I have two distinct opinions about Dan Brown’s work:
A) I love it, because he writes about very important things. (Such as, why women are ostracized, feared, despised and denied rights within the “holiest” institution in the world.)
B) I hate it, because Dan Brown talks to me like I’m STUPID, and he writes like all his characters are stupid too. Dan Brown makes a point, or a joke, or has an observation, but then beats you over the head with it for the next three pages, just in case you missed that really, really clever thing he said. Via the platform of his writing, Dan Brown is a condescending, patronizing bastard. This can only lead me to conclude that Dan Brown doesn’t have a very flattering opinion of other people’s intelligence. He assumes people (other than himself) are stupid, and so he talks to us like this is a foregone conclusion. I find this very ill-mannered, and it makes me want to abuse him. He has never met me, and yet he is talking to me like I’m dumb. He is explaining things to me like I am a child. Why would he do such a thing?
For example, in The DaVinci Code, he spent four or five pages with Harvard’s top codebreaker Robert Langdon scratching his head, agonizing over what the Orb could be around Isaac Newton’s grave. In Deception Point, he spent six pages with the world’s leading astrophysicist getting pissed off, because he couldn’t figure out why the world’s top oceanographer kept claiming we had our very own “low gravity environment RIGHT HERE ON EARTH.” When Dan Superbrain Brown finally graced us with the revelation we predicted nine boring pages earlier, (ooh, the ocean is low-gravity, never saw THAT coming), he then spent another paragraph congratulating himself (via his characters shitty dialogue) on his own tricky brilliance. “Woo, holy cow TOLLUND, you really fooled us there, if we were only one tenth as bright as you, our world would be a much better place. Shit Rachel, could you imagine having a brain the size of his?”
In another DaVinci Code Freudian Slip, in order for Brown to explain his point to we the simpletons, (quote): Most recently Langdon had shared the Mona Lisa’s secret with a rather unlikely group–a dozen inmates at the Essex County Penitentiary. Langdon’s jail seminar was part of a Harvard outreach program attempting to bring education into the prison system–Culture for Convicts, as Langdon’s colleagues liked to call it.
(To which I responded out loud, “Yeah – obviously, uneducated & uncultured folks were BORN in prison, and didn’t end up there because of their actions, you dumb fucking wannabe highbrow classist elitist asshole.”)
It is very unflattering when people assume you are unintelligent and/or uncultured, especially when you have never given them any reason to make that assumption. And the consequences of this can be pretty sad at best. When someone treats us like we are dumb, we often concede to this, & conduct ourselves in accordance with their sub-par expectations. This is easier and more polite than to take umbrage and speak out; after all, their opinion of you doesn’t matter that much anyway, so why act like a dick and risk offending someone who just implicitly and accidentally offended you? It all seems pretty trivial and not worth it when you break it down to this level of detail. So we let it go, and by proxy, accidentally confirm their idea that we are in fact as slack-jawed as they thought. From that point forth, we dumb ourselves down, and our relationship & interactions with that person tend to be based on this incorrect assessment of our IQ. Alternatively we refute the error, point out the flaw and get sucked into a fight which should be entirely beneath our dignity.
But if they had entered that conversation & relationship assuming you were highly intelligent, wouldn’t everything be better? The conversations would be more meaningful, because they wouldn’t feel a need to explain what the big words meant. The subject matter would be more involved, because we don’t tend to talk about engineering with 5-year-olds. Two intelligent people bounce ideas back and forth, whereas in a conversation between a brainiac and a buffoon, the problem may not even be on the table – it is already assumed to exceed your level of cognition. When Sergey Brin and Larry Page talk, Google happens. But when Larry Page and his little daughter talk, Spaghetti-Os happen.
The moral of this story is: Enter every conversation assuming the person to whom you are speaking is highly intelligent, enlightened & cultured. The worst thing that can happen is that they will prove you wrong. But they will also appreciate that you didn’t talk down to them, and this may be the one deciding factor in whether they think you are either a decent person or a douchebag. When unintelligent people believe you are a douche, they tend to share this analysis with others, and then it becomes an empirical fact, supported by anecdotal evidence, backed up by all those peons you talked down to over the last few years.
Assume the worst and you will get the worst. Assume the best and you will get the best.