Sunday, July 18, 2010

Asimov and the US's anti-intellectualism

"Keeping up with the Jones's" is not an exclusively American fault, I don't think, but it is more apparent in the US than anywhere else in the world. The US is an affluent society and we, as people, have been taught from day one that we mustn't wait for anything we want, we must run right out and get it. And if we can't afford it, well, that's what credit cards are for.

With the result that today, in 2010, most people (who haven't already lost their jobs) are one or two paychecks away from losing their home. Most people have no savings at all, and if they lose their job, they're pretty much out of luck. (Well...they were. Now that people can get unemployment benefits forever, perhaps not so much. Although I'm not sure how much money people get...some kind of percentage of their salary.)

In any event, back to Asimov. In July, 1959, his article, Battle of the Eggheads appeared in that month's issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine.

Here's how he opened the article:

After the Soviet Union placed Sputnik I into orbit on October 4, 1957, the egghead (to use a term invented by blockhead) gained a sudden, unaccustomed respect here in the United States. Suddenly everyone was viewing American anti-intellectualism with alarm.

It has therefore always tickled my vanity that I wrote an article deploring anti-intellectualism a year and a half before Sputnik. (By-product of Science Fiction,, Chemical and Engineering News, Aug 13, 1956).

In it, I disapproved vehemently of those factors in American culture which seemed to me to be equating lack of education with virtue and to be making it difficult for young people to reveal intelligence without finding themselves penalized for it.

You're asking what does this post have to do, so far, with the "Keeping up with the Jones's" topic with which I prefaced this post.

I'll get to that tomorrow.

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