It’s Not Fair: Smart People Need to Check Their “Cognitive Privilege”

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By Daisy Luther

There’s a new kind of “privilege” in town, and if you suffer from it, you can’t help it any more than you can help your skin color or your gender. (Although, of late, gender seems to be completely open to debate and have nothing to do with biology.) If you are an intelligent person, you have “cognitive privilege” according to an op-ed in the Daily Iowan.

Well, that’s just really not fair, is it?

With all the “privileges” out there that need to be kept in check, may God help you if you are white, male, attractive, and smart. You are public enemy #1 to the social justice set, you privileged scumbag.

I’ll let the author, Dan Williams, explain cognitive privilege because I couldn’t possibly do it justice in a summary:

We now know that intelligence is not something we have significant control over but is something we are born with. We are living in a society in which success is increasingly linked to one’s intelligence. This is not to say that intelligence is the only factor that is important. All that is implied is that below a certain threshold of intelligence, there are fewer and fewer opportunities. These opportunities are being shifted upward to jobs that require heavier cognitive lifting or else are being replaced by robots. Thus, the accident of having been born smart enough to be able to be successful is a great benefit that you did absolutely nothing to earn. Consequently, you have nothing to be proud of for being smart. (source)

So, in other words, if you’re not that smart, your job may be taken by a robot, and that isn’t your fault. I assume that this will eventually lead to the assumption that if you cognitively “disabled,” the world probably owes you something. Because we’re all about “fairness” in the United States, right? RIGHT?

Furthermore, if you are smart, in the wise (cough) words of former President Obama, “You didn’t build that.”  You just hit the genetic lottery and should be humbled (and perhaps a little embarrassed) as opposed to proud.

Will this be the next thing that kiboshes people who deserve it from getting a job? “We wanted to hire her, but she is smart. We have already exceeded our quota of cognitively privileged individuals, so we’ll have to go hire that dumb guy or we’ll be breaking labor laws.”

Sometimes there is so much ridiculous stuff out there that you all must just think, “She has to be making this up.” Oh, that I was so creative. Nope, this is the society in which we dwell, with one ridiculous outrage on top of another.

Disregard the fact that you could do something about your lack of cognitive privilege.

Of course, none of this takes into account the possibilities we all have to improve our lots in life. Between libraries and the internet, opportunities abound to learn more about basically any topic you want. Perhaps you won’t end up being a neurosurgeon, but what is stopping you from being an expert on some other topic that perhaps takes a brain with common sense as opposed to book sense?

If we all devoted our time to improving ourselves, instead of watching reality television and walking around with our faces and thumbs firmly engaged with our cell phones, perhaps the “cognitive privilege” of those who do focus on learning would not provide so great a disparity amongst our opportunities.

So much of this is a choice about how we spend the hours in our days. It’s about our drive and the habits we intentionally develop.

Williams doesn’t want you to feel too guilty if you are intelligent. Just the right amount of guilt will do:

The purpose of pointing out someone’s privilege is to remind them of the infinite number of experiences that are possible and the very large number of experiences that are actual [sic] that they know very little about. The purpose is to enlarge their moral consciousness, to make them more sympathetic to people who are less fortunate than they are.

Feelings of guilt are natural when coming to consciousness of one’s place in the scheme of things — and noticing that one has been conferred benefits through sheer accident — but guilt is an impediment to social-justice action, not a motivator (guilt slides easily into resentment).(source)

Okay, isn’t that possibly the worst kind of condescension that ever existed? You know how feminists always talk about men with whom they work “mansplaining” something to them and how it infuriates them? Wouldn’t “smartsplaining” and moral sympathy be every bit as infuriating to one without “cognitive privilege?”

I don’t know about you, but if I had a “disability” the last thing in the world I would want is sympathy.  Particularly if my disability was that I was stupid, I wouldn’t want the intellectual elite fawning over me superciliously.

Privilege is just the other side of the “ism” coin.

A while back, I wrote an article called The Great American Butthurt and it was all about how much I loathe any word ending in “ism.”

Words to express our affront are being made up left and right by the mere addition of “ism” to the ends of what were formerly perfectly neutral words. It seems like pundits can take basically any word and add “ism” to the end of it and that means they’re being slighted. The list of isms could go on and on, but instead of promoting more equality, all they’re doing is promoting more division. Isn’t that divisionism?

Personally, I’m affronted by the constant barrage of affronts. When did we, as a nation, become such weenies? How is it that such a collection of whiners has become the vocal majority? Certain people are constantly offended and demand the attention of others so they can express the epic level of their personal offendedness.

So vast is the recent level of Great American Butthurt that no mainstream news outlet is complete without breathlessly exposing a secret “ism” each day. These secret “isms” are called “microaggressions,” defined as “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Oh my gosh. SHUT UP ALREADY. (source)

How can our country ever again expect to be united when we are constantly divided by a never-ending series of isms and privileges? What if we just stop labeling everyone and everything and just be human beings with choices and personal responsibility for those choices?

I’m not denying that racism and sexism exist – of course, they do – but why would people spend so much time focusing on some perceived negative instead of focusing on the positive aspects of self-improvement? I’m also not denying that being an intelligent person makes it easier to succeed, but there are plenty of very bright people who can’t make a go of it.

When everything is an ism or a privilege, doesn’t that take away from the true, serious issues that exist? If everyone is so busy competing for victimhood, don’t the actual victims get drowned out in the roar? And if everyone is angry at everyone else for accusations about isms and privileges, it’s a pretty good bet folks will never be able to get along.

Success isn’t about your privileges or your lack of isms. It’s about your drive. It’s about the choices that you make.

We can get out there and make opportunities happen or we can complain about it. Guess which decision will make you more successful?

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • OMG!! I LOVE this statement: “What if we just stop labeling everyone and everything and just be human beings with choices and personal responsibility for those choices?”

    Never a truer word written. Right on Daisy! I am with you all the way on this one.

    Guess the author of the ridiculous piece you quote would be okay feeling sorry for “stupid” too. Good grief! Can we not all see that everything is a choice in life? Stop whining for pete’s sake and just live life. It’s short enough as it is without trying to figure out who to blame for every little thing.

    What an awesome piece to get the blood moving right along on Monday!!

  • If you are smart, many jobs and professions are barred to you.
    ‘A man whose bid to become a police officer was rejected after he scored too high on an intelligence test has lost an appeal in his federal lawsuit against the city.’
    Three reasons why smart people don’t get hired ;
    You may be over-qualified for many positions.
    You can appear unaffordable.
    You could be considered a threat to your bosses.

    Been there sooooo often it is embarrassing.
    Dumb down my CV and dress down from my usual ‘Alpha Male’ manner so that the dummy interviewing does not feel intimidated.

    • PJ – So true! In this day and age of “equality” and mediocrity, smart people are just as likely to be hated as to
      be appreciated. I have had many “superiors try to have me fired because I could work faster than they could.

  • Daisy I love everything you write. Your post on the 4th of July gave me such inspiration. I am very grateful that have such a great way with words and know what going on and you share with us. THANK god you have cognitive privilege.

  • THANK YOU for reporting on this. I see this in a lot of interpersonal relations these days, it was only a matter of time before it got writ large.

    This can go even more wrong, though. Government extermination of anyone intelligent enough to be a threat. I refer to the 1958 short story by Henry Slesar, “Examination Day”, which was also adapted into a Twilight Zone episode (Season 1, Episode 6a, 1985). It was the Cold War, and we knew from defectors that similar things were already happening behind the Iron Curtain.

    This prospect freaks me out. Years ago my oldest son took the SAT at 12 and did WELL. Not long after, the Defense Intelligence Agency came sniffing around, inviting him to join their “leadership training camp”. I said, no, absolutely not.

    Years later, he makes a good living in sales… Disaster averted…

  • It’s the dumbing down of America so it will be easer to bring us down. When my kid was in 1 grade the school call me in. They told me he had ADHD & they wanted me to put him on meds. So I did some research & went back. I said ADHD means he can’t sit still long enough to learn. They said correct. So I ask them why does he need any meds when he is reading encyclopedias and doing division because he’s bored? I also ask them to work together there was a real problem. They blew up!! I was told that they are the experts & that I was making bad parenting choices, that I had a problem not accepting the fact that my child needed help. I knew I was right so just to prove my point I took him to a dr. I CHOSE who I wanted not the 1 the school wanted. The Dr said his IQ at the tender age of 7 was 124. I said the school wants him on meds. The Dr said that would take him out of genius & put him in super genius & that in his expert opinion what my sub needed was a good spanking when he misbehaved. I said I can do that! Lol. When back & told the school what the Dr said & I was told depending on which Dr I chose they will not accept the test results. This is why we choose homeschooling. 1 of the best things we could have ever done!!
    BTY. If at any time you do choose to give your child any meds 4 ADHD they will NOT be allowed in the military as these drugs are addictive.I’m guessing that other company’s may follow the same path . If you were to put then in a cabinet with other meds they belong in the 1 with cocaine, herion,& other like it. I have seen kids who are on these who dident need them & runied for life.

  • The person who wrote the article you reference is either a very confused individual or a propaganda activist.

    They use phrases such as: cognitive privilege, moral consciousness, and social-justice action in a pitiful attempt to bring attention to themselves. True you are born with certain attributes thanks to your family lineage, I call the good attributes gifts and the bad attributes obstacles. Your starting point in life may be the result of family lineage and your parent’s choices but many people waste their gifts while others overcome obstacles.

    Whining about it, saying it is not fair, or falsely claiming it is a privilege is the act of whiny children who are wasting their gifts. And like most whiny children, this one is doing it in public to get an audience. The only people who will be attracted to this article are other whiny children or fellow propaganda activists.

    • Unfortunately, these notions of privilege are a big part of the “progressive” world view and not unique to the author of the article Daisy discusses. Privilege is the basis of SJW (social justice warriorship). My gay stepson, who also has “white privilege” as well as “cognitive privilege”, explained it to me a while ago. I could hardly believe what he was telling me! At least the author of the quoted article is merely suggesting that we use our “privileges” wisely and not hide them to avoid persecution (like I did all through grade school and middle school). I suppose that if people require a nanny state to take care of the “unprivileged”, then there has to be the social equivalent of wise and providing parents to make the dollars and decisions needed to run that state. But, as Daisy suggests, far better to work as hard as you can, whatever level that is, and pull your own weight. I’m grateful for whatever benefits my birth gave me and the more I use them the more everyone benefits.

  • I came to the same conclusions you did in pointing out the deficiencies of the whole privilege argument. I am glad your wrote this. Also, privilege should be an honor, not a guilt trip – as it isn’t the thing that counts, but what you do with the thing.

  • Kinda reminds me of a situation awhile back on facebook. Read a post by a “friend” which was way off. I had tried to tell them the facts, even citing sources, and then received a note from the “friend,” informing me that no one liked a “know it all,” and then found out I had been both unfriended and blocked. Whatever. If people would rather dwell in ignorance, so be it. And I had been very polite about it, just refused to accept their incorrect “facts.”

    • I can’t remember exactly what the topic had been except that it dealt with Medicare, which I had studied in my masters degree program in health care administration. They were insisting that something with Medicare policy was fact and were totally wrong, and I tried to explain I had had to take courses in college where we studied that and that they were wrong. And pointed out the correct facts. Could not believe they were offended. Or that I would be accused of being a “know-it-all” when I had stated I knew that information from having studied it in college. Some people are so easily offended these days.

  • With the majority of extremely unattractive and enormously overweight people everywhere, I am surprised some Social Justice Warrior hasn’t started shaming genetically superior people for all the same reasons.
    And let’s not forget to bash the average person who cares about their appearance and watches what they eat to keep their weight in check. Those people need to be taken down for obviously being smarter than the majority!

    Apparently the extremely stupid people, which have always been the majority, are tired of never being able to win an argument.

    • When I moved from NYC to Ann Arbor MI, I was denied an editing job at the U of M because I showed up for the interview in stylish but not too dressy clothes and was informed by the hiring manager, who was overweight in blue jeans, that I seemed to have good skills (8 yr with major publishing houses) but I just wouldn’t fit in. So I worked a variety of temporary office jobs at minimum wage for 6 months until I found something in my field that paid slightly better.

  • I have it! Now I know what it is called, I know why I was a PNG all the way from grade one to HS graduation. Having CP makes you an unperson, until you get to be an adult. Then it saves you from those who erroneously THINK they have it.


  • “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”
    Isaac Asimov, Newsweek, 21 January, 1980.

      • I wish that I had been the person to write the words but :
        Some men’s words I remember so well that I must often use them to express my thought. Yes, because I perceive that we have heard the same truth, but they have heard it better.
        –Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • I strongly disagree with the idea that intelligence alone gets you a good job and more money. Intelligence leads to nothing without determination, persistence, discipline, a willingness to make sacrifices, many other qualities. I watched several college roommates flunk out for lack of character. A high IQ is not the royal road to riches. Plenty of mediocre students have what it takes to make good money.

    • You’re absolutely correct. No matter the starting point, the person who remains “in their station” never gets anywhere.

  • Daisy,
    This kind of “idiocracy” comes out of Iowa City so often it’ s embarrassing to be from Iowa… I refuse to apologize for my intelligence and if some dumass has butthurt over that I’ll be generous and buy them some Preparation-H…..

  • Mama always said “Stupid is as a stupid does”.
    But do they have to hog all of the stupid?
    Unfortunately, many people have a lower IQ because they were brought up on Twinkies and other garbage. No wonder the brain can’t develop when the body is fighting for its very survival.

  • Outside of Dan Williams being being a colleague of one Townsend, who is he? Why does he have a yahoo email? What’s with all the digital editors? I’d email the opinions editor re: these questions, but frankly I don’t care enough. Memes have a way of being blasted in our faces for better or worse.

  • So you have nothing to be proud of for being smart, but if you’re gay you have to go out and parade your pride around all the time?

    • There are so many envious, whiny, inept cretins running around spouting their mouths off parroting some slogan they’ve heard that it’s just pathetic. I’m weary of people telling me how to dress, how to act, how to think, how to feel, what words I must use and which I may not use, and even of what I should be proud and of what I must be ashamed. ALL of the aforementioned things are part and parcel of the human experience and are highly personal and highly individual. It’s the individuality which is being browbeaten out of us, as part of a seditious plan to destroy American inventiveness and ingenuity.

  • My mother always told me that you never got anywhere without hard work. You could be a genius with an IQ of 180, but without hard work, that IQ isn’t worth anything.

    Same applies here. You want to get a good job with good pay? Work for it. If you can dedicate yourself, to work long and hard, then you can achieve it. There may be some limits (experience, qualifications etc. ), but the real limit is how hard you are willing to work. “Cognitive privilege” has nothing to do with it.

  • Daisy….you just don’t realize how much I LOVE YOU for writing this (AND that other article) on this subject matter. Some days I am convinced I am just a straight out loon for having the thoughts that you shared on this page. I feel those with “cognitive privilege” truly must “unite and fight” against this outrageous mass hysteria that is currently taking place in this world. People that flat out REFUSE to calm their proverbial “tits” are going to get us ALL KILLED.

  • Sounds like the left’s best attempt at retroactive justification for being primarily composed of ugly, stupid people.

  • Daisy, you have to just stop with publicizing small, fringe groups or publications that few have heard of as being major threats. I respect you, but you always seem to put out stuff from small, out of the way places, not to mention that you rarely publish such right wing stuff for criticism, but portray yourself as balanced. Where is the stuff from right wing fringe groups that we all should agree is bad?

    • I see that Cognitive Privilege has passed you by.
      If you feel strongly about this, here is an idea, ‘Start your own blog’.
      Please give examples of daily newspapers, TV stations,etc that disseminate ‘the stuff from right wing fringe groups’.
      Please give an example of ‘stuff … that we all should agree is bad?’
      How about :
      “Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organised. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” – Edward Bernays – Propaganda
      So criticise as much a you like :
      “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt

    • “Where is the stuff from right wing fringe groups that we all should agree is bad?”
      Because anyone with a degree of intelligence and morals already knows those “fringe right wing” groups are idiots and not worth mentioning.
      And they are small fringe groups.
      The kind of “-ism/privilege/SJW” insanity is by far more mainstream.

  • The Daily Iowan is a small media presence. I have NEVER heard of a group proposing “smart people” as better for govt positions, or business positions..

    What I have heard is that cronyism and nepotism is very in, it rules. Just look at Trump. No matter how much you worked for your education/gains, it doesn’t matter if cronyism/nepotism rules. All of you need to look at how the powers that be are stealing your future. And they are Republicans.

    And, also, big business rules, as never before. They are so powerful, we may be past the point of recovery. The Republicans are laughing all the way to the bank. They are so powerful, they don’t care about you. You are nothing to them. They will just run roughshod over you, even as you support them because you believe in economic “freedom”. Which just means that they can just screw as much as they want. You have no freedom. Just the freedom to be a victim.

    • Written in the style of a limousine liberal, victim for all to see publicly while privately living well off other people’s labors.

    • Trump?
      What about the Clinton’s (Chelsea and interviewing the Geico Geeko), the Clinton Foundation, and all the other pay to play?

  • People normally have a lot of control over their intelligence. No good genes can beat hard work and rigorous training of the average or even below average Joe. Our brains are flexible and will become more intelligent in a certain task if we train it. So do not focus on natural talent, focus on training if you want to get smart. Hard training is what all smart humans have in common, not good genes. But maybe in the future being disciplined enough to work hard will also be considered privileged.

  • Dr. λ the Creator of Variables, Binder of Variables, Applicator of Terms, Inferrer of Types, Checker of Types, and β-Reducer of β-Redexes says:

    I know that this is an old article, but I want to reply anyway since it’s topic is still relevant today.

    Being smart is something that one definitely has influence over. When it comes to learning, hard work always beats natural talent. It does not matter how smart someone is naturally, if all he does is watch television then he’s going to end up dumber then any healthy person who spends his time studying or developing his intelligence in other ways like challenging himself with programming. Natural talent is just a drop in a bucket.

    I think that the common misconception that the brain is not flexible and can hardly be trained is a damaging one. It motivates people to either think that they are born to be stupid and give up, thus wasting their potential; or think that they are naturally smart and do not have to train in their field and thus become stupid and also waste their potential.

  • More PC “equality” excuse-making. So if you are intelligent you are “privileged”? What kind of nonsense is that? People have no choice as to what IQ they were born with, so why is that some sort of “privilege”?
    In the society I grew up in I was always hated because of my intelligence, so was that a privilege?
    I suppose now the do-gooder Socialists will create a special tax on intelligent people. In view of the serious decline in the quality of our population, and the huge number of low-IQ people being born, some politician will pass an “intelligence tax.”
    Karl Marx – “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” will love this one.

  • Hi. I agree 100% about how personal characteristics can help overcome a lack of “cognitive privilege.” And I want to say that reverse cognitive discrimination has been with us for a long time. I’m smarter than the average bear, have a Masters, and often choose a location and then try to find work. While my main areas of expertise are technical writing and data analysis, I’m always willing to do office work, proofreading, or data entry when that’s what’s available. While I’m now OLD and about to retire, even in the 1970s, I was refused jobs for being “overqualified.” Sometime I could talk about past jobs in that area and get hired but often I couldn’t, even when I removed my MA and sometimes even BS from the resume and dropped my brainiest jobs from the list. True, the one job I really failed at was truck stop diner waitress, but I was willing to try.

    Even smart folks deserve a break sometimes.

  • If everyone would just turn off the news and concentrate on doing our best in our own lives, communicate with friends and family about what’s important to us and untie the chains that are being rattled daily by people with power issues, things would calm down. Being right is not at all as important as being alive and well and even happy. If we all stop pointing and blaming and put our dukes down we might even remember what it’s like go get along. Aggression is a choice, like everything else, and being thankful for what we have regardless of what someone else has or thinks helps to keep us thinking straight. Prepping doesn’t have to be fed by fear and anger, you don’t need an a threat to make sure you’re ready for a natural disaster, that’s good sense. If on the other hand someone likes to be angry, likes to fight and must be right, then they’re on exactly the right path to get all the fight they want and more. No matter their politics or ‘ism.’

  • Dr. λ the Creator of Variables, Binder of Variables, Applicator of Terms, Inferrer of Types, Typer of Terms, Checker of Types, and β-Reducer of β-Redexes says:

    I’m definitely one of the people with Smart Privilege. My intellectual capabillities for surpass those of other humans. However, I use my superior intellectual capabilities to better the world. So my great sympathy and altruism is what makes me worthy of smart privilege. And best of all, despite being a paragon I’m also modest. Even in this post I was too modest to even come close to describing half or more of my true capabilities and morality.

    Though admittedly this does give me a bit of Paragon Privilege, Altruism Privilege, and Making-the-World-a-More-Just-and-Love-Filled-Place Privilege. But those are burdens that I bear with pleasure.

  • Reminds me of the story of Harrison Bergeron. People are forced (by the Govt) to be the stupidest, ugliest, etc so everyone is equal. Great Story, shows the idiocy of the cancel culture that has run amuck. Equity (as the left defines it) is inherently evil, where does it stop?

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