8/2/16: drinking with the wife, and stupid people

In The Atlantic‘s July/August 2016 issue, Stephanie Hayes looks into research that suggests that limited amounts of alcohol might actually help to hold a marriage together. The study elides over the rash mistakes that people might make while under the influence, such as perhaps being more susceptible to a marriage-ending incident, like an affair, although it does suggest that these positive effects hold up only under the loosening effect of a drink or two, rather than the unbound and unleashed id that comes out and puts the toxic in intoxicated.

What this really boils down to is that people in a relationship need to remain open with one another: if liquor keeps you from holding in all those unspoken and suppressed feelings or concerns, then a shot or two might be just what the doctor ordered. Honesty is the best policy, and we should never hold back from asking for the things that we need out of the fear that they’ll somehow end the relationship. Any relationship that can’t stand a question isn’t actually a relationship–it’s a dictatorship. 

Which brings me to another interesting dilemma posed by David H. Freedman, and which I’ve seen often reflected on my Facebook feed by my ostensibly smart social circle: people are discouraged from offering any opinion other than the one that’s been deemed acceptable by your peers. Skepticism is treated extremely cynically, and people are either blind to their own hypocrisy, or justify it under the assumption that they know best, a tactic that most parents realize will lead to resentful children. As Freedman puts it, our recent P.C. culture is against so many types of bullying, teasing, or abuse–with the sole exception of calling someone stupid. Is it any wonder, then, that so many people are restless or insecure, or so susceptible to fear? Trump panders and lies, any smart person can see that–but he also gives off the appearance of listening to stupid people in the process: “I love the poorly educated.” Even my own statement, in which I suggest that if you disagree with me, you couldn’t possibly be smart, only serves to separate us into two camps, with no middle ground left in which to debate, thanks to our dismissiveness.

We are not currently doing everything in our power to better educate people, which makes our attack on the so-called “stupid” especially cruel, and if we’re so smart, we should know that. Of course they’re losing their jobs; we’re now emphasizing SAT scores on job applications, even though that test wasn’t designed as a predictor for job performance, and we’re creating ever fewer CTE (career and technical education) schools, or vocational opportunities, such that students have to struggle through the unrelated-to-their-career woes of a crippling class like Algebra II. No wonder some of these people are angry; no wonder they distrust science.

Freedman concludes with a stark reminder about the meritocracy we’re ushering in–a thing that Ayn Rand’s objectivism was pretty damn fond of, too–which is that when Michael Young coined the word in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire.

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