Yesterday's Five Things post was supposed to include the review of another book, but it didn't make the cut. This was not because the book wasn't worthy, but more likely because my thoughts on said book were still in the blather stage, and not ready for public consumption. Having an additional 24 hours of mental rewriting has helped considerably, although my thoughts are still wild and unkempt things, and they are already banging into other thoughts and creating new and varied reactions, which probably have nothing to do with the original book. So be it.
The book is Hive Mind by Garrett Jones, who is an economist at George Mason University. It is written for a general audience, and I found it to be fascinating and highly readable account of an important and perhaps overlooked subject. Jones leads the reader through evidence from a very wide range of fields in support of his basic argument, which is actually stated in the title: "Why Your Nation's IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own". The author manages to be simultaneously confidently persuasive while remaining somewhat cautious regarding what it all means. This is, in fact a good thing. Jones manages to mostly avoid falling into the various rabbit-holes and dead-ends that invariably open up in any discussions of IQ and inequality (either separately or together), and although there are a few places where he is inconsistent, a few times he seems to slip into mainstream generalizations, overall, there is a lot of food for thought here. In fact the sense I got from the book was as much "this is an important attribute of successful economies and the way they improve the lives of their participants" as "and now what are we going to do about helping others to share in the same opportunity". But that may be due to my own biases as much as to the book itself.
Of course it is this second question, the "What are we going to do about it?", that continues to roil about in my thoughts. And of course my thoughts meander to what this means in my own local economy as well as in the wider world. Although Jones does not talk about economies within countries directly, concentrating on differences between rich and poor nations, he does apply this information to disparities within countries as well, albeit briefly, using India and Pakistan as examples. And there is great danger in extrapolating large population trends to specific small examples; but there is also danger in ignoring the larger trends. Again, the point is that these differences seem to be important, and if they are important, then finding ways to improve the average IQ of large parts of the world is also important.
So this book, which is interesting in its own right, has raised up many questions in my heart. And I don't know where they will lead. And Jones seems to be raising a big question, one that is not being adequately addressed. We are not addressing it in our aid to foreign countries, especially sub-Saharan Africa. We are not addressing it in our work within the unequal economies that exist in our own country. We see data that relates IQ to race or economic status, and we look no further, because it is easier to dismiss something than to think about all the reasons that a disparity might exist, especially when the reasons are complex and multi-variant and may reflect badly on our own assumptions, especially when they infringe on our own sense of self vs other. Jones hints at some possibilities, he references studies that may lead to possible answers, but "may" is the critical word here, these are hints, not prescriptions. He asks the question but doesn't claim to know the answer.
This is a holiday weekend in the USA, a weekend in which we honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a weekend in which we need to honor the right of each and every individual to be seen and treated as an individual, equal to each of us in every way, full and complete within themselves, fully worthy in an of themselves, each full of potential, as are each of us. It is long past time we honored the soul of humanity that exists in each and every one of us, and allowed each and every human the opportunity to achieve full fulfilment as individuals.
One of the lasting values impressed upon me at an early age by my father is that knowledge implies responsibility. I suppose it was his version of "noblesse oblige". Knowledge is not some abstract idea that we can just stick in a box out of the way until it is convenient. Knowledge always raises questions, sometimes questions upon questions. And it is how we respond to those questions that determines the quality and authenticity of our lives. Each of our lives is uniquely valuable, no matter what the arena in which we find ourselves. Each of us must ask questions. Each of us must find our own answers.
But the questions remain. Are we asking the right questions? And if we are not, what questions should we be asking? And of course, What are we going to do about it?