Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid

13 Aug

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   I can’t roll with stupid.  Translation:  I have no use for people who are not critical thinkers—people who can’t think outside of the box to either get the job done or protect themselves or their loved ones from harm.   Besides, it is simply a matter of time before their stupidity will rub up against my life, and I am deep down inside a self-preservationist.  This “inability to think” disease is worldwide, it’s within the young and old and no single gender has a corner on the market of being an idiot.  This mental malady (lack of common sense) bothers me so much that I’m thinking of setting up an App where idiots can stop, drop, and roll and swipe-in to ask “What would Eleanor do?” (WWED) before they proceed at a critical juncture that could screw them over for life.  (This App is an offshoot of “Eleanor Save My Ass” [ESMA].)

idiots surrounded by them

The other day the Swiss government had to apologize to Oprah because one of its sales clerks sent her brains on vacation to Liechtenstein while her body hung back to wait on customers in an upscale Zurich boutique.  According to journalist Prachi Gupta, after popping over in her private jet to attend Tina Turner’s wedding, Oprah dropped into an exclusive boutique to check out some $38,000-a-pop purses because that is how you roll when you’ve earned 77 million dollars during the last year.   Oprah indicated she’d like to examine one of the purses because she was interested in a purchase and the conversation went something like this:

IDIOT CLERK:      “No. It’s too expensive.”

OPRAH:                “But I really do just want to see that one.”

IDIOT CLERK:      “Oh, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”  (A polite Swiss way of saying:  fuck off, you “philistine.”)

OPRAH:                “Okay, thank you so much. You’re probably right, I can’t afford it.”

Now here is what I know about Oprah:  she knows how to make an exit, she never buys one of anything, and she’s extremely generous.  (We can discuss the idiocy of purchasing a $38,000 bag in a later blog.)  She didn’t pull out the celebrity card of “Do you know who I am?”—she just exited, and pulled the celebrity/power card on ET in an interview when she returned. That was critical thinking! Why blow up in the store when you have the world stage to state your case?  If I know my Oprah-girl, she was probably Christmas shopping for her female staff members and a couple of her male staff (I don’t know this—I’m just surmising).  But I bet my ass that right now the owner of that store is thinking this and is wringing his clerk’s clueless neck over the money they’ve lost.  If this chick hasn’t been murdered by her boss already, I’ll send her my WWED App for the future to help her engage in critical thinking. Of course, Miss Thang is saying it didn’t happen the way Oprah said it did, but she got called out for her idiocy and has almost caused a war with Switzerland—what else is she going to say: “Yes, I did it.  I’m a freakin’ idiot!”

Oprah Exit Cardow The Ottawa Citizen

Used by permission:  Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

The problem with idiocy is when it rubs up against my life.  At the very least, it can be truly irritating and at other times downright dangerous.  I ran into a sampling of Generation Z the other day at an amusement park, and I almost set up shop right then and there to hand out my free WWED App.   (Generation Z:  born 1995-2010; first generation to be totally immersed in the Internet, vaguely remembers 9-11, doesn’t remember the invasion of Iraq, can’t write in cursive, and can’t tell time unless it appears digitally.)  This particular amusement park had staffed all its kiosks with 18 – 22 year olds.  At one point, WW took our four-year-old grandson off to a booth where he could shoot some balls into a hole and win a super cape.  The cynic in the group (me), who thinks those things are all rigged, went to a kiosk further up the road to lay down some cold hard cash and buy my boo a back-up cape (critical thinking) so that I wouldn’t end up with a screaming four-year-old having a meltdown in the middle of the amusement park from Hell—Grandma don’t play that.  Low and behold, WW won the “SD” (Scooby Doo) cape (what can’t this man do?), and I was stuck with a Superman cape, a moldable snake, and a super bear key chain (I tend to overcompensate as a GM).  I returned to the kiosk within 20 seconds where I purchased these items to do a simple exchange.

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Hi!  Remember me?  My husband just won a cape for my grandson” (I had grandson model cape for Generation Z clerk), “and I’d like to return the cape I purchased from you.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “No-can-do!  Only a manager can exchange stuff.”

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “That’s fine.  Get your manager.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “She’s over in another section.  I can’t leave my booth.”

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Can’t you radio her or something?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Oh, for Pete’s sake.  Surely you have a way of getting ahold of your manager.  What if you were being robbed or suddenly had to pee?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  (Sigh!)  “You’re telling me you’d pee on yourself?  Fine . . . can you at least give me a bag to carry all this crap including a super cape I can no longer use?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “And why not, for crying out loud!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “Only my manager can give you a bag and she’s . . .

AMUSED-ME-NOT:   “. . . over in another section!  Auugggghh!”

Teen Cluelessness Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

I purposely kept my temper in check and wandered off to the next event:  Looney Tunes review for 1-5 year olds.   In the midst of the painfully, boring stage show being pantomimed by disinterested people in hot Looney Tunes costumes on a very hot afternoon, my daughter saw a man sidling up to children with single mothers—pretending to be part of their groups while he leered at the children within his reach.  It didn’t take my child long to establish that the creepy guy was demonstrating the actions of a pedophile—moving in to assess the land to either strike up a “friendship” with the mother or wander off with a toddler when the mother got distracted with several of her other kids.  The creep slithered up to my daughter and my grandson (not having seen his grandfather and me moving quickly towards them), and he leaned over and whispered something in my daughter’s ear, at which time she went all Medea on his ass while gathering our grandson into her arms [“DON’T TALK TO ME—DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME!”].   The potential pedophile escaped though the side exit, and I followed him.  Once again I tried to engage another Generation Z kiosk owner, only this time I knew I would be successful given the circumstances.  (What could be more rallying and motivation for critical thinking than a potential identification of a pedophile in the area where you have responsibility?)  After relaying all I’d seen to the young woman, I had the following exchange:

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Young lady, see that man just two yards in front of you—the one with the striped shirt, glittery baseball cape, about six feet tall, green eyes, and leering at those two toddlers on the bench—he’s the one I told you about.  While we have him in eyeshot, I need you to get Security over here ASAP before this dude gets away.  He’s up to no good.  Hurry, please!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:  “Ah. . .yeah I see him.  He does look creepy.  What you want me to do about it?”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Call Security!  At the very least they should question him and follow him.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:   “Well, I don’t have any way to contact Security and I can’t leave my kiosk.”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Do you have a phone?  Your generation can’t piss without a phone!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B: “Um, yeah, but I don’t know Security’s number.”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Oh, for Pete’s sake, what would you do if someone started stabbing another person in front of you or stole all your Looney Tunes merchandizing shit?  Just stand here?”


GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:  (As my daughter and I ran off looking for the non-existent rent-a-cops, I mumbled and shook my head.)  ”Be afraid, be very afraid.  I’ve just run into our future bankers, legislators, teachers, scientists, preachers, firemen, and policemen—etc.—and, America, we are in deep do-do!”

stupidity demons ianchadwick dot com


I am discovering that younger generations don’t have a corner on the market regarding lack of critical thinking—they are just more obvious about it.  Although there is a great open letter floating around the Internet that went viral from a retired high school teacher to all college professors about how matriculating classes (testing off the charts and AP course-loaded) are woefully unprepared for life.  Mr. Kenneth Bernstein accuses Generation Z of not being able to think analytically or very broadly because they’ve been taught to learn to test.* Generation Zs are fabulous testers but they are horrid “real-life” problem solvers.

But I am also discovering that their Baby-Boomer leaders are not much better.  When I returned home from the amusement park, there was a newspaper article talking about a story that had been featured on our local TV affiliate.  The story was about a church WW and I had once attended.  We had been drawn to the church for a short while because it advertised itself as an excellent fit for Baby Boomers who had a vision for community, serving the poor and intellectual stimulation regarding spiritual growth.  WW and I left (running, not walking) when we noticed this particular church’s lack of respect for women, lack of intellectual stimulation from anything outside of what their leaders had written, and lack of tolerance for anyone different from them.

Here is what my critical thinking—my ability to think broadly and analytically—has taught me:  where there are no mentally healthy women in leadership or where women are disdained, the abuse of children is not far behind as part of the church’s MO.  I didn’t have to wait around to see this happen at that church, I knew it was coming, and thus the exit stage left.

The story featured in our newspaper laid out the class-action sexual and physical abuse lawsuits regarding children from 3 – 16 years old.  The Baby-boomer pastors had been covering up the scandal to protect the leadership and the church’s reputation—much like the Catholic Church—for twenty years.   There were also some parents who were complicit in the cover-up due to their inordinate loyalty to the preachers. When the lack of critical thinking amongst the Baby-Boomer pastors finally gets unraveled in this mega-church story, this could easily turn out to be the worst sexual abuse scandal in the evangelical Christian world.  After the day I’d had at the amusement park, my only response was:


Church Sex Abuse against children Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

Used by permission:  Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

 “There’s less critical thinking going on in this country on a Main Street level – forget about the media – than ever before. We’ve never needed people to think more critically than now, and they’ve taken a big nap.”—Alec Baldwin (I find this very true statement to be very funny coming from a man who can’t keep his foot out of his mouth on any given day.)

 “If there was one life skill everyone on the planet needed, it was the ability to think with critical objectivity.”― Josh Lanyon, Come Unto These Yellow Sands

“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.”—Derek Bok

 “If we are not prepared to think for ourselves, and to make the effort to learn how to do this well, we will always be in danger of becoming slaves to the ideas and values of others due to our own ignorance.” William Hughes



Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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20 responses to “Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid

  1. becomingcliche

    August 13, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Your assessment is spot on. There is no logic left. Those poor kids at the kiosks were likely given no phone number to call, and they weren’t savvy enough to think to ask for it.

    I weep for the future.

    • etomczyk

      August 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      BC: That was my bet. I actually blame the amusement park for a lot of this. We sent them a scathing review!

  2. Kim.

    August 13, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    Well done, and oooh-weee, how some of these folks just make you wanna scratch your head and ask where the hell did you come from (and how the hell did I end up here)? I’m glad, for the most part, you’ve made it past the blundering fools this life presents relatively unscathed…love this piece!

    • etomczyk

      August 13, 2013 at 11:47 pm

      Thanks Kiddo! Hope I represented the characters accurately. MUAH!

  3. Hudson Howl

    August 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Man-O-man, you sure know how to spark up dialogue and I hope this post does just that for you.

    It is a polluted excuse of a world out there ‘E’ no question. However, your post is a battle cry for change to rally the troops to defend critical thinking; fuel for me to keep going at what I do; to keep thinking, inward, then to project outward. Awaken the intellect, buried in a century of mind closing idiotic rubbish spurred on by a quest for material ‘shtufffs’ is a cause I would gladly walk in your foot steps. You have splayed out the baby boom booms and their spawn, now how do we put the humpties and dumpties back on the wall and teach, teach, teach, teach, teach, them not to falter again. Sad to say but what ‘if’ Generation Z is our only hope, are we fluffed-a-duck up’d? We can’t give up on them, can we? Oh if the boomers had only paid more attention to the lyrics of ‘Teach Your Children’ by Cosby, Stills, Nash and Young. After all the goal is ‘Make a world that we can live in’ -I know lame romanticism on my part.

    T.F. Hodge, from ‘Within I Rise’, “One who will not accept solitude, stillness and quiet recurring moments…is caught up in the wilderness of addictions; far removed from an original state of being and awareness. This is ‘dis-ease.”

    I too, confess to being an idiot more times than I should in my adult life (I excuse youthful indiscretions, like hey we learn from our mistakes don’t we). But it is and has been since childhood the creative side of me and my connection to nature that has helped me through my idiocies. In my mind one of the major criteria for critical thinking is to foster the creative spirit, thee antidote for preconception. Second, awareness of the natural world gives one space to think freely with just the right amount of cynicism.

    • Hudson Howl

      August 13, 2013 at 11:59 pm


    • etomczyk

      August 22, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Hudson, you’re so right–we can’t give up on the Gen Z. We are to blame as much as they are because of our lust to invent and consume ever more items that take away the ability to think. The major question is how do we move more and more into the future without losing our souls and our ability to think. It’s a puzzle!

      P.S. Tried to leave you a couple comments but still no success. Love the upside down tree and I am very in love with Elvira! 🙂

  4. imagesbytdashfield

    August 14, 2013 at 4:59 am

    Ohhhhhhhhh but you went all the way there with this post. Yes, stupid is as stupid is doing and continuing to do. I think I would’ve had to snatch somebody up if they hadn’t called security for that perv. Not sure if the kids at the kiosks are just that lame or if they were just hired warm bodies. BTW – loved the kids texting; so spot on (damn shame too!)

    • etomczyk

      August 22, 2013 at 8:25 am

      TD: Probably hired warm bodies which makes the management real idiots. Yikes!

  5. Valentine Logar

    August 14, 2013 at 6:17 am

    I blame parents first then the education system. The reason I blame parents is they (we) are in charge of how are children are taught. They (we) elect the school board and at the end of the day, it is us who approve what is taught inside our public schools. We have removed so many of the really important classes that I remember from my school days, in addition to entirely removing some we have stopped teaching children to think, as you pointed out.

    Do you remember:

    Creative Writing?
    Comparative Religion?
    Social Studies?
    Political Science?

    Those are just some I was able to take during my Middle and High School days (some were actually required) that are no longer offered in any public school.

  6. composerinthegarden

    August 14, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Hmmm, Eleanor, I’m of two minds about this. The inability to think clearly and lack of common sense life skills (related but different) have been around for millenium. (They give “Darwin Awards” for some of the more spectacular examples.) Actually, I am always astounded at how bright my Generation Z students are, but admittedly, they are pre-selected at the college level. They don’t know everything (although they often think they do) but they are thirsty for real knowledge and it is my job to make sure that they do learn how to think and problem solve and be creative, all at once. People learn when they care about something; when they don’t care, they don’t learn.

    “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

    I’m not sure most public schools ever teach real critical thinking, at least in the humanities; it is too dangerous to maintaining authority. On the other hand, we were run off the road yesterday by a teenage girl texting on her pink cellphone while driving a gold convertible with the top down (thus we saw her phone color.) That’s an issue of life skills and common sense, just like your teenage kiosk dwellers. Being afraid is the first step in a good defense.

    “Common sense is in spite of, not the result of, education.” Victor Hugo

    Provocative post as usual, my friend, and one that I will be thinking about for a while 🙂

    • etomczyk

      August 14, 2013 at 10:35 am

      Lynn. I love, love, love your comment. So much to think about here–especially the part about not teaching critical thinking in order to maintain control (remember the Dead Poet Society?). Critical thinking is a companion of freedom. I wish I had seen that before I wrote the post. Those kids had probably been told: stand here, take money in exchange for merchandize, don’t leave your post no matter what, and you’ll get paid. I’m sure the park employee rules are not geared toward asking the critical thinking question of “what if?”

      I have a lot to think about from your comment. In the meantime, it is so fabulous that you can exist in an environment where you can teach critical thinking. If you haven’t done so already, check out the first link at the bottom of my post that is the warning letter from the high school teacher to all college professors. The teacher in question has since gone back into the classroom in an environment that will give him the liberty to teach critical thinking. Fascinating article. Take care.

      • composerinthegarden

        August 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm

        Thanks, Eleanor; you’re right, I’m very lucky. I’m actually doing a conference presentation next spring on Bloom’s Taxonomy (hierarchies of thinking/doing) and how it can work with Music Technology in the classroom, so this subject has been on my mind lately. I’ve been thinking about your post all day – you certainly know how to start the wheels turning!

  7. Sondra Smith

    August 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    I have a friend that is the Director of curriculum for elementary schools. She told me that when testing for 3rd graders was being talked about, a group of teachers, administrators and some board members were invited to give their input. She said, that it was evident from the beginning that their opinions didn’t matter the legislators had already made up their minds.
    Our educational system needs to go back to the people that understand what education is and what it isn’t.
    Learning to take a test, does not impart any knowledge of the subject, nor does it inspire anyone to want to learn more.
    Unfortunately, some parents have removed their children from public school and put them in private schools. That means we will only have education of any quality for the wealthy. We are on a very slippery slope in this county. To your point Eleanor……Be afraid be very afraid. Well said my friend!

    • etomczyk

      August 22, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Sondra. It was the same when “reading by sight” was introduced. I was part of a grass-roots org that tried to stop that movement in our school system. They could have cared less. To this day, my “phonics'” kid reads so much better than my “read-by-sight” kid. Sigh! As to the testing, I think it’s all about the Benjamins. If your classroom tests well, your school will get more money, and the teacher will keep her job, and . . . I just read that for the most part AP courses are a waste because most of the kids fail the tests. Yikes!

  8. aFrankAngle

    August 17, 2013 at 8:16 am

    WWED and ESMA apps are priceless … thus could earn big bucks.

    Meanwhile, I don’t see younger generations as getting dumber. After all, previous generators have said that for some time. On the other hand, there is merit to this saying: Ignorance is bliss.

    Great post … Hi WW!

    • etomczyk

      August 22, 2013 at 9:15 am

      Frank: Sounds like you and Mrs. A are enjoying the summer. Tell her congrats on the gulf tournament.

      No, the younger generations aren’t getting dumber, just “number” to stimuli. You should have seen the clueless look on the teen’s face when I pointed out the Perv. In the words from the song in Chorus Line: “. . .and she felt nothing.”

      • aFrankAngle

        August 22, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        Like all youth … their world is small, and many don’t have a grasp of history yet.

  9. Luanne

    August 19, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I’m afraid.

  10. windhound

    August 22, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Nothing worse than giving unsolicited advice – great stories but what were you doing at a non-amusement park? Take my unsolicited advice and stay away!


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