Michael Cleverly: Cleverly or not
December 10, 2008
On Nov. 28, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress was hospitalized; he had shot himself in the leg while at a nightclub. This is a column about stupidity.
I’ve never had any formal firearms training, military or otherwise. I was raised in New England, in a hunting culture, so my familiarity with guns seemed to come through a kind of osmosis. Being a baby boomer, I grew up on a steady diet of TV and cowboy movies, and watching them was a kind of hypothetical training. One thing my tiny cap-gun-shooting brain seemed to grasp early on was the sequence of draw first, then shoot ” a concept Plaxico seemed to have gotten completely backward. Perhaps he wasn’t a fan of Westerns as a child.
It has been suggested that Burress’ arrest and potential incarceration is racist because it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that sticking a loaded gun in the waistband of your sweatpants and carrying it into a nightclub is practically de rigueur in hip-hop, gangsta culture. Jean-Luc Nancy, author of “The Sense of the World,” has defined stupidity as “the repressed conditions of knowledge.” Some people don’t deserve a euphemism, so for our purposes here we’ll think of the briefer, one-word definition to describe Plaxico and anyone who believes you’re a racist if you don’t consider his actions that night to be perfectly reasonable dude behavior.
Stupidity is everywhere: You may find it on the next barstool; it could be lurking in the vehicle just ahead of you. Now you say, “How could one know that the person in the car ahead is stupid? That sounds very unfair.” I say, “You know you could know, and you know you know you could know.” As soon as you see that hand go up to the ear, the cell phone in hand, you back off a little and give that car more space. Something stupid has just happened, and you know something even dumber could occur at any moment. There you sit, driving along 10 mph below the speed limit, because someone’s multitasking, someone unqualified. You’re lucky if that’s as bad as it gets.
When I got wind that The Aspen Times was going to give the boot to some of the comics it runs, I e-mailed the editor with a cyber high-five. I told him that I hated the comics, that I read and enjoy Cassatt and Peters out of loyalty, as they are my friends, but beyond that I considered every second spent reading the comic strips a second wasted, one that I would never get back. If anyone needs proof of the abysmal stupidity of the American people, beyond the re-election of George Bush in 2004, one needs to go no further than to see what they think is funny. Go to the comic strips. I have known people who read every single one and consider a lot of them hysterical. I consider myself an expert: They are stupid.
Need more proof? Head down to you neighborhood multiplex and go to a movie. Go see a Jim Carrey or an Adam Sandler movie. This is nothing new, we gave the world Jerry Lewis and the world embraced him, especially France. It’s sort of comforting to realize that stupidity knows no international boundaries, but it’s also kind of scary to think that a country like France doesn’t think it has enough idiots of it’s own that it has to import ours.
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England has a fine tradition of moronic comedians. A fellow named Rowan Atkinson is currently popular, and who can forget Benny Hill? At least Benny Hill gave us cleavage along with idiocy. Don’t get me started on Italy and Roberto Benigni. We swap these people back and forth internationally to spice up our stupidity. The world is a village … of idiots. Now I’m not necessarily saying that the actors themselves are stupid, they’re multimillionaires; they’ve become very rich making dumb movies. I’m saying that their audiences, the people whose money they’re filling their pockets with, may be victims of “the repressed conditions of knowledge.”
Back to football. I love football. I don’t consider the game itself any more or less stupid than other sports … but the fans. Maybe there is something in a name. Everywhere else in the world football means soccer and everyone knows that soccer fans are the craziest bastards on Earth. Of all the fans of all the sports that are popular in the U.S., I consider our football fans to be the most extreme. Same name. It could also have something to do with the weather. If you see a fan in the stands at a baseball game in July with his shirt off, you think nothing of it. It may even seem like good sense if it’s hot enough. Football season starts at the end of summer (possibly shirt-off weather), and ends in the middle of winter. Winter, north of the Mason Dixon line, is not a climate conducive to seminudity. But there they are, snow blowing sideways, bare chests. Have you ever seen anyone in a hockey arena with his shirt off? Basketball? Are there half-dressed guys watching basketball that I’ve never noticed? Maybe the networks have a policy not to show hockey and basketball exhibitionists. I don’t know, but the crappier the weather the more football fans seem think it’s a good idea to go shirtless, maybe just a thin coat of paint. But they do seem to be having a good time.
There’s a wonderful world of it out there. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 for trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat. Enterprising, yes, but there’s also another word we can use to describe it. I’ve got a call into Plaxico advising him to send Rod a dozen roses. The governor has replaced the football hero as the centerfold in this months “AMA Journal of Stupidity.”
Author and New York University professor Avital Ronell defines stupidity as the “fading empire of cognition.” Maybe that’s what’s going on up in those stands and between Plaxico Burress’ and Rod Blagojevich’s ears ” perhaps their empires of cognition are fading.