Monday, 18 April 2011

A Nation of Idiots?

I admit I am an arrogant, intellectual snob.

Checking my twitter feed last night I came across the most annoying tweet I have ever seen. The author and its contents shall remain nameless, except to say it was the most blatant excuse of bandwagon jumping I think I have ever seen. Said tweet took the most superficial angle of a particular subject, and then gave this angle as a reason for the author’s support of the issue.

This got me thinking:

Do I live in a country full of idiots?

You may think I have my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek, but I am sad to say that I do not. I live in a country full of stupid television personalities. A country where a great portion of the populace get their serious news information from unfunny comedians, and a barbie doll whose best skill is reading an autocue. When was the last time the population of this country had a serious discussion about anything? Yes I think I was nine.

How many people under forty actually read a newspaper on a daily basis? Listen to Radio National? Went to a party where exciting debates were had about serious issues? No I’m not talking about anything to do with this.

Is it too much to ask a person to have independent thoughts based on research and contemplation?

When was the last time you thought about something, did not know the answer and read a BOOK to ease your inquisitive mind?

Yes, I am a cynical old man trapped in a 27 year old body and with good reason. Unless proven otherwise, I don’t think much of my contemporaries. Why should I? The issues of importance to most are C grade celebrities, people who are famous for being famous, and the occasional dumb sport star. With trends like this is it any wonder the cultural and intellectual fabric of society has turn asunder?

So I’ve devised a test for you, which requires answers without the aid of the internet:

  1. Can you explain how global warming is caused? What are the benefits and drawbacks of a so called carbon tax?
  2. Name four American authors who published at least three books in the 19th century? Give a brief summary of their most famous works
  3. Who was the last Australian to win a Nobel Prize? Explain what their achievements were.
  4. Name an Australian Prime Minister who served in office before you were born? Explain three of their greatest policy achievements and why you chose them.
  5. Who was Charles Perkins and why was he important?
  6. Name an Australian playwright (except David Williamson)? Outline a plot of one of their plays.
  7. What was the most important development in Australian history that has contributed to the way you live? Explain your answer.

Can you think of these answers off the top of your head? If not, what does that tell you about our cultural and intellectual priorities? Now convince me that I do not live in a nation of idiots.


  1. I was reading a book from 1987 [second edition] about Contemporary Australian Drama.

    So for question 6 the playwright I name is Louis Nowra. He wrote the play Cosi which is about a young man who goes to a hospital for the emotionally distressed and does Cosi fan tutti.

    Question 3: The last Australian to win a Nobel Prize was Elizabeth Blackburn. She contributed to the discovery of telemeres which are like genetic shoelaces. (If that is not an acceptable answer, then Peter Doherty?)

    5. Charles Perkins was an activist and he was important because of the Freedom Bus, and being one of the first indigenous Australians to play soccer and go to university. He died unfortunately in 2000 at the age of 60 of kidney trouble.

    2. Four American authors in the 19th century include Herman Melville, Louisa May Alcott, Richard Dana Junior and Howard Alger.

    Melville wrote Moby Dick, Billy Budd and Tydee. Moby Dick is about the conflict between the irrestible force and the immovable object. Billy Budd is about how pretty, superficial people might not survive without other qualities. And Tydee is about colonalisation and capitalism.

    Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, Moods and Hospital Sketches. Hospital Sketches is about the Civil War, nursing in particular. Little Women is about the expanding minds and bodies of a family. And Moods is a romantic novel.

    Howard Alger wrote about adventures and work.

    Richard Dana Junior wrote Two years before the mast and a book about the law.

    And I cannot yet explain climate change, but I could tell you some of the benefits and drawbacks of the "carbon tax".

    And the politics and history questions would probably take all day.

    Research and contemplation are good, but what about reason and objectivity?

  2. Kudos to you!!! You are correct with the Nobel question. :)

  3. Hooray!

    Another interesting book I have read (not recently, but I do get it out every year), is called The road to Stockholm which tells about many of the Nobel Prize winners in their fields.

    As for the other questions I attempted, they were probably not complete and/or subjective.

    It's probably great fun to engage with these questions, on the Internet and in real life.

    And we do have Weather Makers in our house too.

    I will try the Prime Minister question.

    I choose Gough Whitlam [1972-1975] because he created and put into place the Schools Commission, which allowed many students to get more resources and equipment. Two other significant reforms were the Northern Australia portfolio, which helped develop that area. And another significant reform was Vincent Lingari and land rights for the Gurujuri people.

  4. Whitlam would have been my choice too.

  5. He did make more than three reforms!

  6. More like 25, including the racial Discrimination Act, free university education and Medibank.