I am dumb. A plodder. Terminally middlebrow. Incurably unintellectual. I know this, and I made peace with it a long time ago.
But a lot of new generation leftists are anything but. Their cleverness is astounding. Whenever I watch or listen to something from groups like Novara, I’m bowled over by their ability to hold so much information in their heads.
It’s not just facts and figures – it’s complex theoretical understandings. They don’t just know and grasp Derrida and Lefebvre and Bordieu and so many others, but they can effortlessly apply them to everyday situations in a way that makes sense.
I can’t do that. But what I can do is dumb down.
I have a belief, passionate and almost certainly false, that almost anyone can be made to understand anything if it’s written or spoken or otherwise conveyed with enough skill.
I think very clever people are often terrible at expressing themselves clearly and simply. But I want everyone to understand the radical, incisive, potentially world-changing things the very clever people know. And if that means losing some of the frills, the more minor nuances, then so be it.
That was the genesis of I Dumb Down. The core idea is simple. I read things. Important, academic things. And then, by refracting the information through the dumb-downering lens of me, render it intelligible for those without the time, the money, and/or the inclination to chew their way through weighty works of scholarship.
As a little trial run, I’ve already rattled through a very un-academic book – shit-hot publishing phenomenon Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s half-fantastical account of life in Trumpland. But I’ve got a pile of less silly books in my sights.
I don’t labour under the illusion it’s going to be a very useful endeavour. In the very best-case scenario, about four people will read any of it. But for me, it’s more about exercising an intellectual muscle that I can hopefully use to further the cause of socialism in later life. Failing that, I might even learn something myself.