01 September 2013

How Smart?

I might have mentioned being advised by a local resident soon after I arrived in Holly Springs to be careful about letting folks see that I'm "smart." "People in Holly Springs don't respond well if you're too smart and, Alex, you've got 'smart' written all over you."

Part compliment and part warning, the comment amused me. (I still had a healthy sense of humor at the time.) I wasn't worried or intimidated.  For one thing, I have some experience managing situations in which other people have a problem with my "smarts". For another thing, if I've learned nothing else over the last decade, I know for sure that I'm not 'that smart'.

That early counsel, with its focus on how I might manage or modify my self to get along with folks here, conceals what I believe is an important reality in the mid-South, something anyone considering relocating here should keep in mind:  a substantial percentage of local residents are poorly educated and/or "not that smart." (I am not being mean; it's just true.) It's important because the culture of a place is what's gonna drape itself around you. You'll drink it in every sip of water. It will shape your dreams. 

CIH is seeking for an individual that can teach music, sports, and/or dance to students in elementary school. Your job will consists of overseeing 5 schools. You will serve as a monitor and a sub if teachers are out. You will go to multiple schools. Email me a resume. We will train you for this position. You must have transportation. You must be a well groomed individual whom doesn't mind dressing up each day. You must be available from 2pm until 5:30 daily.
Call today at 901-334-xxxx.

This is the sort of ad I find when I'm feeling scared about living on $500 a month. For better or worse, no matter how cash poor I am, I'm never even remotely tempted by this kind of ad. It reads like a train wreck waiting to happen. I acknowledge it's a snobby, arrogant point of view: to think that the unreasonableness of the job requirements and the poor writing in the ad is evidence the employer is not "smart". I never said I was perfect.

In my dream locale there are more smart people than not-smart people but everybody mingles and gets along. There are no stigmas attached to either type. It's a simple designation with very practical ramifications. Similar to asking for a tall friend's help when you need to retrieve a mixing bowl from a top shelf or calling your friend who fixes cars when the driver's side window gets stuck. In my dream town, everyone's gifts are recognized and appreciated. It takes a village, ya know?

And in this far-away utopia there no stereotypes:  being a classical pianist doesn't mean you're excluded from the zydeco shindig next weekend; no one assumes that because you're 81 you don't have a sex drive or that because you're a farmer you won't be interested in a haiku workshop. Everyone is free to be interested in everything else, cordially included in all aspects of life in the community.

It's not like that in the Real World. And the imaginary separations that so regularly prescribe the social order, the fact that I observe them in operation, is one of the hardest things about "smart".