I have lived a lifetime with the words, “Well, you are smart, alright, but you don’t have common sense like me.” When they meet me for the first time, other people always know that I am some sort of absent-minded-professor type who solves calculus problems in his head but forgets to wear pants to school. (Sorry, Darrin, for using you as an example of what they assume all geniuses are like.) They always know that their two-plus-two-always-equals-four common sense makes them superior to me. They don’t have to feel intimidated by my smartness because common sense is a universal equalizer.
Bullies have loudly assured me of the truth of this right to my face. Classroom wise-guys and know-it-alls (like the radioactive humanoid yam with a comb-over currently running for president) remind me that anybody can accurately remember sources for points brought up in an argument. And since anybody can do it, if they just take the time to look stuff up, or actually learn it, then it isn’t such a big deal. The guy who can pull the right answer out of the air, the answer that everybody else likes, is the one to listen to. When that guy is a billionaire, then he can always hire someone like me to look stuff up for him.
Notorious common sense advocate Sarah Palin has been campaigning in defense of common sense tea party candidates like Tim Heulskamp because she fears that absent-minded-professor types are going to undo his good work of blocking a path to citizenship for hardworking immigrants who have been here for many years and stand to be deported because their paperwork has expired while Heulscamp automatically votes “NO” on any and all immigration reform. And it is common sense to not raise taxes on the millionaires and billionaires who create jobs even though it seems like a majority of those jobs are created overseas because, after all, workers who don’t demand high pay, or any pay at all, are better for profits. And poor Timmy lost his seat in the House, even after the miracle that is the State of Kansas trickle-down economics experiment. He lost it to a rival in the GOP primary. A rival that will work with “ugh!” Democratic absent-minded professors to actually pass legislation that even Republican voters seem to want… despite common sense. How can you work with people who tolerate smart people with no pants on?
So, what have I really learned from this rumination about common sense? Nothing, of course, because I am merely smart. I have no common sense. At least, not in the sense that it is always used as a club against me.
But if I were pressed to come up with something, I might be persuaded to say, “Common sense is an oxymoron. It is certainly not common any more. And most of the people invoking it, don’t make very much sense.” Let me just sit here for a while and think about that with no pants on.