October 17, 2003

Ignorance in Three Parts

Those who read this weblog regularly have seen at how irate I sometimes get at people's stupidity. In fact, I consider this a weakness of mine to have no patience when faced with idiocy.

Since immigrating to U.S., I seem to come to contact with a certain brand of foolishness that is mixed with arrogance, condescension and even bigotry more and more. I am not suggesting by any means that Americans (for the purpose of this post, American refers to people of United States, not residents of both American continents) are stupid or unwise in any ways. But at the same time, when faced with the ones who are, one often finds a whole new dimension as to how grand one's mindlessness can get.

As an immigrant that looks, sounds and acts the part, I often have a front row seat to this phenomena as it is directed towards "aliens" here. This is a three part post on that topic:

Part I - BASEBALL - The talk at work is all baseball today. New York Yankees' come from behind win over Boston Red Sox last night has everyone talking. Most are unhappy. Not many people outside NYC appreciate the Bronx Bombers. I walk into an office where four "white" male co-workers are busy discussing the same topic. I try to get into the conversation but I'm quickly brushed aside by one guy saying "oh, we're talking about baseball" and turning his back to me as if to say "that's one topic you know nothing about, so bug off".

This is an opportunity from heavens if your first name is Pedram. I jump in after one guy makes a hindsight suggestion as how Boston should have been coached and go on a rampage: "the guy is ace of your staff, he's won three Cy Youngs and has been the most dominant pitcher in all of baseball for most of the past decade, his ERA hasn't come close to 3.00 in seven years, you wouldn't be there if it wasn't for him. So what if his pitch count is up? you owe it to him to let him make the decision, you go up to him first thanking him for keeping you in the ballgame, then ask: how do you feel? you want to handle this guy or do I bring in some help? let him choose. Even if he makes the wrong decision, you didn't. Get over it, the better team won!" and I shut up.

The room is silent. Later, one of the guys, the nicest of the bunch admits they were insulted. INSULTED. Can you believe it? They couldn't believe some god damn eyeranian knows their game better than them. The "alien" dares to offer an opinion on "America's favorite pastime" and he's probably right. Scary!

I left them in the room and still in awe with a recollection on the Curse of the Bambino, Bucky Dent, Mookie's soft roller towards first and now this. Oh what a glorious moment. For that moment, I'm also a fan of those "Damn Yankees".

Part II - The Strike - It's the last day before the workers at my usual grocery store are locked out. The labor dispute between local UFCW members and the management at three largest grocery retailers in this area is coming to a head. I didn't know if they had already gone on strike yet, so as soon as I enter the store I look for familiar faces and after assuring they are all there, pack my little cart.

At the cashier, Donna asks the usual question "did you find everything tonight?" I reply "yes, including the regular employees and no scabs". Donna says "that's a politically incorrect term, we call them replacement workers" to which I reply "scab is a scab, if they don't like the name, don't take the job". This gets the line behind me going! One guy almost yells at me: "it's for 5 bucks". I know he's talking about this misconception (management's spin masters unite!) about how the main issue at dispute is a $5 contribution from employees towards the cost of their health insurance. I go on fully automatic mode reminding him how it isn't $5 but $15 for most employees and it's $15 PER WEEK or $65 a month, almost $800 a year. Besides, there are other significant issues and I don't get off my soap box 'til I'm done!.

As I finish, there's that silence again. Donna has a big smile on her face and the yelling guy is mumbling like an idiot. Donna is so happy she forgets to give me my change and I forget to ask for it. When I get home and discover the mistake, I call the store. Donna gets on the line, thanks me and assures me she'll put it in an envelope with the manager, so I can get it tomorrow.

The next day the workers get locked out. I spent 15 or 20 minutes picketing with them. Donna is there too, As soon as she sees me she gestures for me to go in to get my money. I tell her I'd never cross a picket line, not even to get my own money. As we walk together holding signs, Donna confesses they couldn't believe it was ME defending them so well and knowing their issues. I guess I don't look the part. She apologizes for the ignorance of their certain clients and how my appearance in her opinion may have contributed to it. I assure her that her apology isn't necessary.

I think I'll picket with them again this Sunday. We'll see.

Part III - Henry Ford - Last week I visited a friend at his work. He is an ardent Republican, I think Democrats are way too right-wing, but we somehow get along. A subject came up and I said that I thought the "general knowledge" of an average American is pretty low outside of pop culture an their own specific field. He of course disagreed. As we're talking, three and then four of his employees are attracted to our conversation, so I decide to conduct my very own, very unscientific experiment, something I had seen on TV once:

I ask one: "who invented the automobile?" He gave me the standard answer you'd hear from any American believing the globe revolves around the good ol' U.S.A.: "Henry ford" (try this for yourself sometime). I remind him that Ford only invented the assembly line, a way to produce cars more efficiently, the car itself was invented long ago by Karl Benz.

I turn to another, asking "who invented electricity?" This time they deliberate collectively and come back with: "George Washington!". I remind them that there was electricity probably long before there was earth, but I assume they meant Benjamin Franklin "discovered" electricity, which isn't the right answer either as he only proved lightning was in fact electricity.

So I move to a different topic and ask the only female in the group: "name 3 cities outside U.S. of A.". She really tried hard, but only came up with "Honolulu". I move on.

I asked about 10 other questions but perhaps the most fun answer I got was to this question: "what country was involved in the American civil war?" and the answer....drum rolls please...."Russia!"

The End.

Now I don't want any of the usual America bashing, please don't be abusive in comments. Remember, some of my favorite human beings, past and present, are American. Above samples are just that: random samples, unscientifically chosen and used in a personal weblog as an individual's experience, nothing more. There are ignorant people all over the world, including but not limited to U.S.A. and boy, ignorance is indeed a blessing. It's much easier to not know to begin with, I've seen it first hand, trust me.

Posted by Pedram at October 17, 2003 11:32 PM

(for the purpose of this post, American refers to people of United States, not residents of both American continents)
Yeah, the home-grown-ness can make em quite arrogant and ignorant. Frankly I find the "average" american to be extra dumb about the world around them, and even their own land. And they're so picky sometimes. For instance, they sneer when someone refers to the southwest US as "occupied Mexico." It seems that they arent quite wise on the details.

Posted by: El De Tijuana at October 18, 2003 12:03 AM

All I can say is that they do not have the passion we possess for what goes around in the world, and not even what happens in their own land.I often find that we know more about them and their country than they do themselves. Seems like they do not care. Yes, ignorance is a bliss at times, but not for everyone.

Posted by: A persian girl in California at October 18, 2003 01:16 AM

Pedram: These are three great stories. But I don't think stupidity respects national boundaries.

Posted by: Jeff Jarvis at October 18, 2003 08:03 AM

Whenever I see you have a long post, I first hesitate reading it because of time restrictions, But I finally read it anyway, and then I realize the time was well-spent.

Great Post Pedram, as usual.

And abou American bashing, I posted someting in my blog that is basically the opinions of three people (two of the Americans living in Toronto) about anti-Americanism in Toronto. It is titled:

American Bashing; If exists, then why does it exist? (October 17 posts)

Posted by: Faramin at October 18, 2003 08:12 AM

May be stupidity is more familiar with some national boundaries than others. But stupidity isn't born with people, people develope stupidity and ignorance or the other way of saying it, people lack developing awareness and in that a country's media plays a significant role.

In the US, this lack of awareness hugely apparent, and for that we can blame its mainstream media (including Jeff Jarvis's own blog) that only tell people certain stories with certain versions of those stories that are in line with their own agendas.

Posted by: at October 18, 2003 09:28 AM

Pedram, I think you are a true American, and coming from me that's a compliment!

Posted by: Hayedeh at October 18, 2003 01:01 PM

Jeff, to be fair to Pedram, he made the same point many times over in this post. I think it is great for someone to be brave enough to hold the mirror in front of us to let us see our own shortcomings. Keep it up.

Posted by: Kris at October 18, 2003 02:42 PM

You see, when you have been able to place yourself on top of the pile it really doesn't matter if others think you are stupid or "simple". Its only the guy looking from outside tries to justify his predicement in that context. Average Americans are not any more stupid, arrogant, or ignorant than Arabs or yours truely eyeranians. This is a silly subject, whats your point!!!

We just have to get off our high horses and come up with solutions. As its said in the corporate world if you can lead go ahead but if you can't then get out of the way.

Posted by: Ali at October 18, 2003 09:13 PM


This is not the corporate world (if you think so, you are in wrong place)and no one is trying to lead anyone. PERHAPS this is the reflection of the anger caused by the ignorance of those who without knowing much about the world, decide for the world only because they are on top.

Pedram is entitled to his opinion as you are, but you are also entitled to select where you would like to go and to visit. Perhaps this blog is not one of them.

Posted by: Faramin at October 18, 2003 09:42 PM

Ah, one of my favorite pastimes: reading the comments of enlightened immigrants on the stupidity of my countrymen.

What I cannot understand is, why do people as intelligent and discerning as yourselves choose to live in this land teeming with bigots and idiots?

Is there not a place on earth more congenial to your tastes and intellects?

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 19, 2003 11:20 PM

There's that tone of condescension again. If this country has anything of value, it is built by these immigrants and we've paid for it by stealing the resources and wealth of less developed countries. It would be nice if we'd one day stop being so arrogant and face the truth.

Posted by: Cencerned American at October 20, 2003 03:57 PM

To Cencerned American,
I agree that the USA was built by immigrants, but the immigrants who actually did the building did not waste their talents and energy bad mouthing the citizens of their adopted country; they built, produced, assimilated, and contributed.

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 20, 2003 05:47 PM

all of this happened while the European "immigrants" mass-murdered, raped and ravaged the communities of original "citizens of their adopted country" ?

Posted by: Concerned American at October 20, 2003 06:38 PM

I am sorry, but I have to ask agin, what is the point of talking about how second, third,....generation Americans are or should be. We need to find ways to have an understanding that transends how long one has spent on a piece of dirt. Lets find that common humanity, and try not to dewel in why that "simple" redneck living in the heart land or the city guy who loves his apple pie, god, and country is idiot or arrogant. Because once you strip the roughness off of him you'll see he is just like one of your old causins from Iran with the usual fears,insecurities, and all that makes us all human. Trust is not gained over night.

Posted by: Ali at October 20, 2003 09:12 PM

Mr. Faramin,

I am not sure if Pedram's weblog is intended to be viewed only by like minded people, Or he wants only to preach the choir! I do however applogize if some reason I offended you.

Posted by: Ali at October 20, 2003 09:17 PM

No Ali,

I think it is me who should apologize. I should not have suggested you not to visit this blog.

Posted by: Faramin at October 20, 2003 09:55 PM

I dont see Ali offering any solutions either. I suggest starting your own blog full of smart worthwhile stuff and leaving us simple people to reading this crap.

Posted by: at October 20, 2003 10:14 PM

Great piece of work, Pedram. I agree with your points...

Posted by: Leila at October 21, 2003 01:06 AM

Again, I remain curious: What is the point of discussing the idiocy of a few Americans? There are 281 million people living here, why carp about the behavior of a few of them you happened to want to bait? Balm for your sensitive egos? Need to find somebody to look down on? Excuses for the crappy conditions in you home countries that made you decide to move here in the first place rather than stay there and use your superior intelligence to better things?

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 21, 2003 03:06 AM

Person of Choler,
First of all what makes you onve again prosume that whoever comments on this blog, live in the states? Do you think internet only exists in the US?

Secondly, the problem is not only "a few" of the 281 million and you know that.

Posted by: Faramin at October 21, 2003 05:41 AM

Faramin, I assumed that those who seemed so knowledgeable about the deficiencies in the people of the USA must have had considerable contact with the American population in order to arrive at their well formed opinions. I am mostly interested in hearing from the Eyeranian himself, who seems to be an immigrant to America.

And, of course I know that in a country of 281 million people, one expects 140.5 million people to possess below-median intelligence. It is not difficult to find folks below the 50th percentile; the question is, what is the point of baiting them and then using the anecdotes thereby obtained to make snotty comments about the population of an entire country?

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 21, 2003 08:26 AM

To Person of Choler : Once again, to be fair to Pedram, I think he has made the point you are trying to make very clearly himself. Read the post again.

Posted by: Kris at October 21, 2003 10:10 AM

To ask a simple question: we know that there are ignorant people in America, as elsewhere. What is added to the sum of human knowledge by posting about a few of them?

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 21, 2003 10:47 AM

Where did pedram volunteer to add "to the sum of human knowledge"? It's his blog, he can post whatever he wants here. You don't agree? Start your own and put what you want for others to comment on.

Posted by: Adam at October 21, 2003 06:29 PM

WOW, I guess it is agreed by all that most of us are average and just want to get along, right! I wish you all greatnes and better global citizenship without first getting you green card, LOL.

Posted by: Ali at October 21, 2003 09:41 PM

Adam, of course Pedram (if I am allowed to be on a first name basis with a man I have not formally met) may write what he wants. And of course, his writings can be serious or not as he chooses.

I'm only trying to figure out what is meant to be the point of what he wrote.

Can someone enlighten me?

Posted by: Person of Choler at October 21, 2003 11:50 PM

We could all spend our lives pointing out the ignorance of people in all countries, of all races, and both sexes.

Big deal.

I suspect we all know what would happen if Pedram should picket for an unpopular cause in his country of birth.

I think it is fair to ask him why he chooses to live among us, given his anger toward our country.

Posted by: stephen at October 22, 2003 06:52 AM

Pedram: You're always welcome in Canada where people can express whatever opinion they have without fear of being called 'un-Canadian' because such a notion does not exist!

Posted by: Advanced Calculus at October 22, 2003 07:15 AM

person of Choler,
we would be glad to enlighten you, but that is impossible. We've have to start from the beginning of time, when people could express their observations of the world around them and found acceptance in the heart of men & women, no judgement or hate.
With you, we'd have to include a simple lesson on the proper spelling of the word "color".... heck you've got bigger issues than this blog.
that's simply too much work.

Posted by: glad at October 23, 2003 06:37 PM