Friday, March 23, 2012

Fuck the Stupid

They say the meek shall inherit the earth. Perhaps I misunderstand what they mean by "meek." If the truism proves true, perhaps by "meek" they mean ignorant, or perhaps even flat out stupid.

It's no secret that I have little affection for the ignorant or the plain stupid. They walk among us in great numbers. Ironically, they mostly vote Republican -- most likely because they suffer from the illusion that a vote for someone who rails against entitlements means squashing other dumbasses' entitlements. Word to the wise, dumbasses: the only politicians who care about your dumb asses, right or wrong, are Democrats. Sad fact. They suffer under a parallel illusion: they reject the notion that some people aren't worth bothering with, let alone saving (meaning you).

A few years ago I worked for a small company that was filthy with dumbasses. It was tolerable for a while because said dumbasses were in roles where they could, under ideal circumstances, do no real harm. The narrow niche in which our company operated was ripe with potential, and in spite of the significant handicaps brought to the table by our president and some of our middle-management, we made money hand over fist. Those were halcyon days, and only a fool or a martyr would have upset that particular applecart. Then came the Great Policy Handbook Debate.

I grant that, for legal purposes, businesses should have policy manuals. There are fundamental rules of safety and fair-play that should be spelled out, for the benefit of both employer and employee, some of which are actually decreed by state and or federal statute. Beyond such statutes, there is the grey area: what we are and are not willing to tolerate in this company. Again, I have no problem with that -- if it's a privately held company, or a small business owned by a handful of shareholders, there should be a basic set of rules agreed upon by the majority of the owners and then shared with the employees. As long as those rules don't contradict existing laws, have at it, I say. Because that's what those of us who are in the business of thinking would call reasonable.

The problem with that particular organization -- Center Point Large Print -- is that the majority (or the loud minority, I would argue -- given greater volume by the silent simperers) came to the process from a tradition that has no use for thoughtful discourse or intellectual rumination: they are fundamentalist christians. Here's the thing about fundamentalists of all stripes, regardless of which fabled god they worship: a fundamentalist accepts on faith that the book from which his or her faith comes is the literal truth. The most delightful side-effect of such a perspective is that there is never any need for either thoughtful discourse or intellectual rumination because there's already a handbook that gives them all the answers. Now, to be fair, reading is a lot of work, and understanding is hard, but fear not, because there are always helpful ministers (like the illustrious Bill Cripe) to sort out the thorny stuff for you. In other words, there are not or should not ever be occasions where you have to sort it out yourself. And god fucking bless.

Thus did we embark on the process of creating a policy manual for Center Point Large Print: with the apparently necessary intent of creating a set of rules that would prevent anyone in management from ever facing the unthinkable task of evaluating a given set of circumstances and, based on his or her intellectual capacity, choosing the best course of action to proceed. I wish I was kidding when I tell you in two months we easily dropped a thousand hours of top-level productivity in order to ensure that two idiots would never have to think for themselves -- ultimately just to ensure that these simpletons and their brethren in the company would, essentially, never feel like anybody else was getting away with more than they were.

This has always offended me -- this lowest common denominator mentality. It's one of the reasons national politics turns my stomach. The old saw in political speechmaking is that a presidential candidate should speak at no higher than an eighth-grade level. You know what I say to that? Fuck 'em in the ass. Fuck the lowest common denominator. Call me an elitist if you want, I don't give a fuck. But tell me how many times throughout history civilization has been moved forward by the will of the ignorant. Oh, wait -- never? Yeah, that's what I thought. There's a reason why I'd rather have a smart guy like Barack Obama with his thumb on the button every time -- it's because guys like George Bush are fucking stupid. Yeah, I said it. Fuck George Bush and his folksy Jesus-freak ass. He is and always will be an idiot. I don't care if he allegedly read Camus -- so did I, and I guarantee I got something out of The Stranger he never even came close to grasping. I'm smart, but if I'm smarter than the President of the United States, that's fucked up.

Which brings me, quite naturally, to Maine Central Institute. That's my daughter's high school, in the depths of central Maine known as Pittsfield. MCI is one of those semi-private schools, satisfying the needs of a handful of communities that share the lack of a public high school, while maintaining the vague trappings of a private high school, complete with post-graduate athletics programs and a murky non-public, board-of-trustees driven set of rules of behavior.

To be fair, I recognize the need for high schools to at least attempt to maintain a certain decorum. Let's face it, shit can go wrong in a hurry, especially when left to the caprices of kids fifteen or sixteen years old. I attended two different high schools, one of which was similar to MCI (if significantly smaller), and at neither one was I ever presented with the school's purported handbook. I remember when I went to Winslow High School (at the time, the ass-end of all possible options, I assure you), a kid named Simon Welch was suspended for shaving his head. Simon was a monumentally fucked up kid who would literally do anything to curry the favor of anyone who paid him the least attention, and one day when a group of football players offered him some trifle (I swear it was a chocolate-chip cookie) if he shaved his head, well, he fucking showed up the next day with his head shaved, smooth as a baby's ass . . . only to be dragged to the principal's office to be shown the clause in the until then never seen student handbook, which explained that hair must be worn at least a quarter-inch long, or else the student risked immediate suspension. Poor Simon returned to school two days later pretty sure he'd be greeted like a rockstar; instead, he was mocked incessantly. What a world.

Now, here's the thing: Simon, that poor dumb bastard, made a stupid and capricious choice, and he paid for it both in institutional terms and in the eyes of his peers. His so-called peers, those lovable lunkhead football players, would have greeted his shaved head the same either way -- because they were dumbass kids too. So what's the administration's excuse? Seriously! These are adults, for fuck's sake. A group of adults was charged with writing and approving and enforcing that stupid, capricious rule. At the very least, the one or two adults who were responsible for making the call when Simon shaved his head -- the principal and the vice principal (both of them remarkable mental midgets, even for the time, I assure you) -- could have looked at the particular circumstances and determined that this was no genuine offense, but instead took the coward's refuge and hid behind the fabled student handbook. Where is a man's shame when he punishes a boy for being as weak as him? How did Principal Leroy Blood make his way to retirement, all the time looking himself in the eye in the mirror? Answer: he lived his entire life relying on policy manuals.

Which brings me to my daughter. My daughter is not only tall, she is long-legged -- meaning that the span from her knee to her hip is significantly longer than the span between the knee and hip of the typical stock in central Maine, where they are grown mostly low to the ground. Now, a reasonable person would conclude that the intent of a dress-code proscription against short skirts has nothing to do with the area around a girl's knees and everything to do with the region closer to, say, her pelvis. If the rule says that the hem of a girl's skirt should be no higher than two inches above her knee, I imagine that two-inch rule is intended to prevent those girls from (inadvertently or otherwise) showing off their undies -- and I think that's a pretty good idea. These boys and girls are kids, for one thing, and for another thing they're in school to learn, not to . . . well, regardless of what we all know about high school, that's not what they're there for, and so, yeah, there should be reasonable rules. But at the same time, catch-all rules that are intended to satisfy the lowest common denominator are never, ever the right way to go. I realize this is a narrow example, but hear me out. If the average girl has, say, a ten-inch span between her knee and her hip, but a girl like my daughter has a fourteen-inch span, does the two-inch rule make sense? Ultimately, if there is going to be such a rule, wouldn't it make more sense to measure down from the hip rather than up from the knee? Yes, it would -- which is why harassing a girl because her skirt is literally two and a half inches above her knee (I kid you not) is, ultimately, not about propriety, it's about small-minded academic bureaucrats throwing their limited weight around in the only sphere in which they can ever exercise any power whatsoever.

And this is why the stupid, the ignorant, the weak of mind are dangerous: they are everywhere, they are vigilant, and they have institutional endorsement. In this particular instance, I'm fortunate: my lovely daughter is pissed as hell. She's fortunate, too, because so am I. Fair warning, simpletons: I'm coming for you. And I'm bringing my posse.

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