Have you ever spoken to an old person? WAY older, I mean?
I have, a couple of times. And if there’s anything that old people want young people to take away from conversations, it’s that young people are not smart — or at least not NEARLY as smart as old people were when they were young people. Apparently, education isn’t what it used to be. Apparently, students used to have to study Latin for, like, 10 years, and memorize multiplication tables and everything.
Apparently, old people used to be young people.
Don’t believe the lies. Old people are wrong, all of them. And some of them smell like a basement.
We, you and I, Joe and Josephine College are the smartest people on earth, ever. Smarter than Old Man Insult-y Guy, and certainly smarter than anyone who came before him.
All you have to do is think about it for, like, a half-second.
People used to be terribly stupid!
When Oldie McMeanie-Jerkson was our age, had he ever HEARD of a computer? No. If you’d shown him a computer, he would have chased after it with a pitchfork and torch.
When Oldie McMeanie-Jerkson’s father was our age, if you’d shown him an airplane, he would have committed suicide. “Devil Machine!” His brain simply would not be able to process the information of what he was looking at. — An airplane. Come on! EVERYBODY knows what an AIRPLANE is. A stupid, stupid baby could tell you.
Keep going back. A few more generations ago, Civil War Carpetbagger Eustus Z. McMeanie-Jerkson, he wouldn’t know WHAT the hell to do with a toaster oven. He’d probably vomit from fear just looking at the thing. THAT is stupid. And messy.
Further back. Lord Byron McMeanie-Jerkson? Smart guy, right? I mean, he IS a lord.
Watch this, kids.
“Hey, Lord Byron, want to watch a movie?”
“What? What ARE you talking about?”
“A movie. A film. How about ‘The Empire Strikes Back’?”
“I, I am afraid I do not understand. Who are you? How did you get past the guards? What in the –“
“The guards are all dead, Byron. I killed them. Where’s the remote?”
“The what? Remote what? You killed the guards?! Untie me!”
“HERE it is!”
(Sound of television turning on, followed by sound of big walker robot thingies at the beginning of “The Empire Strikes Back,” followed by the sound of Lord Byron’s skull spontaneously exploding.)
“Anyone have a towel?”
Apologies for the graphic imagery, but it’s true. EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD has seen “Empire Strikes Back,” but this so-called “lord,” with all his fancy education in poetry and blood pudding and horseback riding, his world would simply cave in.
The fact, the thing that all old people leave out, is that human history is the history of stupid animals getting smarter and smarter. — And then stupider, around the time of the Reagan administration, but then smarter again. It’s the history of intellectual progress. It’s a big puzzle, with each generation adding to a big picture. And we owe old folks a due, sure. Without their thought processes and life experiences, we’d never be where we are now. A piece would be missing, and the whole Jenga tower would crumble. But we’re not stupid, not most of us at least.
My roommate Matt’s a pretty dim bulb, but then, he’ll probably spend his life as a waiter at a Chili’s in the Midwest, not really working on the puzzle at all.
Old people like to say that there WAS a time when everyone was smart and when everyone was good. They call this “the golden age” or “the good old days.” For your grandparents now, this was probably around the 1950s or so.
Nothing about the 1950s was golden. And it certainly wasn’t smart. Women couldn’t go to college. Blacks couldn’t either. It was boring and wrong, and people weren’t really good. They were just content, because anything was better than World War II.
Contentment is like a time machine. You get comfortable enough, you’re back in the Stone Age with no rights and no brains. You don’t put together half of a puzzle. You don’t leave the Jenga tower teetering.
Contentment is the enemy of evolution, and evolution is the business we’re in. We’ve got a job to do — a puzzle to put together.
Televangelists will tell you that society is falling apart, because, as intelligence and technology have become increasingly important in modern times, morality has been deprioritized. In other words, the smarter we get, the meaner we get.
Society isn’t falling apart. It was never together. We’re not de-evolving from some utopia. Things aren’t simply getting worse. History’s not divided into “the good old days” and right now. Those blissfully stupid people in the Bible weren’t good. They were full of the same gears and wires as us, and they were just as weird and foolish and human. But we’ve got cooler gadgets, and we’re inventing more every day.
In that sense, history’s kind of like the James Bond series. We may not all be Sean Connerys, but we’ve got cars that go underwater, and there’s something to be said for that. Besides, what has Sean Connery done recently?
Come to think of it, what has Moses done recently?
“Hey, Moses! You with the beard!”
“Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.”
(Long silence.) “You’re f—ing kidding me. Get the f— out of here.”
“No. No f—ing s—.”
(Sound of Moses smacking me with his staffy-thing and running away.)
Greg Yolen is a sophomore in Pierson College. Stop reading now. OK, now.