I’d linklogged already, but I now feel compelled to comment on this story – Camelot have had to withdraw winter-themed scratchcards because players cannot understand how negative numbers work. doctorvee, among many others, despairs of her intellect:

HOLY SHIT! This is how bad standards of numeracy have become. Unbelievable.

This woman’s poor numeracy is not in doubt, but staggeringly enough, that’s not the real problem here. The problem is what one unfortunate customer said:

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.” [emphasis mine]

It’s the bits I’ve highlighted that really irk me – the sheer bloody-mindedness that illustrates a mentality along the lines of “well, if the laws of arithmetic don’t agree with my own intuition, then I’m going to bloody well complain until they fix it”. It’s not ignorance or stupidity that’s the real problem here, but the stubborn self-conviction that goes with it – the inability or unwillingness for people to ever now say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know”.

And it’s not only scratchcards that this problem surrounds – virtually every major issue today, from the Iraq war to global warming to immigration, is characterised by people (on both sides) who will never even entertain the possibility they might be wrong, let alone admit to it. In the good old days stuck-in-the-mud irrationality and delusion was usually rooted in ideology or religion (“if Lenin/Smith/Jesus says so, it must be right”), but they are by and large absence from most aspects of modern life – which has created a vacuum into which some weird, fucked-up cult personality of the self (“if I say so, it must be right”) has entered. Add to that a culture where any grievance, no matter how petty, must always be redressed or avenged and it creates a terrifying vision of the future.

Of course, I could be totally wrong about this…

7 thoughts on “2+2=5

  1. I was actually going to say something like this in my post (but I forgot before I published it). It is the fact that this person just couldn’t resist blaming someone else for the problem. There is no the slightest hint of taking any personal responsibility. Even worse is the fact that Camelot have actually caved in, which will vindicate this stance in her mind.

  2. It’s all the fault of the loony left liberal do-gooders. Several decades of progressive teachers telling children that they “can do anything if you put your mind to it” and “always believe in your dreams” has given us an entire generation of whiny brats who think that reality will actually change to accommodate them if only they’re stubborn and pushy enough. At least the grammar school system was a helpful introduction to the grim realities of life for the majority of losers it dumped onto the scrapheap. But no, now we’ve got to cuddle these wastrels and teach them to scream “discrimination” if they think mathematics is oppressing their rights. Fucking hippies.

  3. I like the implication that, to the young lady in question, a large, well-established company telling you something is automatically a lie. Viva capitalismo. Institutionalised trust hasn’t collapsed, merely individualised.

    She’s 23. That means born 1984, starting school in 1989, failing GCSE 2000. I blame Thatcher. At least when I was at school we were taught maths by proper hard core Trotskyites.

  4. It’s the stubbornness and denial that get me…

    And yes, she would have had the trough of Thatcherised education; as I recall, school wasn’t falling down in 1985-1989, but by the early 90s you could really see the impact; a defunded universe of multiply photocopied handouts, grey tea, flaking plasterwork and 1950s leftover books.

  5. wow. that denial level is jaw dropping. What gets a person to that choice of state to mistrust? Did she simmer down and hear herself later and realize, that was speech without thought? or as you say, when authority of I-feel-as-absolute-truth goes wrong.

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