The Best & Brightest

/ Homeostasis /
@ K. 2004 spring
(from, to IonaArc, to here: continuing my theme of Homeostasis)


Harpers magazine was called the best magazine: under the editorship of Willie Morris. It was that same Harpers that decided to publish pk’s First Week, story one of The Model. Meanwhile that Harpers also commissioned and published Norman Mailer’s The Prisoner of Sex: devoting an entire issue to that one article. Mailer’s diction made the division that sold the ads nervous: what if the advertisers get nervous? America is not Berkeley. (In fact, free speech didn’t do too well in Berkeley either.) Morris was the literary editor: his office gave the magazine its excellence; but the ad office created the revenues. Morris was fired. All the decisions of Morris and his staff were reversed. pk’s First Week was sent back to him, the apology and explanation coming by phone call, not the mail: the caller not allowed to give her name. Deniability: nobody to blame, nobody to sue.

Now: that’s an extreme example. But in miniature — or grander — such things happen every day, every minute. But here’s the point’s point: some putz is interviewed to take over editorship of Harpers: the “best “magazine in America! (Not any longer, it wasn’t!) Is the putz told, “Morris was too good for us: we’re looking for a rubber stamp, not a litocrat.” No: the putz thinks he’s being promoted because of his qualities, not his lack of them.
(2004 01 01 I am about to add a module at Deschooling on a related pk law of conservation: one cannot bestow resources one place without NOT bestowing them somewhere else.)
Third Reich film maker Leni Reifensthal needed all of her genius to hide Jesse Owens on the winner’s pedestal, trying to make it look like the third place “Ayrian” had won the race.

In junior high we were trained to hold a “democratic” election. The teacher formed the class into a jig: we had to fit. My friend and I satirized the process. My friend and I were sent to the principle’s office: no real democracy in this fake one, please. My friend and I were never on the honor role (neither did we want to be): that distinction was reserved for the fleeced sheep.

I have seen the best minds of my generation
Destroyed by madness.

Alan Ginsberg

In a school the smartest kids are likely to be in a coma, sent to a different institution, caged, put in a box, kept zonked on drugs … or drugged by self-administration, drunks, junkies … long before the school starts parading its “honor” students.

But by graduation does the valedictorian apologize for winning the race in which the swift had their feet tied? Did the Nazi who came in third apologize that the Jews had had their nuts in a wire noose before the event was even qualified for?

Kleptocracies know that cloisters control what leaves the cloister. The monk in his cell can pray any prayer he can think of; but only the approved prayer gets published to the world. Thus, kleptocracies swiftly learn to cloister everybody: and only to release the tame: calling them the “best and brightest.” And the public, all tame or they’d be on Zoloft, believes it: Oh, look: the “best and brightest.”

2006 08 24

I am about to watch the movie Enron: The Smartest People in the Room. That should be a chuckle.
Current news reports a Russian mathematician not wanting to show up to receive his prize. Details aren’t clear (and I certainly don’t know the math involved) but the guy apparently doesn’t believe his “peers” are his “peers.” Mandelbrot wasn’t too gracious about the limitations of his fellow geniuses when he was finally recognized either.
Welcome to the club.That’s what happens with a kleptocracy that gets to write its own report cards.

The reality, truth, god … will still have the last word. Ouch!

2012 05 25 Guy on TV says, “We want to put the best and brightest in the classroom.” Do we really? No career choice? The stupid may choose but the intelligent are conscripted? At what point do the speech makers demonstrate that they could tell one bright and good from one bad and dim? Do we want to put the bravest on a battefield? the cutest in the nursery? What happened to all this blather about freedom?

Nazi talk. Lure them into the classroom, maybe. Entice them. Tempt them. But put them? Nazi talk.

Grr, I’m putting up a new post on the same topic. Grr, still not happy.
Jonas Saulk is in his lab, working away at a vaccine for polio: we’re gonna grab him, rip him out of the lab and consign him to a school room? He’s the best, the brightest, isn’t he? Steve Jobs has an idea for a really slick Mac: Not this year Stevo, now your role is to teach Creation to hillbillies …
I’m not saying that the board room is necessarily smarter than the school room (though with the school board in charge, anything would seem smarter than a schoolroom); but on average, in recent history, it’s been a step or two ahead, innovation, efficiency sometimes being rewarded: by the market, not by some committee in Stockholm.

There are other perennial pk points about the Best & Brightest that got smashed by my censorship. One recalled Life Magazine calling the Mercury astronauts by that appellation. I remember my mother, so proud that I’d gone to Columbia, citing Life as though it were gospel. The Pentagon didn’t map the population by IQ, didn’t grab Mandelbrot, didn’t recall Richard Feynman; no, they looked in the Navy! And they didn’t look among the generals; they looked among the pilots!

2014 04 02 Browsing Yahoo news recently I came upon a Katie Couric interview with Michael Bloomberg. He was talking, with a straight face! about universities, schools, selecting, promoting “the best & Brightest”: she seemed to be listening with a straight face! Priests, elders seeming to believe their own propaganda: propaganda which would be easy to falsify if there were an iota of honesty in the culture.

I like Bloomberg just the same: I liked something I heard him quoted as saying recently: he’s got billions: he said he intended to spend it all: “bounce the check to the undertaker”. Bravo, I approve. That’s what Shaw said: we should give everything, till we have nothing left: don’t accumulate an estate, die wholly used up. Carnegie believed something analogous.

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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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