Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We're Getting Dumb & Dumberer

We're Getting Dumb & Dumber...
Gina Jordan 11-22-2011

On the news & in the media I hear this term used a lot, innocent victim. Is there any other kind of victim? A guilty victim perhaps? How about an innocent predator? A predator victim? How about the term innocent bystander, is there a guilty one? Hit and run today was a creepy bystander who deserved it, perhaps? How about today a 17 year old slut was raped, now on to other news? Of course NOT!

Yet we hear, and even repeat, these phrases without stopping to think what we are really saying. How often do we pay attention to what we think, say or hear? In today's busy world, not often, too much information overload to really spend any time choosing with care, the quickest route is automatic.

Perhaps because I write reviews every day, I started noticing the phrases I was using to describe the experiences so others could relate. I felt challenged to come up with different phrases or adjectives even for similar items, beauty interchangeable with gorgeous, awesome with superb, amazing with incredible, fantastic with excellent, but the phrases I found myself using too often were "funny as hell" and "sexy as hell" when we all know there's not much funny or sexy about the definition of what hell is to most people. Once I noticed how often I used those terms, I became curious enough to look up their origins, and down the rabbit hole I went, finding very little to point the way back to sanity.

I recently had purchased two CD compilations for a 9/11 Tribute project, and mixed in with nearly all the songs were actual news audio samples from the coverage & reporters at the scene of what I'd describe as a hell on earth, ground zero. Many were still trying to figure out what had happened, as we still are even now unsure what exactly went on that day. Heard over & over were the phrases "innocent victim" (actually has a LEGAL definition & we call ourselves civilized?) and "innocent bystander". Really? Were any that day deserving of their fate, or NOT innocent? How about just bystanders and victims, why can't we just say that without trying to qualify them as innocent?

I don't have the answers, I'm just observing something that I'd spent most of my life ignoring, in a rush, not really thinking or paying attention to the language used in daily life. I'm a word geek, used to love reading the dictionary, encyclopedias, thesauruses, vocabulary builders & other such FUN (to me anyway) light reading. Does anyone else read the cereal box just because it's there & is something to do while crunching down the cereal? I'll even go a step further...has anyone else, as a kid especially, pretended to do commercials for the products by reading off the content from the container? "Prell shampoo will make your hair squeaky clean", or "Eat your Wheaties, grow big & strong like Joe Namath" [disclaimer: phrases made up, not necessarily actual product info]; anyone? Perhaps I spent too much time alone, having to entertain myself?

Has anyone paid attention to what's written on the items we use everyday & take for granted that everyone else knows how to use them? Such as a warning about "HOT Coffee" being in your coffee cup? Or still needing instructions on bottles of shampoo that describe how to shampoo your hair? How about the warnings on plastic bag wrappers, not to wrap them around our head & try to breathe? Really? Are we THAT dumb or that clueless? Are there really people who need those warnings? Apparently so. Manufacturers aren't creating them at their own expense for laughs. We love to read the labels now, check the contents & nutritional content of any food--have you noticed that where it tells you for example, 3 g protein, 5 g carbs, then it will also say "not a significant source of ..." whatever is NOT in the ingredient list? We can't figure that out for ourselves, we have to have a separate list of what's NOT in the package too?

I swear, I fear for our continued sanity & existence if these trends continue, for soon we won't be able to think for ourselves at all, but will expect everything to be spoon fed, decisions made for us, directions for the most basic self care required or we're lost, unable to figure out what to do with a bar of soap, or the empty bottles that tell us to recycle.

An article in Discover Science in 2010 featured an article about a scientific study that has determined that our brains have been steadily shrinking, our intelligence dropping, in record numbers & very quickly, prompting a debate on whether we are actually becoming dumber. Among several culprits blamed were being civilized, agriculture & animal farming, as well as living in cramped quarters, meaning we're safer, don't have to think about survival on a minute by minute basis, our food is provided so we don't have to plan a hunt or the best way to trap or kill supper, civilization meaning we need spend less time worrying about our enemies in a different tribe or region coming to pillage our gains. In many ways technology has made us less self-reliant, less aware, less intelligent or at least under utilizing our intelligence. An interesting topic, more studies need to be done to pinpoint the answers, said the scientists, some of our smartest humans.

The saying "take time to smell the flowers" or alternately, "take time to smell the coffee", can also speak to us on taking the time to pay attention, period. Slow down, think more, challenge our brains, make the more difficult choices, switch the route we run or drive or walk or bike home from work, read books that aren't just for fun but make us use our brains, actively pursue learning something new every day even if it's just a new word or using an old word in a new way. I've heard that one way to avoid senility & related illnesses is to exercise the brain just as much and as often as we exercise the body. For me, working out with my brain is much more fun than exercise, but like any muscle, if not used regularly, it gets out of shape or atrophies. Use it or lose it.

My favorite scene from Dumb & Dumber, the movie:

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