The oppression of those who can by those who can’t

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What follows is part of a comment I made in another place, trying to explain my sense of alienation, isolation and frustration.  I thought a more general audience might like to read it and tear it to bits if it so wishes.

I tend to feel that intelligence is one of the few assets that I possess.  I’ve never been very good at sport, for example. The society we live in doesn’t seem to have a problem with promoting one’s sporting prowess, but on the other hand it seems to me (and I’m prepared to accept that this is about my perception based on personal experiences) that intelligence is regarded as a disability, as something to be looked down on.  When I was young I was bullied – by teachers as well as other kids – for not being good at games, and bullied again for being good at academic things.  Schools, after all, pile kudos on the kids who are good at sport, but seldom do anything (well, my school didn’t) for those who are good at maths, or poetry, or photography.  In the adult world, consider the relative status of professional footballers and of professors of philosophy.

So, I perceive that what I regard as my only asset is regarded by society as a disability.  So I fight back, by flaunting my disability.  And in many ways it is a disability.  I feel excluded from much of wider society – there’s nothing on the television to challenge, for example.  The cutting-edge drama and Ascent of Man-type didacticism is extinct.  Although I love film there’s seldom anything worth watching at the cinema because the cinemas are full of lowest common denominator tosh (and I don’t mean they aren’t putting on Jean Vigo retrospectives, I mean that they are not showing recent Oscar winners and nominees.)  If I seek out forums for discussing film I find they are dominated by recent shoot-em-ups and I don’t find an outlet for discussing older films, independent films, non-American films, and so on.  Dare I say that book discussion forums I join are seldom interested in anything more than a few years old?  Bookshops banish all but the most recent titles to a ghetto.  I can’t find a camera club that will share my continued interest in working with film.  I can’t find a writers group that isn’t preoccupied with the popular and terrified of the experimental.  I’d like to find a group of people to engage in discussing mathematics with at a more than superficial level, but that is a really good joke!

I’m not trying to say here that I am being done a great injustice, and I’m certainly not trying to put down others who want top work on a different level (if that’s how it comes across then it’s not what I intend and I’m sorry) but I am saying that I find life very frustrating because like anybody else I want to interact with people on a similar wavelength and it seems to me that it’s harder to find people on my wavelength than it is (by definition) for those who want to work on a more popular level.  So I end up feeling isolated and frustrated, and then it boils over into depression and anger from time to time.

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2 Responses to “The oppression of those who can by those who can’t”

  1. tvor Says:

    Living in a smaller town/area probably isn’t helping matters because there are less options. Very possibly in a larger urban area you might find more like-minded people. I’m sure there are more forums on the web for discussions about the types of books and films you like, too, just needs a bit more digging i guess. I suppose by flaunting your “disability” (though i don’t see it as that) that can be off putting to some people. It’s not fair, but maybe when you’re more intelligent than the average “bear”, which you are, people feel defensive and they feel like you’re putting them down. I don’t know, i’m just throwing out a supposition. I don’t know what the answer is, luv.

  2. Mike Says:

    I could have written that first paragraph word for word, but from there on I would have diverged. For example, I have found numerous kindred spirits in Mensa.


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