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Our Greatest Threat:
The Death of Intelligence in Public Discourse

by Arun Krishnan
October 31, 2004

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To flip flop has also been one of my most prized character traits, a natural result of examining issues from individual, rather than simplified grouped up processes.

However, for the first time in my life, I have made up my mind unequivocally about something. On November 2, George Bush has to go. He is bad for the mental and physical health of Americans, American soldiers and indeed much of the world. When he came to power four years ago, I consoled myself with the thought that a little strife is what the world needs every now and then ­- a cyclical flow of events to clear out the phlegm in our system. We have accomplished that. There is no reason to go through another four years of the same and vomit out our lungs.

Some of the reasons for this line of thinking stem from what you have heard about in the newspapers and the media. There have been repeated failures on multiple fronts, and nobody in this administration has stood up and claimed responsibility or even suggested a corrective course of action. George Bush and Dick Cheney ignored reports saying Bin laden was determined to attack within the US; they let the same bin Laden get away at Tora Bora; they let Iraq, which for all its ills was a moderate state develop into a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism (the life expectancy in Iraq today is actually lower than certain pockets of Harlem and South Central in free America), and ignoring the advice of hundreds of esteemed economists, they have made a horrible mess of the economy. What is really damning is that this state of affairs would be prevalent even without 9/11. Remember the initial days of the new millennium, when this administration thought China to pose the biggest threat along with Iraq, and when the development of a Star Wars missile system was the foremost solution to all problems? Yes, even if that dark day hadn't occurred in September, foreign fighters would still roam the streets of Baghdad, and Obi Wan would be just as stumped.

But these reasons, valid as they might be, are not why my mind tires of seeing Bush on the world stage for the next four years. There is another reason that makes me shiver in fear contemplating the grim scenario of “four more years”: the complete lack of intelligence in public forms. Don't get me wrong. Mr. Bush is an intelligent man -- who has intelligently removed the need for intelligent talking points in all public discourses.

For example, all he has to say is that he is a good leader filled with strong convictions. There is no need to back this statement up, even though as a leader, he has failed on domestic security and has committed the most blatant mistakes in Iraq.

All Mr. Bush has to say that it is important that Americans have access to great jobs with excellent salaries and benefits. It is not important as to how this will be accomplished -- merely making this statement over and over again will make this Utopian society possible.

If America hands Mr. Bush the presidency for the next four years, then these tactics would be proven to be successful. This would alter politics and good governance as we know it forever. All you would have to do is say you are a good leader ­ and you are. Say Iraq is a democracy filled with grateful people ­ and it is. Very soon it would be all right for candidate to walk down to a podium and recite the lyrics to Big Rock Candy Mountain to prove he or she is the best choice for the American public. This strain of thought would even spread to other sectors and doctors instead of reassuringly mouthing words like “Positron emission tomography” would be content in saying, “It's important you get well soon.”

Whatever happened to the good old days, when politicians used to battle on the grounds of Section 403 B ­ Clause A? Or when they discussed the merits of bringing back a certain proposition that would increase the safety caps for certain people and lower it for others? Where has the glint in the eyes of our leaders gone when they discuss a particularly esoteric ruling related to a healthcare policy? In these discussions, there was a reassurance that should that trade agreement come to pass, our leader bubbling with expertise would ensure that the lark would be in its wing, the rose in its thorn, God in His heaven and all would be right with the world.

In this decline of intelligent public discourse lies the greatest threat to our society. And it is important that we demand its return. When we wish to hear about courage, the coalition of the willing, bravery, freedom, eagle wings and the like, we will read Romeo and Juliet. Or a newspaper in Saudi Arabia. 

But we want to find much more than these generalities on CNN and in the New York Times. And on November 2, we have a chance to stand up and say “begone”.

Arun Krishnan, after serving in the advertising industry, and a non-profit organization, works for a large multinational corporation. He is currently in the process of completing his first novel. His thoughts on a variety of other topics can be found at:

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