November 1, 2015 § Leave a comment

Chimp_Brain_in_a_jarThis Errol Morris interview with “the world’s smartest man” is fascinating, as a great demonstration of how overrated ‘intelligence’ (particularly what IQ claims to measure) is. It reminds me exactly of the fedora guys who think they’d win out in a meritocracy, down to the same false claims to modesty, the same hatred of “Political Correctness” & the same imagined policies (“benign” eugenics, etc). It reminds me too of my own retrospective frustration in my late teens and 20s, at having been a ‘smart’ kid: that I was only allowed to imagine ‘smartness’ was for certain limited ends. Class, disability, provincial dullness etc meant whole realms of human capacity were out-of-bounds: I was never allowed to imagine I could participate in them (art & its whole texture of associated affects, forms-of-life, capacities). ‘Intelligence’, as the n+1 editors suggested acidly in a different political context, isn’t a capacity or power (in Deleuze’s sense) but a frame, a set of limits for reason, a culturally constructed image, an ideological constraint. All of which is obvious – it’s the buried kernel of truth at the centre of the poindexter stereotypes of anti-intellectualism – but it’s something our education system tortures kids & the adults they become with. & all the spurious justifications for it – left/right brain, “modes of learning” etc – just reproduce the division of labour & its attendant forms of thought. This is one reason why I went overboard when I came across punk, poetry & Nietzsche (& later Marx, film, modernist painting, eros): it’s an amazing relief from being told that the only reason you might get out of your social class is “you’d make a great scientist”, even if, a decade down the line, you realise that putting up w/ the idiocy of the ‘hard’ disciplines would have netted you a lot more cash (& prevented you potentially ruining your life).

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