Dear Dirty America


Being Smart

March 18
23:07 2013

photo by: Digital Dream Society

(originally posted at 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems)

Many people I meet consider themselves smart
& I’ve always considered myself smart, too—
but I wonder….

If you’re smart
presumably you can do what you want to do
& have what you want to have—
& few of the so-called smart people I meet
do what they want to do or have what they’d have.

But there are reasons:
there are systematic injustices that affect them
of which they may or may not be aware
or have been aware most of their lives—
& likewise injustices that particularly affect them
or have affected them in the past
& the effects persist.

And not just injustices
but systematic insanities or more subtle prejudices.

Still, if you’re smart
presumably you’d be able to do more of what you want to do
than the average
& have more of what you want to have
than the average—
& it seems that people who do more of what they want to do
& have more of what they have
are not so insistent that they’re smart.

But I’m not saying that those who believe they’re smart
aren’t smart.

Usually, it seems to me, they are smart
but deluded or ignorant in some way—
often they have been raised in a way
that causes them to do well in school—
likely book learning was respected in their parents’ home—
or they have shrewdly made their way among difficult people
& managed to provide for themselves against great odds—
but their school success hasn’t got them very far
& what they have provided themselves with
is so unsatisfactory
that they are radically dissatisfied with their lots—
as I am—
I’m including myself in this bunch of so-called smart people.

If an insect manages to live, healthy
thru its allotted time—
is it a smart insect?

If a human being manages to adapt
to the demands of his or her society—
Roman slave society, Nazi Germany
Russia under Catherine the Great, Stalin, or Putin
Dar-al-Islam ruled by zealots of the personality cult of Muhammed
enforcing evil prejudices in effect among their ancestors
long before Muhammed’s life & book
or China under mandarin or Communist Party rule
or the USA or western Europe ruled by the capitalists
& the coalitions of politicians vying to serve them
& to reach the top at the expense of suffering multitudes—
is that person smart?

Was Socrates, whom they executed
smarter than the Athenians he defeated in arguments?
Was Jesus smarter than Paunchy Pilot or Augustus Caesar?

Am I smarter than the celery whose stalk I chew?
Are you smarter than the fly you swat?

It’s smarter to be able to solve a problem
than to be unable to solve the same problem—
but which problem do we solve or attempt to solve?

Eric Chaet, The Turnaround Artist, born Chicago, USA, 1945, raised on rough South Side, pre-computer factory, office, & warehouse jobs. Some teaching, some independent self-taught technical consulting. 1974, Old Buzzard of No-Man’s Land, poems, Toronto, Canada. 1977, Solid and Sound, vinyl LP of songs, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA.  Mid-80s to mid-90s, silkscreened, hitchhiked, & stapled 1500 cloth posters to utility poles along American highways.  1990, How To Change the World Forever For Better, brief prose philosophy, Greenleaf, Wisconsin, USA; 2nd edition, 1994.  2001, People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways, mostly narrative prose, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA.  Lives in Wisconsin, industrialized dairy farms & cows, remnant cheese & paper factories & factory hands & outlaw mammals & birds, post-construction boom, reactionary politics & obsolete machinery, a smattering of professionals & millionaires.  Poems published, over 50 years in many USA states, plus Brazil, Cuba, Ireland, Scotland, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Nepal, India, China, Singapore, Korea, & Taiwan, often in translation. 

You can contact him at the Leave a Reply box on each page of his website, 100 Peculiarly Useful So-Called Poems, <>.

Find Chaet’s book, People I Met Hitchhiking USA Highwaysand read a review written hereSee also, There’s still a little breath in the old American RevolutionOn Job Creationand Stalin.

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