By Willard “Woody” Michels
A couple years ago a man named Gabriel Sherman wrote a book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.” This book is about Roger Ailes the creator of Fox News. I’ll never forget a line in the book in which Ailes made a statement to Richard Nixon during his 1968 presidential campaign that has haunted me since reading it. I don’t recall exactly how it went but something to the effect, “the American people are becoming too lazy to make their own decisions and need someone to tell them how to think. Ailes then stated that TV would be the medium to do this.”
This statement came back to me last week when I was looking for a particular business here in Mesa. I stopped at another business in the vicinity to ask directions. The lady behind the counter gave me the deer-in-the-eye-headlight look and said she had no idea. I walked out and asked another lady and she pointed across the street and down a couple of stores and said where it was. I wonder how the first gal, a pharmacist got her degree. Will Rogers said a diploma was a slip of paper that meant you didn’t know anything other than what you were educated in. Was he right?
This was not the first experience I’ve had when asking for directions in the city. Another time we took the light rail to downtown Phoenix to the Comenco theater. We got off one stop too early not knowing for sure where we were. We walked a block down the street to a sports bar next to the big stadium that I was familiar with. We were early so we ordered a sandwich and asked the waitress for directions to the theater. Her comment was, “I get on the train near my home and ride uptown, get off and walk the block here to work. I have no idea where anything else around here is.”
If you ask a person in rural Montana directions, you'll get a sketch and a couple of alternate routes. They will even expound on the road condition. If they don’t know they will direct you to someone who does. How can a person spend years working in a city and not know where you're at. Is it like what Ailes said, people have become too lazy to think and need someone to tell them what to think.
Let me give you another example of how young people in particular are not taught how to think. We had employed a gal in our office who had a college degree. One day she was entering data into the computer and stated, a particular person did not have much crop production as he only had 2 units per acre. Now this particular crop is normally reported in pounds per acre and he had reported 2 tons per acre. I told her she needed to convert tons to pounds per acre and there were 60 pounds per bushel. Her problem was, she had no idea how many pounds there are in a ton. I was flabbergasted how someone could get to be over 22 and not know how many pounds in a ton. The next day, still in a daze, I asked a daughter-in-law and her young co-workers in a local store if they knew how many pounds there were in a ton. They too had no idea. They asked why would they?
I could go on with examples, like when I hired a college boy to work for me on the farm. I had him change oil on an older pickup truck. I told him to put 4 quarts of oil in after draining the old oil and then check the level. He drained the oil, put in 4 quarts and said it was already way over full. He had drained the transmission and put the oil in the motor. Another time I had a man call me from New Jersey looking for a house in our remote home town in Montana. I inquired as to why in our town. He stated that his daughter from New Jersey was going to attend the University in Missoula, Montana. He wanted a house close by her. Remember, Missoula is over 600 miles from us. The road is mostly 2 lane and goes over a large mountain pass and both are difficult most winters. I told him he could get to Missoula from New Jersey faster and easier than he could get there from our town. He said it cannot be that far as its in the same state. I told him to get a map out and do some comparisons. He never called back.
I am becoming more concerned every day about America. Has the TV, computer, smartphone and other electronics really dumbed down America? Further, look at the current political divide in this country, is this caused by people’s inability to think, decide and learn the real basics of life for themselves? It is very concerning to think there are many people out there that haven’t been taught or given the basics of life. Food comes from the store, gas from a gas station, directions and all information comes electronically. What happens if any of these sources is hacked or goes down, it recently became evident that a foreign power has the capability to disrupt these things. Maybe many people realize this and that is why they are buying so many guns. Could life back on the farm really be so bad, we would at least know where we’re at, how to grow a garden and how many pounds in a ton, and most importantly, where we're at?