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Signs of the times

I guess this is an issue that will not register much outside of this little damp island of the UK, but there has been a small media flurry of interest over the amazing quiz-answering skills of a young woman, Gail Trimble, on the BBC show University Challenge. She has had the outrageous nerve of being very good at answering the questions, and worse, she smiles a bit on camera when she gets the answer correct – which is most of the time. For this, she has been variously attacked for being “smug” etc. It makes me wonder why those who are offended by signs of intelligence bother to watch the programme in the first place. Surely fare such as Celebrity Big Brother might be more their style. They are welcome to it.

As humans, we surely have evolved as creatures to feel pride and happiness in accomplishment. The first human probably grinned when he figured out how to shape the perfect flint arrowhead. Pride, and showing happiness at cracking a problem, overcoming an obstacle or winning a prize is not just right, it is natural to any person of healthy self respect. Pride is the reward one gets for achieving something of value. Smugness or arrogance are unfair charges to make in this sense. Of course, there is a lot more to life than being able to store lots of facts and figures in one’s head and answer correctly to a bumptious quizmaster such as Jeremy Paxman, but I find the attacks on this pleasant young lady to suggest a lack of comfort with intellectual accomplishment that is rampant in parts of our culture. In fact, those who wished that the lady could look stony-faced or even miserable are showing a level of aggression, even hatred, for accomplishment. And that I think speaks to a neurotic condition that the abusers of this woman might like to reflect on.

And then again, I will openly confess to having a weakness for brunettes with brains and a cultivated voice. I see the young lady has a few male admirers on the web. Good for her.

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23 comments to Signs of the times

  • Such attacks are quintessentially “chav”/”charver”, which was a word used to describe Nottingham hood-rats who used intimidation and violence upon their fellow pupils who dared to work, get good marks or answer questions.

    I tend to lump these people into the Fabian levellers holding pen.

  • Mar

    I was really cheering for you until the end, but now this is how I feel.(Link)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Mar, I read your own comment and you seem to be offended. It is pretty obvious that i admire brains in this case. There’s just no pleasing some people.

  • Being smart, and particularly taking pleasure in being smart, is pretty much the ultimate sin, whereas (say) taking pleasure in scoring goals is just fine if you are Christiano Ronaldo.

    Seriously, though, Miss Trimble is good. When channel surfing I stumbled on the round between Corpus Christi Oxford and St John’s Cambridge, where St John’s were getting creamed. For a few minutes I thought my fellow Johnian’s had fielded a weak team, but it actually wasn’t that.

  • Kim du Toit

    You know, as a rule, I adore Brits. I love their beer, their football, their cricket, their sense of humour, their history and heritage, and their food (seriously: give me a steak ‘n kidney pie and a pint of Wadworth 6X, and I’d be happier than a hangman at Hitler’s execution).

    But if the Brits have a single attribute that I absolutely loathe, it’s this relentless envy of achievement, this urge to “pull” every achiever back into the herd, this “set them up then knock them down” mentality.

    You see it in every gloating paparazzo photo of a celebrity falling over, in every newspaper article showing the foibles and weaknesses of a talented person, in every gloating story of someone who was once riding high, but has since been brought down, and in every law passed by the Commons [sic] which takes from the successful and gives away to the undeserving.

    I’m not saying that we don’t occasionally do that Over Here, of course (especially recently), but it certainly isn’t our national sport.

    All that said: good for young Miss Trimble. In addition to being wonderfully intelligent, she seems like a decent sort with a remarkable sense of proportion to her achievements. Given her wholesome good looks, her modesty is not only unusual, it’s downright refreshing in its rarity.

    Far be it for me to trample on anyone’s right to free speech, but I would suggest that the next idiot journo or blogger to make a snide comment about her should be clapped in the stocks and pelted with rotten eggs.

    Maybe then others will get the message.

  • “Self-esteem is, ‘I can’. Pride is, ‘I have‘.”

    (Ayn Rand)

    It’s always murder, to the incompetents.

  • Laird

    “Pride” is, of course, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Another reason I find organized idiocy, er, religion, to be so distasteful.

    Mar seems to be one of those persons who is always looking for some reason (usually imagined) to take offense. They are generally characterized by a singularly deficient sense of humor. The only proper way to deal with them is to offend them as roundly and as often as possible. Anyone got a link to some good brunette jokes?

    Kim, I’m a big fan of stocks, but do you know how hard it is to find rotten eggs these days? It’s pretty much gotten to the point where you have to make your own. Are you building up a supply?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Laird, remember that Kim du Toit is a self-confessed lover of redheads. Phwoar!

    I think this thread could get out of hand.

  • Kim du Toit

    Laird,

    I’m agnostic on the topic of stockworthy projectiles. Eggs, rotten fruit, bags of cold vomit: makes no difference to me. All have their pros and cons, but all get the job done, each in their own way.

    Actually, I’ve changed my budget. The “egg” line has disappeared, and the budgeted amount been added to the “ammo” line. No explanation necessary.

    The “rope” line item still exists, though.

  • Anyone got a link to some good brunette jokes?

    Why, are we out of good blonde jokes?

  • tim maguire

    Always wondered about that myself. Pride in athletic accomplishments? No problem. Pride in musical accomplishments? No problem. In fact, pride in any physical accomplishment at all is just fine.

    But pride in intellectual accomplishment? Arrogant.

  • RAB

    Well I did mention this over here yesterday.

    http://www.countingcats.com/?p=1791#comments

    But will not burden you all further.
    The articles by Melanie and Mount say it better than I can.

  • “But pride in intellectual accomplishment? Arrogant.”

    I think I would be interested to see that explained.

    You see, it’s because of the nature of the human mind, in the fact that it is not an autonomic system. Nothing on earth can make a person add 2+2 except their own initiative. “You can lead a dolt to concepts, but you cannot make him think.”

    People who can do it, and do it to high levels of achievement, are in no way “arrogant”.

    I don’t understand you.

  • Billy, I think he was describing the opinion of other people with which he doesn’t agree.

  • RAB

    Billy, what he meant was that Joe Average is not resentful of someone who is good at Sports or playing a musical instrument because they believe that with a bit of practice they could do that too.
    But when they see someone like Gail, who is obviously on another planet in the “Smarts” department, they become fearful and resentful because they know that they will never be able to be like that.
    It is what the British Comprehensive system is all about, designed not to make pupils equally smart, but equally dumb.

  • Sarah Rolph

    I read Mar’s comment, and I don’t agree that she seems like someone who always wants to complain. I think she makes a very good point. I, too, had a negative reaction to Pearce’s playful comment at the end of the post. It sounds like he is backpeddling, trying to imply that we shouldn’t take the post too seriously. Well, why not? It seems serious to me.

    Playful comments seem to be a guy thing, one of those gender-based style differences in communication.

    I would be very interested in hearing anything Mr. Pearce would like to share about the reason for the playful comment here. How did it enhance the message, in your view? Maybe we can strike a blow for cross-gender understanding.

  • Maybe we can strike a blow for cross-gender understanding.

    How about actually getting to know some of the members of the opposite gender sex, an activity otherwise known as “getting out more”.

  • comatus

    “Playful comments seem to be a guy thing, one of those gender-based style differences in communication.”

    Quite so. Tell me, can you recall ever being referred to as “humourless”? Seems like a guy thing, too.

    Oh, and it’s “backpedaling.” Big difference.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Sarah, just to put your mind at ease: I can be playful and deadly serious at the same time.

    I just get the sensitivities on display here. It is not as if I was disparaging certain people or denigrating them. Quite the reverse. Accept that point in good grace, please.

  • Sarah Rolph

    “It is not as if I was disparaging certain people or denigrating them. Quite the reverse. Accept that point in good grace, please.” I absolutely did accept that point in good grace, and hoped that I had shown it.

    I just wanted to make the point that I accepted Mar’s point in good grace, too.

    And I was hoping you would accept her point with a little more good grace, as well, because she, too, tried to make the point that she very much appreciated the essence of your post. She just reacted very differently to its last point than you intended.

    I appreciate this clarification: “I can be playful and deadly serious at the same time.” That’s what I was asking. Thanks.

    I appreciate the spelling correction! “Oh, and it’s “backpedaling.” Big difference.” Yes, I made a very amusing typo!

    This I am not sure what to make of:

    “Tell me, can you recall ever being referred to as “humourless”? Seems like a guy thing, too.”

    No, I don’t usually get that. Maybe guys are thinking that about me and I don’t know that, is that what you are trying to say?

    This I definitely don’t get:

    “How about actually getting to know some of the members of the opposite gender sex, an activity otherwise known as “getting out more”.”

    It is my ongoing proximity to the opposite sex, gender, whatever, that has gotten me interested in gender-based communication differences.

    Have you not found that men and women have a tendency to misunderstand one another from time to time, even when both people think they are being friendly and clear?

    That’s what seems to have happened here. I was making a good-faith effort to flag that, because I like this blog a lot and respect the authors.

    Sorry if it didn’t come across that way.

  • Sarah, I apologize for being rude. Your comment was very annoying to me (although not nearly as much so as Mar’s comment), but I should have remained polite regardless.

    Have you not found that men and women have a tendency to misunderstand one another from time to time, even when both people think they are being friendly and clear?

    Yes, but I have also found just as much misunderstanding between members of the same sex. Sure, there are differences that are gender based, but that was my point: the more we socialize with people who are different from us (be it gender based differences or other), the more we get to understand their POV, and the less misunderstanding occurs with time.

  • Sarah Rolph

    Thanks, Alisa. I appreciate the follow-up.

    I certainly agree that there are plenty of misunderstandings among people of the same sex, and I might even agree that these are just as common.

    But in my experience, the gender-style-based differences tend to be more difficult both to spot and to resolve. The use of humor in conversation (as opposed to actual jokes) seems to be one of these areas where the sexes use noticeably different “rules.”

    However, my interest in linguistic style differences was probably not a good enough reason to comment. Especially since I am a stranger here. I apologize for the annoyance!

    I did not mean to agree with Mar that Mr. Pearce’s post was inappropriate. I just became very curious about why he added that last bit, when it seemed to me that the post would have been stronger without it.

    I agree with your key point that the best antidote is to learn to understand one another. I love Steven Covey’s dictum, “Seek first to understand, [and only] then to be understood.” Clearly, I need to implement this principle more often!

    Thanks again for your kindness.