Where are you standing?
“When you tell somebody somethin’, it depends on what part of the country you’re standin’ in… as to just how dumb you are.”
If you aren’t paying attention, it may seem like a throwaway in an early-80’s action/comedy. But take a step back and take a slightly wider view of that moment in the movie and how it relates to the world at large. Frog and Bandit are comparing their interests, searching for something common (aside from Bandit’s profile).
Intelligence is a common measurement for us to compare one another. Most also choose to ignore it is an arbitrary means of measurement. Look no further than the state of America, where we often see “intelligent urbanites vs dumb country folk” or the “Coasts vs the Heartland”.
Truth be told, this perspective creates a feeding ground for someone like Donald Trump.
I will confess, I have been guilty of this in my past — I graduated near top of my class and went to college (later I got a degree) whereas my stepfather barely graduated high school (it was a running joke in his family). I was guilty of thinking I was smarter than a world class auto body man, a jack of trades/renaissance man of his own right. After all, I went to college (news flash: I dropped out) so clearly, I was smarter, right?
But that is where it goes sideways … intelligence is about more than graduating high school and going off to college. It wasn’t until years later that I saw through my own bullshit and started taking a broader perspective on intelligence. You see, that “dumb” old man was a Renaissance man of his own right: auto body repair, engine diagnosis, carpentry, hunting, small engine repair, excavating, industrial machine operation.
I didn’t see that as intelligence, because I was naïve and dumb in my own way.
Perception of someone else’s intelligence is based upon your perspective and “what part you’re standin’ in”. We are often too fixated on what others don’t have to see what they do have and what they bring to the table. A Midwest farmer may not have a fancy law degree and years of schooling, but he/she knows what it takes to run their own business(es) and put food on the table — potentially contributing to the food on the table of someone with that fancy law degree.
Unfortunately, it isn’t “popular” for us to acknowledge this on a broad scope. It doesn’t cost or hurt much for one to acknowledge what someone else brings to the table. It didn’t cost me anything in my younger days to acknowledge what my old man really knew … but I was too proud, defiant, arrogant to admit it out loud. And, in the time, the same was said for my old man. It took years of struggle, of pain, even heartache, for us to both come to the table as two men humbled by the results of our actions.
What does any of this have to do with a bootleg runner? The underlying message, that’s all. Instead of diminishing someone’s intelligence when it’s not the same as our own, it would be wise to acknowledge where their intelligence is. There is always something for each of us to learn, somewhere for us to grow together … it’s far better than continuing to worsen the divide that exists in our world today.
Acknowledging the intelligence of one’s neighbor does not mean you have to agree with their ideology.
Greatness cannot come about for us, as a society, without finding common goals and acknowledging what others bring to the table. This is coming from a small town kid who lived 25 years in various big cities and has found family solace in an even smaller town. It’s a world of difference, and yet the similarities are far more common than most would care to admit. We’re overdue.