Idiocracy, Inaction

Idiocracy, Inaction

by / November 7, 2007

Every month, we tell of dedicated public servants striving to increase government's accessibility for citizens. From innovative IT projects, to transportation and emergency response, government agencies nationwide really try to use technology to enhance our lives.

But have you ever thrown your hands up because some members of the public complain no matter what you do? Does some people's inability to operate basic Web applications make you wonder why you even bother?

I'd wager that at least once, you've thought, "What's wrong with some people?" If you've never imagined or uttered such words, you're a better person than I. But for those who have wondered about the public's collective intellect, I commiserate with you.

Today I read about seemingly an entire town gathering to see a mysterious apparition that's materialized on a garage door every day at 6 p.m. for the last two weeks. Many claim the image is the Virgin Mary. Video shows believers touching the specter and gasping in awe. It also shows their hands and arms casting shadows over Mary. Since it appears daily at exactly 6 p.m., maybe it's not a vague message from God, but in fact ... sunlight.

This isn't a rant against the religious. It's just an example of what government faces when it tries to get John and Jane Q. Public to grasp newer technologies that can improve their lives.

Another instance of how slow-witted some Americans are: this obsession with celebrities. Why does anyone care about Lindsay Lohan's latest drug-fueled escapade or which screen starlet has the best beach body? They'll argue it's just a bit of escapism, a reprieve from daily life. But maybe these folks can't bother giving serious thought to the real issues directly affecting them. If so, how does government reach people who are less concerned about their own affairs than Brad Pitt's love life?

E-government's purpose is to get people online instead of in line. But how do you convince those who still won't use their check cards at the supermarket, choosing to wait for their total, dig for their checkbook and then finally write a check, enraging those of us who haven't yet mastered the fine art of patience?

All too often, people just don't care about government. In the 2004 presidential election, 197 million Americans were eligible to vote. Of those, 142 million actually registered. Among those, 126 million voted. That means at least 55 million Americans are too apathetic or dumb to care - 55 million who write checks at the grocery store, drive 45 mph in the fast lane and still use AOL by choice - if they use the Internet at all.

Is this a generalization? A bit. Is it elitist? Could be. But it's also probably true. I feel bad for public-sector IT employees. So often you strive to help inform people, only to have them balk at the technology and the opportunity. But, as the old saying goes, ignorance is bliss.

Chad Vander Veen

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.


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