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].)
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!”
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?”
GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A: “Nope!”
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?”
GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A: “Um, I-donno!”
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?”
GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A: “Ah, no.”
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!”
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: “Ah, I donno.”
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!”
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:
BE AFRAID—BE VERY AFRAID!
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
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