Legionnaire’s Note: Read my old post: “From Russia with Love” for some background before diving into this one. It has become even more relevant than it was when I first wrote it.
Americans project their belief in the incompetence of their government onto the governments of other countries. This might be called for in some circumstances, but many nations cannot afford a government that makes the high-profile blunders that ours does.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes critics of the government commit a different fallacy and overestimate the capabilities of foreign leaders. Consider Vladimir Putin. He is clever, but he is not infallible, and reactionary hero-worship of him borders on idolatry.
Still, in the game of thrones that is international politics, I am more willing to believe that a former KGB agent is going to be a better player than a former community organizer. Given this, the thought of secret conspiracies and shadowy forces working behind the scenes to control US actions is oddly reassuring. People capable of that would no doubt be capable of dealing with Putin. The idea of conspiracy theories as a security blanket to avoid coming to grips with the chaos and uncertainty of our world is made viscerally comprehensible when one broaches this line of reasoning.
But I digress. Returning to my main point, I will also point out that part of the reason many in this country go into hysterics when thinking about foreign leaders like Putin is that most people in this country are fundamentally incapable of understanding them; Americans lack the theory of mind necessary to do so. Many actually expect foreigners to play by US rules and obey US standards of conduct and are genuinely surprised when they don’t.
It should not come as a surprise that countries that are not the US are guided by a different set of cultural values and norms than those we hold dear. When it comes to the way countries act on the international stage, we still find ourselves surprised, for we have forgotten a few basic truths. Following normative rules and guidelines serves to uphold the established context and reinforce the stability of the current order. Violating these precepts is logically a sign of discontentment with the status quo and a desire for a more favorable order. At the very least, it indicates some measure of non-normative priorities.
For some reason, however, most people seem incapable of even drawing this basic logical conclusion, instead resorting to the explanation that men like Putin must be either stupid or crazy. The idea that we might be the stupid, crazy ones who fail to properly engage with the world never seems to cross the mind of most people in this country.
I suggest that this reaction arises from the crude implications from a priori notions of universal ideals instead of properly applying a nuanced and refined theory of mind (off-topic but interesting to note: those who champion diversity are those with the least capacity to recognize it when they see it). It is this inability to compose a proper theory of mind that hinders our capacity to engage with the broader international community, especially when confronted with actors that refuse to render themselves subservient to Western European ideals and the declining, quixotic empire that champions them.
I have a powerful intuition that theory of mind is strongly linked to verbal IQ, which would imply that verbal intelligence is strongly linked to navigating social environments and the commensurate abilities that entails, such as being able to tell friend from foe and engage with people who are either of those things. If this is the case, perhaps it is not a good thing that IQ shredders might only be deleterious to verbal, and not mathematical or visuo-spatial intelligence.
(Side note, I do think the IQ shredder problem is somewhat attenuated by the tendency of most people to move out of the cities and start families in the suburbs when they desire children, to say nothing of the possibility that the concept merely reflects the already observed pattern of high-IQ individuals having low fertility rates.)
I also suspect that verbal IQ also be related to ones ability to navigate rules and social structures. I have no idea how this connection might work, yet I can’t help but suspect that there is a link here that is waiting to be uncovered. I will return to this subject if I manage to put together a plausible-sounding theory or otherwise find evidence to support or disprove this possibility.
Wrapping this up, I shall circle back to my opening idea and point out that every country eventually and inevitably finds itself with the government it deserves. If the population of the United States has truly become the blessed of Azathoth — the blind, idiot god — than what does that mean in regard to the Leviathan that sits on the throne of our empire?
ADAEQUATIO INTELLECTUS ET REI