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(37) Flavus

If you follow the circles still influenced by Galton, there is this idea that we face a “genius crisis” in the West—the idea is connected to dysgenics. The idea is that intelligence is correlated with agreeability, so that very intelligent people are usually very cooperative—the genius is, therefore, the outlier with high intelligence and the disagreeability usually found in more stupid people. This tendency allows him to push against the inert mass of clever but nice people and so originate new concepts or discover hidden aspects of reality. The fear is that we are losing both people of high intelligence and also those who are “difficult”—the former for biological reasons, the latter because in a feminised environment difficult “anti-social” people are not welcome.

One problem with this idea is the notion of “genius” itself. The whole idea is an invention from the late 18th and early 19th centuries—and despite its scientific approach, the “Galtonian” angle plays on the emotional themes tied up to “the genius” as romantically conceived. You know what I mean, the difficult tortured man with ruffles round his neck and long dark locks (somewhat like a vampire, somewhat like Lord Byron). He strides across the moors, lightning cracks in the distance—women fantasise that he will smash the windows of their little cottage and drag them out over the jagged glass shards so that they slit their wrists, just a little. He will drown in a boating accident on Lake Como, along with “Boy” his dog.

Yet what if “genius” is really just a pain in the ass? A prototype for the dozens and dozens of pop singers we produce every year (who die in confected Byronic “tragedies” that are forgotten within hours). Men of genius: Marx, Freud, Nietzsche. Clever, disagreeable individuals…who did a lot of damage. What about Aesop’s Fables and the Brothers Grimm…what about anonymous cathedrals? Perhaps what is worthwhile is generational anonymity, not down to a singular, per the era of origination, Frankenstein?

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