I recently read an interesting post where the author blamed television’s most popular sitcom Friends for the downfall of western civilization. In his words, “To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man [Ross Geller] is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. […] In fact, any time Ross would say anything about his interests, his studies, his ideas, whenever he was mid-sentence, one of his “friends” was sure to groan and say how boring Ross was, how stupid it is to be smart, and that nobody cares. Cue the laughter of the live studio audience. This gag went on, pretty much every episode, for 10 seasons. Can you blame Ross for going crazy?”
Truth be told, I have never been much of a Friends fan; in fact, I have never been able to sit through an entire episode, so I cannot say if the author’s interpretation is the right one. But if I take it on its face value, this post somehow strikes a big chord. I have been there before, in Ross’ shoes. All through my life, I have been ridiculed for being ‘too serious’. Have I been bullied or ragged? Not really. Have I been mocked at? Hell, yes!
Back at school, I always aspired to be a good student, a good kid. I studied hard, obeyed rules, respected my professors. I came prepared for new chapters that my professors were going to teach. I topped my class every once in a while. When I became the class monitor, I tried to maintain order and discipline. Come exam time, I outed students who cheated. I never swore (still don’t), never kept nicknames for other kids, and tried to assist other kids who needed help with studies. This doesn’t mean that I never took a bad step. I did my fair share of mischief, back answered professors, and argued with friends. But more often than not, I followed rules.
And for this, I was derided. I was nicknamed ‘pandu’ which means a ‘traffic constable’. As a 12-year-old kid, I braved threats from seniors who I exposed during exams. I faced a lot of flak for being what I was! Yes, I was the front-bencher, yes, I tried to uphold certain morals and principles. But how was I wrong?
By the end of school and start of college, I realized that the part where I was wrong was that I tried to inflict my life views on others, so I pulled back. No more being the exam time watchdog. I kept to myself and my small quartet of friends. But then came these nagging calls of friends to ‘socialize, hang out, chill!’ Friends started having problems like “Why don’t you go out so much?”, “Dude, why don’t you party?”, “Why do you lead such a boring life?”, “You have no clue how to enjoy life!”. It’s been 6 years out of college and I still get unsolicited advice like “You need to relax”, “Enjoy life dude, don’t be so serious.” “Chill out man.” My question again is, “How am I wrong?”
Maybe at this point, you’re already thinking it. So let me say it out loud. Yes, I am a nerd. Yes, I am a geek. But why do those words have negative undertones? Yes, I don’t hang out as much as the next guy, but why brand me asocial? Yes, I like to read history or fiction, but why call me boring?
It’s not that I don’t like to enjoy, it’s just that my definition of enjoyment is different. Why is it uncool to try to be an intellectual, to try to maximize your capabilities, to follow rules? Why is sitting at home watching a movie alone derided and sitting at your friend’s home watching the same movie applauded? Why is it a horror for people to know that others are thinking beyond momentary pleasures and planning to chart out a life path? Why is spending our weekends learning a new skill or increasing our knowledge base and then meeting friends to have constructive discussions a bad idea? Going out with the same friends every weekend, talking the same stuff, is that the only way to enjoy life?
Moving beyond the personal, the question that I am trying to get an answer to is that why is the world willingly moving towards a dumbed down version of itself?
World’s two biggest democracies have the most idiotic presidential / prime ministerial candidates. Ministers are getting suspended because they did not use the ‘pre-defined’ words to praise their country. Countries are threatening one another with nuclear bombs and weapons. People are killing each other. Human beings are destroying nature. I mean, come on. Doesn’t the world have enough stupidity to deal with already? Don’t you need intellectuals to step in and take stock? Don’t you need us to try and bring some morals and values and principles back to the world? Or are you going to keep rolling your eyes, sitting at that bar, with a bunch of friends, condemning how boring and geeky we are?
This is the Sciolist.