Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What is the value of intelligence?

I was wondering about something I think I heard from my middle school history teacher. I have this faded memory of him telling the class that there is no such thing as an original thought. All ideas are inspired. He explained that we borrow parts of someone else's ideas and make it our own.

I thought of the word 'pink', how much I like the color but hated the word when I was younger and preferred the word 'blue'. If there is no original thought, how did the first words came about? Were they shadows of associations? Maybe the person who came up with the word 'pink' associated it with that color due to his/her upbringing and experiences? All these words they flow like a river, but they are truly rainwater borrowed by the sky.

And I wondered what if the memory was something my mind made up? We can never be too sure of our memories because they fade like old pictures.

But what I do know for sure is that athletes and entertainers are paid more than teachers are.

Teachers who enrich our minds and shape us into who we are, the individuals we turn to when our parents fail us, the ones who have the potential to notice ours and advise accordingly. These important figures in our lives and the lives of future generations are not as recognized as they should be. If I were to name the true heroes of our world, it would be teachers. Not soldiers or the wealthy who have pledged a tiny fraction of their fortune to the less privileged. Without teachers, we have nothing. We would be savages in a civilized era.

So why is it, we pay more for a famous singer than we do for education? Why isn't there a famous teacher (aside from the very few who are already deceased)? Why are there no intellectual olympics? Why isn't intelligence more valued? I am sure that there are debate competitions and philosophical discussions all around the world - sometimes they even happen at 3am in the morning, after a couple of beers. But intelligence isn't identified as talent. We say "oh wow a genius kid gets into university at 9 years old!" and forget about it, but we hear a 9 year old singer and we are blown away. We get obsessed. But never with intelligence.

I then realized that although I welcome meaningful and deep conversations, I don't always appreciate it. Sometimes I want to watch a brainless sitcom and enjoy it, without the interruption of thoughts. Sometimes I turn away from seriousness.

But what if intelligence was prized and fame and recognition went with it? What if, nerds were celebrities and their thoughts were art and their ideas were entertainment? What if we made educational movies, and we walked away from them enlightened? Feel free to brainstorm and add to this list of what ifs. Because the wisdom of the crowd is so powerful, yet so... Un-utilized.

I was in a pub, watching my friends and strangers cheer Daren Liew on (for the Thomas Cup). There were collective sighs and noises of disappointment when he missed, screams when he scored. I got caught up in the excitement and couldn't contain my exclamations and commentating. And then I caught myself.

Why is this important? Why am I going along with this? I don't even like badminton. What. Is. Happening?

I just can't believe that the world can be united over something as trivial as sports, with large amounts of money going into sponsoring athletes, and creating tournaments... I can't believe how passionate people are about celebrities, their willingness to spend all that money on them, for them.... I can't believe how obsessed people are about material things, accumulating more and more, never satisfying our media-perpetuated greed. But we are.

If we invested all that time and money into something beneficial, I'm sure the world would be a better place. We could have already found a way to end poverty, a way to preserve the world and all its inhabitants, to coexist in harmony. Something even more sustainable than permaculture could be something everyone practiced. Overpopulation and pollution could be a thing of the past. We could have cures for every disease, cripples could be whole again. Maybe we could have achieved all the technology which exists only in movies - perhaps even more. We could have already unleashed the full potential of our human minds.

But instead, we sit behind our screens and consume what we are given. We consume, and some create, even less move humanity forward, and at a slower pace than we could be.

I realize now, that we are content.

But I am dissatisfied.

I am but one voice, but I hope that my words inspire ideas, because I don't know how to put my thoughts into action but there's someone out there who can. Maybe it's you. Maybe the internet could be the key to having voices heard, ideas born and our world improved. Here's to hoping that slowly, someday, our priorities would shift.

I hope I get to see that day.


  1. Wow..your questions go to the core of various religions, philosophies and economic models .
    I believe our basic human wants, needs, fear, weakness are exploited by various religions/politics, cultural bias and economic models in order to enslave and control us, the masses.
    Luxury goods are totally useless, but it seem to make one feels better than those without it ; as portrayed by various advertisements . Just check out all those mega church corruptions in Singapore and USA. ... pastors, preachers, monks living like kings and tycoons.
    Everywhere, in capitalist meccas like HK, NYC and Singapore, the market forces are trying to tell us luxury is good and we all should consume luxury.
    Luxury is merely human created scarcity.The designers just deliberately introduce a great deal of intensive labors and "precious" materials to make the "product" rare and special and thus can only be afford by a few.Capitalism that drives maximum consumption and waste seems to be running in to a wall lately with all the pollution and corruption issues. How much stuff and junk do we all need to keep buying and consume to keep everyone employed? How much trash and pollution can our ocean, river and air take before we have a irreversible ecological collapse ? Politicians, religious, the elites are busy interpreting whatever meet their requirements to fool their supporters/voters. The elites want powers so they can set their own agenda. I am not too much into anyreligions, but the most progressive one seems to be Buddhism, to me at least. Perhaps you can check out German pessimistic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer's work. And that will lead you to many others like Kant and Hegel. That will beget more questions and headaches.
    Ha Ha ... sorry perhaps all my ranting are not helping you much Thinking all about these questions are too hard, may be I should eat some laksa and watch some stupid TV and take a nap.

  2. Hi brick! I really appreciate your rant and I agree with you wholly. ;) You made me realize that people try to control one another, and they tend to project their own ideals onto others. This is most apparent in religion, but I'm sure we'll be able to find examples of it in everyday life. If this continues, we might begin to question the laws that govern us, so... Enjoy your laksa and stupid TV show!