Idiocracy: a disturbingly prophetic look at the future of America – and our era of stupidity
Mike Judge critiques the nonsense of the modern world in this dystopian 2006 comedy – which, in 2021, feels more like a documentary
If this is already the era of the idiot, what comes next? An “Idiocracy”, according to film-maker Mike Judge...
Suggesting that morons rather than nerds will inherit the earth, and that the results will be catastrophic, the film begins with a context-setting intro so real it hurts. Judge cuts between an intelligent adult couple discussing why they won’t be having children right now (“not with the market the way it is”) and a ... less intelligent couple breeding like rabbits (“I thought youse was on the pill or some ****?”).
Observing that “evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence”, the narrator explains that “with no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most – and left the intelligent to become an endangered species”.
This disturbingly hilarious film is as horrifying as 1984 or Brave New World, but takes a different route – emphasising the dangers of collective incompetence rather than oppressiveness of the state. Its Urban Dictionary entry reads: “A movie that was originally a comedy, but became a documentary.”
This article struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Being old enough to remember the 80’s well, I’ve often enough had similar conversations with older colleagues regarding related trends, namely:
Self esteem is the value you place on yourself for yourself (and not for anyone else). It is not done via comparison (because it is value you give yourself - for yourself alone). Because of this, self-esteem becomes a cornerstone for: respect, conflict management, consideration for others journey, mental health, happiness.
- The younger generations self-esteem is much lower than such in the 80s
- ‘Living by your principles / being true
to yourself / being what you admire / etc’ (a pillar for coming to understand & know yourself) is much less acknowledged today…yet coming to know yourself is the only way you can start to value yourself (You can’t properly value what you don’t know/understand)
- but there are other cornerstones to self esteem as well
Problem solving is very closely linked (in this case) to self entitlement:
Governments have gradually (over decades) been trying to solve more and more problems. When governments solve problems for people, people stop trying to problem solve that area. The more problems the government has tried to solve
- the more areas of problem solving people give away:
- the more areas people stop problem solving in, the quicker their problem solving skills diminish (or for the young, don’t grow),
- the more problems they start needing solved for them, the more they ask government to solve for them (as they have seen government do this consistently)
- then government solving the new problems for them…
- further increases the expectation that government will solve any problem for them
- The ability to problem solve is significantly lower than in the 80’s
- Problem solving increases what we know as common sense.
Problem solving skill is obviously linked to self-entitlement. It is also linked to self-esteem (via self-assurance), as the more you problem solve, the more assured you are of being able to overcome any obstacle you face, and make your way in the world. As a side note, the more self assured you are, the lower the level of anxiety you will experience.
See problem solving.
Self-entitlement isn’t just about expecting others to problem solve for you, to serve you, but also about the degree of perfection you expect from your them, how much you expect them to bend for you, and how poorly you think you can treat other people without consequence (eg Teacher/parent interviews) etc.
- The sense of self-entitlement has increased significantly over the last few decades
The degree of Manners displayed is correlated to the degree of self-entitlement. If you are entitled, then it is others who must be perfect, others who must bend. The more entitled you are, the less reason there is to be considerate of others (because they are the ones who must be perfect for you, and bend for you). Ie. For many people, the more entitled they become, the less they exhibit manners with strangers who should be ‘serving’ them.
Manners are about social cohesion (and respect – which is necessary to one on one social cohesion). Many people now think ‘Respect must be earned’ (rather than manners version ‘respect is there, but can be lost, or further gained’)
- Linked to all of the above – there has been a significant increase in the expectation of perfection in ‘service’ strangers (eg. Doctors, police, soldiers)
- Linked to the loss of manners, people are less habituated to seeing/treating other people as fully human. This can be seen in how people treat individuals in an organisation as all the same person, or sue when perfection isn’t achieved (particularly doctors).
- Linked to the above, there has been a severe increase in the expectation of perfection in beauracracies (eg governments & councils)
- Linked to the above there has been a severe decrease in the ability to give criticism constructively
- Linked to all the above, Conflict management skills have decreased
- Linked to the above, the ‘blame game’ has gone into overdrive
- Manners/civility have deteriorated significantly from the 80’s
- Lastly, as a benefit, the more polite a society, the less the overall emotional drain on people, the better the mental health.
These may not seem much by themselves (and there is actually a lot more to such a conversation), but to me, these contribute significantly to what we know of as common sense. They also contribute to maintaining social cohesion (which should also be common sense).
I do think, unfortunately, that our society as a whole, is becoming dumber, as well as more prone to mental illness (by giving away so much of what makes us mentally healthy).