Anti-intellectualism and lack of curiosity

Just read this engaging essay on why intellectualism and curiosity is throttled by the society. I think when we question people, we push them out of their comfort zones. Take for instance extra-inquisitive kids in the schools. Whenever they ask questions that are out of the scope of the ongoing discussion, they are thought to be disruptive, the teachers think they are braggarts, or are simply trying to act smart with the teachers. Sometimes the situation gets so worse that it is concluded that such children cannot study in the "normal" environment. This is because such children force teachers, and their fellow students, to think beyond the knowledge they already have. Children who are not curious and inquisitive, and simply stick to the books, are considered to be studious and "serious".

Curiosity and creativity bring about growth, both in terms of the intellect and monetary situation. If you are curious, you’ll think beyond your daily grinds. You will question the norms that hold you back. You challenge the ethics the society adheres to. You try to device new, creative ways of doing things better, forcing others to follow you or oppose you.

A few days ago Alka and I were watching on TV Mulayam Singh’s men distributing 100-rupee notes to poor people. Even 70-year-old men were grabbing the notes like kids, and it was really pitiful to see them like this. But this is how people are kept under subjugation. Keep them poor, keep them backward, keep them divided, keep them physically and intellectually week, keep their self-respect crushed, and don’t let them think. Thinking breeds intellectualism (not the sort that grew in West Bengal — that was defeatist intellectualism) and intellectualism makes you question, it makes you communicate and exchange thoughts. This is bad for rulers and politicians that thrive on backwardness and poverty.

On a micro level the same thing happens in schools and universities. Keep students so burdened with trivia (in the name of covering the syllabus) that they totally begin to shun active thinking. When they are not creative, they don’t seek creative answers and don’t ask challenging question, and this way, the teachers and educationists don’t have to work hard or work extra.

This is just one aspect that came to my mind. In the essay the writer has tried to argue that we are not as creative and inquisitive by nature as we are made out to be. He demonstrates this in this portion:

If humans are inveterate tinkerers (as they are) and if hunter-gatherers have an encyclopedic knowledge of their environment (as they do), why did writing have to wait for settled agriculture? Surely many groups must have experienced the loss of a key member who died, taking important knowledge with him. Surely many groups must have faced the problem of communicating among scattered members, where it might have been nice to tell a hunting party "we were attacked and had to move – here’s the new campsite." There was no lack of reasons to develop writing before agriculture. The lack of a permanent site should not have been an obstacle. Very few groups were so completely nomadic that they never returned to the same place, so almost every group should have known of protected sites within their normal range where they could have stored written records. Maybe some of the thousands of petroglyphs around the world did in fact serve for communication. But the question is nagging – if humans are really as creative and curious as we like to believe, why didn’t they develop an ability to record abstract ideas simply for its own sake, instead of starting off with a very narrow and utilitarian approach to writing?