skill, and some genuine excitement. I don’t watch much hockey anymore, but it’s less obnoxious than American football is becoming.

  3. Ed Cottingham says:

    I predict that this will be a long, long thread…as it should be. But I will tack on just a few comments right now:

    I unplugged my cable some months ago, and I admit that it is hard. But I know from experience how upset I am with myself when I re-connect it and there comes the continuous B-R-E-A-K-I-N-G N-E-W-S flashing across my screen on “the [news] show about nothing.” Then I hear a blowhard like Bill O’Reilly who is such an ignorant, bar-stool bully. And Sean Hannity who is such a frivolous fellow. And I am kicking myself for letting such rubbish back into my life. But I live alone, and I used to count on television to bring a bit of live action into the house, even though I have never much watched it except while multi-tasking.

    In fact, I somewhat chose a “media-centric” life with less than average direct interaction with my fellow humans. People…when they’re great, are great. But many people let their need for being with other people drive their lives, even when most of that interaction is as banal as Cliff and Norm on their bar stools at Cheers (and often not as companionable). I deliberately decided that I preferred to spend more time with people who have something to say — even if I knew them only thru media — and less time with people who bored me.

    I must say that radio and television have badly let me down in recent years. I consider myself thoughtful but definitely not any kind of intellectual. But Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity? I don’t think so. I remember when NPR first came on the air in the 70s with All Things Considered…I thought that was absolutely wonderful. Intelligent, amusing people delivering a big block of exactly what their title promised everyday and without commercial interruption. But the world has changed since the 70s, as have I. NPR was way broader and more evenhanded in those early days. Now, I cannot listen very long without getting really p.o.’d at some obnoxious propaganda from them. And my local NPR station is two or three times worse than the network. There is, in fact, a lot of great stuff out there in the broadcast world, but I find that I really have to make an effort to connect with it. Flipping a switch on just does not get it done. A lot of the best stuff does actually still come from public television and radio. The science stuff is especially good. With NPR news broadcasts as with the alphabet television networks, the best way is to click and choose online, story by story. I’ve heard some great, original stuff on This American Life, as unlikely as that may seem. Some 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning episodes are outstanding — let the listener beware. There are many great hours of guests on C-Span that can be launched with a click. Nova, of course, and sometimes The American Experience. I say all of this, but I have not been nearly as successful at consuming broadcast media in this way as I sound. The passive mode is an awfully entrenched habit. (There is nothing that I will try to watch in real-time such that I arrange other activities around it.)

    And now a few words on talk radio: I am way less tolerant of it than most conservatives and perhaps even most people here. It has its moments, but there are few hosts whom I can take a steady diet of. Well, none, actually. I am not going to run through a lot of them, but I will say that Prager, whom you seem to like, Brad, is one of the most intelligent and civilized and listenable although his steady earnestness can get a little tedious after a while. But that is probably the mildest complaint I would make about any of them. Really, nobody is wise enough and informed enough and interesting enough to fill three hours a day in that format. And many of them do not make much effort to prepare themselves, if any effort at all. There are few of them who are not pretty arrogant and full of themselves…comes with the territory I suppose.

    I watch quite a few movies and some entertainment TV in the form of DVDs and streaming video. A lot of it would come under the category of “guilty pleasures.” To me, an interesting aspect of the new video experience is what I call “intensive viewing.” Well, actually, I don’t call it ~that~, exactly, but I am trying to relate it to what is sometimes described as “intensive reading,” which is the anti-speed reading.

    Usually, I “intensively view” video that I have on a hard disk thus allowing optimum control with easy navigation, especially for backing up a few seconds or selecting particular scenes. I’ve tried hard to teach myself some French over the last ten years and had the misguided idea that watching French movies was a good study technique. Not so much, although it does enhance interest and connection with the culture. But it was in repeatedly and intensively watching French video’s that I came to this business of intensively watching. That and an audio essay by Sarah Vowell on This American Life in which she claimed to have watched Godfather I everyday during her freshman year at college in an effort to learn life’s lessons from the Corleone family. Suddenly, it came to me that it was okay to watch the same video more than once…a dozen times…SEVERAL dozen times. And thus I have had “intensive” experiences with a number of films and feel that I have a vastly deepened appreciation of them. I never used to consider myself as having any deep appreciation of films nor did I have a lot of passionate opinions. That has certainly changed. And, btw, I should emphasize that this is a “loner” experience. Whatever the pleasures of “sharing” films (and they are exaggerated, IMO), the experience of deep, intensive engagement with a film is essentially a solitary experience. Someday I’ll get around to listing a few favorites, a list that will be indisputably idiosyncratic .

    There is, of course, a lot more to an “intentional life” and trying not to be a dumb-ass forever than media habits. I’m sure I will be making other comments here.

    • CCWriter CCWriter says:

      A whole new way of consuming media was opened up to me by TiVo, then podcasts. I do watch some reality TV, but not the garbage kind. I never have to watch anything that I don’t really like just because it’s “on.” The amount of stuff that’s supposedly very popular and yet I’ve never seen is starting to become amazing. We have some local conservative-libertarian talk radio people that I like listening to. Another guy whose show doesn’t have an affiliate in this market can be heard live over the Internet. Really, I think it’s a matter of these alternatives becoming gradually easier to use and more widely adopted.

      When everyone can pick what they genuinely like and consume it when they wish, I won’t say each of us will be satisfied with others’ choices, but what we choose for ourselves will count and be registered as reflecting our true wishes. Therefore it will be more likely to bring us more of whatever it is we want. I don’t know that there’s an easy way to solve the problem of disapproval of what others consume. Maybe Brad’s point was to start with making our own conscious choices and maybe somehow, some way, it will flow over into the culture.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Don’t forget, Public TV broadcast “Firing Line” for years. I still Buckley was about the most intelligent and interesting conservatives in the last century.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Then I hear a blowhard like Bill O’Reilly who is such an ignorant, bar-stool bully. And Sean Hannity who is such a frivolous fellow. And I am kicking myself for letting such rubbish back into my life.

      I like both of those guys, but I know what you mean. There’s a must-read section in Dennis Prager’s “Think a Second Time” where he talks about the TV show he used to have. Long story short, he said that everything about television is conducive to the trivial and sensational, not the important and the thoughtful.

      And this isn’t just ratings-driven, for Prager’s radio show is some of the best stuff on radio or anywhere and one must produce ratings on radio as well. But TV drives everything toward the trivial and sensational just by the nature of the medium…at least according to Prager.

      Yes, if one picks and chooses, you can find some good stuff on TV. Nothing beats a good nature documentary. You can’t really get that from a book. But even then, these typically now have been infected with the Left’s chicken-little attitudes of global warming. It just becomes obnoxious. Even my favorite, David Attenborough, has fallen for that more than once.

      But as you say, or suggested, TV is about being in the passive mode. When watching TV, I can feel my brain cells individually drifting toward my front of my skull and then out my eyes into the boob tube to be lost forever. You generally can’t say the same thing with a good book, although god knows there is the equivalent of the boob-tube in book form. But even so, at least a reader’s mind is engaged. It’s not passive.

      I still listen to Rush — or at least have him on in the background in the morning. But he is not the man that he once was. He still offers some good analysis from time to time, but he’s lost the common touch. And, really, most of these guys exist to sell books. It’s a glorified book club. And everyone has a right to make a buck. But let’s not kid ourselves about what people’s true intentions are, although perhaps Mark Levin does the best job of mixing business with try to save the country.

      Prager is also a book-seller, but there is a sincerity in this man that rises above most. He has stated that he wants to help change this country for the better, and I believe him. I’ve met him.

      I haven’t watched Fox News in months. It’s just a scream-fest. I love Sean Hannity. But there is nothing to be gained from watching his show. Greta actually has the best show of The Big Fox Three. She even gives a fairly good impression of being a journalist from time to time. Imagine that.

      I’ve never heard of intensive viewing, but that’s my normal mode, I guess. And, yeah, many films can certainly be watched over and over. But I leave “Casablanca” on the shelf at least for 9 months at a time. It is too good of a movie to not view reverently.

      You certainly have given a wonderful guide, Ed, for how not to be a dumb-ass. And, no, it’s not about dispensing with all of our guilty pleasures. But isn’t there a substantive difference to getting lost in Mozart as opposed to some awful piece of rap music? I think there is. There can be enrichment even while there is enjoyment. Nobody ever said that things that are good for you couldn’t be fun too. Or at least I never said that!

      • Black JEM says:

        And the cable and satellite providers are more and more going to on-demand. I am a big sports fan, and like some of the food shows like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. But like I said – I really cannot remember the last time I watched a prime time television show on any of the Big4 and the same with any cable news network. More garbage than I can sift through.

        As for radio – I still feel Rush is the one most worth listening to – because he seems to be feeling it. He clearly has a passion. And when he is deconstructing the media, he is clearly at his best. He discovered it quicker than anyone and nails it dead on. I prefered when his show had a little more irreverence than it does today – all his updates. But I think as he grew that became a distraction to being taken serious and he had to stop it. I especially love when people go after him without all the facts – he has just destroyed people, I remember a Harry Reid episode with great fondness.

        He did fumble Fluke – his rejoinder just should have been I should not have used that term – but in reality his description was dead on and part of me wanted to double down. I especially like the sponsors who bailed on him and went crawling back.

        Otherwise on radio I love my XM because I can listen to everything – and I am messing around with my Pandora subscription through DirecTV to listen to certain genres when I feel the need.

        For music I do like a little bit of everything, including some big band swing every now and again. Of course except rap. Your comment on it not celebrating beauty is dead on. And for an interesting hobby I have begun collecting old Christmas albums from the 50s and 60s because I just love the old sound, with a some needle noise, when the smell of cookies are in the house around the holidays.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          He did fumble Fluke – his rejoinder just should have been I should not have used that term – but in reality his description was dead on and part of me wanted to double down.

          As I’ve said about Fluke, Rush simply chose the wrong word. She’s a beggar more than she is a slut. But then there is that feminist element where women and girls are taught that to not be as sexual and promiscuous as men is not to be that magic word, “equal.” And a lot of women have bought into this. And there’s not a guy out there (maybe a few saints or two) who don’t say, “You go, girl.”

          What guy wouldn’t go for that except maybe a father of a daughter? But actual fathers are becoming scarce. What is it, 40% of all children are now born out of wedlock and as hight as 60% for blacks?

          Fluke was a tramp of the beggar type as she asked for the taxpayers to pay for her sexual escapades. There was no need for the “slut” word. What she is already is pathetic and worthy of castigating. How absolutely air-headed do you have to be to go before a government committee and give a sob story about how you can’t pay for your sexual aids?

          That women such as this are taken seriously and viewed as great crusaders is a sign of the dastardly moral inversion of a great part of our country.

          Yes, I love big band. I’ve got a few CD’s and mp3 downloads. You can’t beat that stuff. And the Rat Pack. I love the Rat Pack.

          Speaking of Christmas albums, if you can find it, check out the album “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” by Tex Johnson & His Six Shooters. It’s got some great stuff on it.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            70% for blacks.

            There is a biological and practical reason for women to be less promiscuous than men. They have the babies. A woman puts in a whole lot to bring a child into this world. This being a fact, a woman have been naturally more selective as to with whom they mate. Men, not so much.

            Unfortunately, too many women today have loss the wisdom of history and biology and we can all see the results.

          • Black JEM says:

            I will definitely look into it – but I tend to move more into the crooners and chorale arrangements. Waring is my favorite.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          I can put up with a lot of nonsense politically and otherwise, but one of my biggest beefs about today is the vulgarity which is prevalent in our society. I can overlook a lot of things if they are well done.

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