In 1983, Howard Gardener proposed the theory of “Multiple Intelligences,” which challenged the generally held notion that some folks are “smart,” most are average and some are dumb. He posited that intelligence was more narrowly constructed and conditional and tended to be specific- that people are smart and gifted in certain areas but not so in others. Some of us are good, even brilliant with languages, for example, or music, but can also be below average in other areas. While this idea is now universally accepted in the world of academia, most people generally still cling to the idea that the world is filled with smart people, average people and dumb people.
And then along came Ben Carson.
Previous to running for president, Mr. Carson’s notoriety and fame came from his reputation as a brain surgeon, at which by all accounts he is an excellent practitioner. This profession has always been held in the highest regard in the industrialized West, and has routinely been used as the ultimate point of comparison to the difficulty complexity of a job at hand – “this ain’t brain surgery.” Not surprisingly, when he entered the fray for the Republican presidential nomination, as a noted brain surgeon his intellect was unquestioned, and generally considered to be superior- not just to the others seeking the GOP nomination, who collectively set a dispiriting low bar for intellect for even semi-serious presidential aspirants, but to most everyone.
And then he opened his mouth.
What is so astonishing about Carson is not just that he is not as capable in some areas as others, but his breathtaking display of sheer stupidity, which by definition, does not mean a lack of knowledge, but the inability to acquire knowledge. As was widely reported including in this New York Times article last month, Carson is unable to understand or conceptualize even the most basic tenants of foreign policy. Getting his head around the far more arcane and complex labyrinth of economic and tax policy goes without saying. Not only is he is clearly and obviously far out of his depth, so hilariously demonstrated in his repeated claims before a live microphone that “hummus” provides the greatest obstacle to Middle East peace, to which one can only assume he feels that no amount of pita bread or carrot sticks might offer relief. Listening to him speak, it appears he would be profoundly challenged by a High School course in World History.
But what really makes Carson so pathetic is his not just his inability to realize that he is in way over his head and has no idea what he’s talking about, but that he doesn’t even try to conceal it. He contentedly offers aphorisms and homilies about his “learning curve” as though they were adequate substitutions for actually knowledge and understanding. He is blissfully unconcerned, and appears irritated and bewildered by the doubts his ignorance raises in others. This is because the twin pillars that hold his simple and diminutive mind aloft are ego and religious faith, both of which he has in monstrous and staggeringly outsize proportions.
As anyone who has ever worked in a hospital setting will tell you, doctors generally, and surgeons in particular, are well known for their egos. Not all, of course, but many surgeons suffer from what they called the “God complex.” The problem for Ben Carson is that he mixes the professional God complex with an actual God complex, which exacerbates both in alarming fashion. This is hilariously, literally, illustrated by a drawing on the wall of his home, depicting him and his friend, the Jesus Christ, together. No traditional blonde, blue-eyed Jesus for Dr. Carson, it should not escape one’s notice that his version of the mythical Jesus looks not surprisingly like himself. True Soul Brothers, go figure.
Ben Carson would, of course, not be the first president with a sub-par intellect who has have no idea what he was doing. In addition to being a horrific racist, Woodrow Wilson was gleefully certain of his vision of a new world order after World War I until he actually arrived in Paris and found the realities of the murky webs of colonial interests and dreams of independence to be for more complex than he’d imagined. Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were equally ignorant, and worse, intellectually incurious. When asked if he had read essential briefing material before an important meeting, Reagan famously shrugged and demurred because “the Sound of Music was on last night.” The reality was that Reagan never read any briefing material and had almost no idea about the details and concepts of government. Reagan was sold on the concept of “trickle down economics” by a sketch on a cocktail napkin and a short cartoon about the far-fetched prospect of a “Star Wars” set of weapons that could be operated from space to knock nuclear warheads out of the sky with laser beams had him thoroughly convinced they already existed. Like George W Bush, Reagan relied instead upon his connection to “God,” and his faith in the diligent and constant oversight He personally provided to him.
The United States is among the most religious countries on the planet, and it has accordingly established religious faith as a qualification for the nation’s highest office, which accounts for the actions of its worst occupants. For the first two hundred years, however, there was not much damage that even the dumbest president could do to the nation but in the post-World War II era that has progressively changed. American presidents now wield incredible destructive power and the stakes are increasingly higher and will rise exponentially in the coming decades. George W. Bush’s imbecilic, if divinely guided, tenure literally blew up the Middle East and the world will literally not only never be the same for it bit it’s very likely the worst fallout is yet to come.
While we can all be thankful that the only real damage the dim witted Dr. Carson did was to the profession of brain surgery, which will never be held is such high esteem again, but we should all shudder that so dense and stupid a person was considered seriously, again, for the presidency of the United States. More chilling yet, it only take a glance at the media of an orange colored troglodyte spewing equally obtuse, self assured sewage from his endlessly gaping, anus shaped mouth to shudder anew.