Americans have been dismissed as frontier anti-intellectuals ever since, well, ever since there were bawdy frontiers just to the west of us. Deerslayer..Davey Crockett…Jesse James…George Custer…Easy Rider. Even the west coast entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley are considered more inventive than intellectual
Today’s revolt-of-the-nerds hasn’t entirely buried this bias. In the public mind it’s still iffy to flash too much IQ. Something politicians like Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, and Barack Obama have to guard against. Others like George Bush, Rick Perry and Sarah Palin have no problem!
So what is it that still makes us judge our presidents, quarterbacks, and celebrities by their feigned modesty versus their actual brain power? We call it being-able-to-connect. Don’t we really mean connecting-down-at-my-level-not-yours? Thus Joe the Plumber is trusted more than Ivy League elites, and Steven Hawking’s brilliance seems less threatening from a wheelchair than lecturing from a podium.
The age of biceps-and-abs may be fading in the shadow of such scrawnies as Gates, Spielberg, Jobs, and Bob Dylan. Also in the light of survey after survey in which women tell us they prefer brains over brawn, humor over hubris.
The simplest way for most of us to look taller, is to keep those around us looking smaller. Easy way to salve our fragile egos at the end of the day. But a lousy way to turn our todays into better tomorrows.
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