Americans are, almost by definition, people who distain learning from the past. We generally despise academics and intellectuals and politicians have made successful careers based on nothing other than deriding “smart people.” A few weeks ago, one of my brothers made a fairly innocent comment about wishing that age had brought wisdom along with the usual crap we expect from getting old. I told him, “Wisdom is overrated. Nobody wants to hear anything from someone who has actually studied a subject.” I mean that. We have a whole political movement that appears to be proud to be the “Party of the Stupid.” Every aspect of our national life is infected with this foolishness. It is a part of our national character.
One of the reasons I decided to quit teaching was that I grew tired of hearing 18-25-year-olds tell me how shit works without a fuckin’ clue about the subject at hand. From writing computer code to using audio equipment to music theory (a subject that nearly evades me entirely, but I still knew more than most of our “students”), I was forced to listen to harebrained theories, mindboggling stupidity, and flat-out craziness in the interests of “self-esteem building” and student “retention.” I’m here to tell you that I don’t care how happy you are with your inner self. If you’re a moron, you are a moron. You are far better off knowing you're an idiot and settling for the life of an idiot than being dumb as a brick and whimpering about how the world doesn't properly appreciate you. When you are wrong, you’re wrong. And when you don’t know what you are talking about, it’s best not to talk at all.
Recently, I listened to someone close to me explain why cheap-ass, designed by hillbillies Pyle speakers driven by even more inferior dedicated amplifiers sounded better than powered, Class-D actively crossed-over JBL cabinets. None of this self-delusion is new to me. I have been there and done that. Sometimes flawed material sounds better on crappy speakers. Nothing new there. This, however, wasn't about that. This was about a tin-eared live guy babbling about his hearing deficiencies as if they were super powers. I could have argued the point, but I knew there was no interest in my experience, technical knowledge, or value judgments. I could have saved this doofus some money, time, and dramatically improved the quality of their sound system, but what I know would have fallen on damaged, untrained, disinterested ears. Why bother?
The end effect is that we Americans will continue to repeat our mistakes as if every day is brand new. This is exactly the kind of world cattle and sheep inhabit, but it seems a little primitive for a species that prides itself in being some sort of higher animal or chosen species. There is, of course, no evidence of that specialness on display or even well-hidden in our behavior.
Considering this, I have to say the best thing about being old is knowing that I won’t have to watch all of this shit happen again because I won’t be around for the reruns.