Map of the day

Source – Atlas of Prejudice

Click on image for a high-res view

Monday’s to Friday’s MOTD is dedicated to Yanko Tsvetkov’s work. He’s a teller of stories, porkies and truth (well in some cases).

We ran a similar map in May, but this one is a much better depiction of the stereo type. I love the Alien perception of Antarctica – lots of conspiracies surrounding this.

The American?World

The US war on geography and the narcissist mythology of the ignorant mind

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ?my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

This quote from Isaac Asimov is as famous as the subject of the article it was taken from. It?s called?A Cult of Ignorance, and it was published in?Newsweek?magazine on January 21, 1980.

Even though 32 years have passed since it was first printed, it still sounds like a commentary on a contemporary problem. I am willing to bet it will still be relevant after another 32 because the cult is not really about ignorance. It?s a direct consequence of America?s instinctive contempt for authority.

This contempt came from a noble idea according to which every human being should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life. The rejection of every privilege by birth was something remarkably revolutionary at the time.

In Europe people always refer to the French Revolution when they describe the rise of republicanism. But we Europeans conveniently discard the fact that the French Revolution itself was inspired by the American one, which started 15 years earlier.

Blinded by our self-proclaimed intellectual superiority, we forget how difficult it was for the republican ideas to spread on the old continent. Compare the political careers of George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. The first became a president but withdrew from power after two consecutive terms. The latter crowned himself an emperor and partitioned the conquered kingdoms in Europe among his family and friends.

Such tiny but significant differences often lead to shocking misconceptions. For the thinking American, having a hereditary monarch as your head of state is beyond ridiculous, no matter how symbolic this position might be. For the thinking European, voting without a photo ID that explicitly proves your identity is nothing but sheer stupidity or a misunderstanding of constitutional priorities.

But while most of those peculiarities can be categorized as procedural, there is a thin line after which the American worship of ultimate liberty starts to resemble an unattended camp fire gone out of control. The essence of the problem is that freedom, like any other ideal, is not something that can be absolutely defined. While it can be relatively susceptible to codification in political and judicial terms, viewed from a philosophical and emotional point of view, freedom becomes a very elusive, even contradictory concept.

What further complicates the matter is that politics is often based on emotion, and law is often reliant on philosophy. The resulting mixture is bound to become unstable if left on its own. ?Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty? is a quote often attributed to another American founding father, Thomas Jefferson. In Asimov?s case however, it can be paraphrased as ?Eternal humility is the price of knowledge.?

The lack of humility is what Asimov bitterly complains about. It defines the worst excesses of American pride. It?s the ugly shadow of the great idea of liberty. Always on the verge of taking over the country by storm, it comes in many shapes and reflects on many subjects: from the sensible debate about abortion, to the bigoted opposition to gay rights, through the ludicrous demands for the recognition of creationism, and finally, the most shocking and dismissive of all, the right to be an uninformed fool.

In many cases, Americans are stereotypically described abroad as stupid. But just like any stereotype, such a description is absolutely incorrect. There are stupid people all over the planet, in every country and every forsaken village. The difference is that fools all over the world often feel shy about their intellectual shortcomings and keep a low profile, at least when it comes to scientific matters.?In America, on the other hand, the fool is unashamedly proud of his own stupidity, so much so that it can ultimately end up dictating the political discourse and ideologically hijack an entire political party.

Yanko Tsvetkov