Opinion Column: Intelligence Not Linked to Political Involvement

By Natalie Mitchell

In today’s prevalent “cancel culture,” you often hear various trends, movies, books, social media sites, and brands referred to as overrated, or not as good as they are made out to be. But something that is extremely overrated, but not often called such, is the American ideal of being involved in politics. In America, being involved in the political happenings, that is to say watching all the debates, having discussions with your friends and family, and taking a strong stance on current issues, has become a sort of cultural standard that determines your intelligence and social competence. But in reality, being involved in politics is exceedingly overrated, having nothing to do with your actual intelligence and oftentimes ruining, rather than fostering, social involvement.

In America, being involved in politics is often used to determine whether a person is intelligent or not. People will ask if you “watched the latest debate” or if you support the newest tax bill, and they expect a strong answer one way or the other. It is rare for someone to accept the statement “I’m not interested in politics” at face value. More often than not, they will instead simply dismiss you as foolish and dense. As a country that puts so much emphasis on citizen involvement, we have blown things out of proportion. It is important to be informed and to vote and be aware of the political atmosphere of our country, but your intellect does not hinge on your stance on every new bill and legislation. I personally know many smart, intelligent people who do not get involved in politics, and this does not negate their wisdom. My doctor, who has multiple doctorate degrees, and a verifiable near-genius IQ, absolutely hates politics, and this does not make her any less capable of being a doctor. The point of this is to say that our cultural perception of intelligence being linked to political involvement is absurd and has led to it being severely overrated.

Another aspect of engaging in politics that has led to it being overrated is the fact that people often overlook the amount of havoc that politics can wreak on relationships, be them familial, platonic, or romantic. I have seen firsthand the amount of damage that holding up the social standard of political discussions can have within groups. In my family, whenever we got together on holidays with all the extended family, they would insist on discussing the current politics. They claimed that we were “better” than all the families that just partook in small talk, rather than “real” discussions. So they would always bring up their views and corner us into sharing ours, and when we differed, arguments, shouting, and fighting would ensue. Eventually, they stopped coming to our get-togethers. From what I’ve heard from others, I’m confident that most people have had something similar to this happen to them or someone they know. The point of this anecdote is simple: politics has a way of messing with relationships and ruining social connections if it is given too much weight, something that commonly occurs.

Many people who disagree with my argument will hold that being involved in politics is necessary to being a good citizen because it means that you are well informed, something that is necessary to a democratic nation. While I definitely agree that being well informed is crucial to running a successful democracy, I am certain that being politically involved does not equate being well informed. There are many examples of people who exist outside of this “truth.” First, you have the people who are well informed, yet are not politically involved. These are the people who watch the news and know what is going on, yet keep their opinions private or are accepting of other opinions that disagree with theirs. The other people who violate this sentiment are the people who are politically involved, but not well informed. These people are extremely common. Many people, to uphold the standard of political involvement, will boldly state their opinion to anyone who’ll listen, without having researched the facts or taken a look at each side. Basically, you do not have to be involved in politics to be a good, well informed citizen of the US.

The value of being involved in politics has been blown out of proportion. It has no true bearing on your intellect and it commonly wrecks relationships and connections. Political involvement has become an ideal for American citizens, an unattainable concept of displaying that you are smart and socially competent. If we, as a nation, though, took the time to think this ideal through, we might realize that political involvement is indeed, overrated.

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