One meaning of “imbecile” is “a person of moderate to severe mental retardation having a mental age of from three to seven years and generally being capable of some degree of communication and performance of simple tasks under supervision. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive”. The other meaning is “silly”.
Let me state my case briefly for your consideration and criticism.
1. Victim of categorization - Once upon a time, we read in history for example, that a person is a poet, a scientist, and a thinker. In short, society then allowed your multiple personality to flourish. Whether you read European, Chinese, Indian, Asian or “Islamic” history you will find people of multiple personalities exhibiting multiple talents. For example, Omar Khayyam is famous as a poet, but he was an outstanding mathematician, astronomer and philosopher, he was also skilled in medicine and music. He had a wide range of interests and wrote many books on different subjects. His work consisted of two books on physics, four on mathematics, five on philosophy and one each on astronomy, history, music and climatology. We can find many other examples. Today, by our
In short, our (value) system has been designed to limit our potential, curtail our expression of our multiple personalities and to behave in “expected manners” like in a controlled laboratory. As an extreme example, our society will possibly flip if a person who has a passion for Islam and is reasonably knowledgeable about it equally loves to visit clubs to dance and enjoy the music. It might even become scandalous because we have been taught to forget that such a person is also a human being who likes variety in his life. Our value system says that if a person speaks on Islam, it is preferable that he is in a songkok/skull cap/turban, spots a beard of sorts and a long flowing gown. At the very least he is supposed to look extremely serious and shuns or at least publicly shows that he shuns “good clean fun” that lesser mortals enjoy. It often seems to escape common sense that if he is not “mortal-like”, how can he relate to other mortals?
You can extend the example to many other characters/roles/situations – politicians, civil servants, women, men, professionals, etc. For example, until March 2008, incumbent politicians are expected to behave like feudal lords and most of them still do. Psychologists call these as “role-playing” but how the roles are played out is influenced by various factors such as culture, value-systems and the thinking capacity of the society as a whole.
Once you are categorized into a certain role, you are expected to behave according to “how you are expected to behave in that role”. In this sense, for the more intelligent and creative person, he may become a victim of categorization (“VOC trap”) where their talents are being suppressed. Only those who refuse to live the life as set by others for them are able to break free from this VOC trap. The unthinking majority however become trapped in the VOC trap and become “imbeciles” thinking that is the natural state of things. (There are actually many consequences of the VOC trap but all of it cannot be discussed in this blog.)
Another plain example of how the VOC trap works against the unsuspecting and unthinking masses is if you are a Muslim or Malay in this country. Once you are legally categorized as such, you are expected to give away much of your thinking ability, your privacy and even your right to live as a thinking adult to complete strangers whom you were not even given the opportunity to appoint or vote. One meaning of imbecile is a silly or stupid person. Is it not silly to live your entire life based on how a complete stranger deems fit? Though it is normal for a child to live under constant supervision in all aspects of his life the VOC trap compels the adult to live likewise. Many fail to see the impact of this in a democracy.
In our country, which I am afraid is very much third world in its general mentality and values, this VOC trap is manipulated by the more cunning ones among us to perpetuate their lordship over us and hence safeguard their wealth and power. We appear to have a culture that does not really respect nor want excellence. In fact, I believe very strongly that we fear competitive excellence.
We do not have a culture that encourages healthy competition and the strife for excellence. On the other hand, we seem to have a culture where to move forward, we try to kill off anyone that exudes excellence or any semblance of efficiency or cleverness. The culture of excellence is replaced by the culture of patronage, “sucking up”, pretense of stupidity, and special privileges. Hence, our society has a value system that favours the cunning, the one that lacks self-respect or thick-skinned and the greedy. Hence, through this process of suppressing the dedicated and thinking ones by the cunning ones, we throw up main players in society whose intellect is almost imbecilic. We do not throw up the best by healthy competition but throw up the worse by suppression and discrimination.
People seem to achieve prominence in our society not because they are excellent but because the rest have been systematically made to be below par. When you make everyone blind, just with your one eye, you become their king.
If you understand what I have said thus far, you will be able to understand why, by any standards, we do not seem to exude even average standards in any of the sectors in our society. We have people with “Dr” and “Prof” titles before their names appearing on television saying things that will make a child of 10 ask you if it is a comedy show. You have some judges whose intellectual capacity or even inclination you totally doubt. The quality of politicians and their selection process in our country, you know already. The list is endless.
We extol imbecility and mediocrity and find cleverness or independence of thoughts or competitive ability threatening to the point of it being a sin!
We will forever be trapped in a vicious circle unless we want to radically do something about it. Again, the task must fall on the Raperas.
Next: Part 2 - Today, the “best” of us have become “educated imbeciles”.