July 18, 2019

The Pioneer Complex

books on wooden deck tabletop

When I was a freshman in high school, my classmates and I were given pop quizzes every so often. They were a chore, nobody liked them, and of course, they were mandatory.

One day something dawned on me. “What if I just cheat?” So I did. The next pop quiz I received was tackled with a strategy consisting of looking at the other students’ answers, deducing by intuition, and occasionally just guessing. 

When I received my grade — a retrospectively predictable D-minus — I was fairly mortified, and that was the end of my career as a cheater.

Looking back, of course, there were many reasons why cheating, at least in the way that I cheated, would never be effective.

First of all, the students I was cheating of could have had the wrong answers. 

Secondly, it probably would have, all things considered, been easier not to cheat.

The most important reason by far, however, is that classroom tests are, by nature, designed to be difficult to cheat on. After all, there has never been a high school
student who hasn’t tried to cheat at some point, and even the most oblivious of teachers know this.

This is not a simple anecdote, and my point here could not be further from an Aesopian “Kids, do well in school.” 

Once the young skeptic lets go of his pioneer complex, he may become empowered by the wisdom of his forebears.

Why is this anecdote important? Because many young people can apply their logic to tests but very few seem to correlate that logic to things that truly matter.

When a young American decries America itself, calls it a totalitarian country; when a young scholar cites religion as the cause of all wars and bloodshed in history; when a child turns his or her back on family and swears allegiance to the board of education, there’s a pioneer complex going on.

Why does the young generation tout itself as the “progressive” generation, among other names? Simply put, they’re under the impression that they’re the first people ever to popularize — perhaps even speak or think — such notions.

They’re not.

Nietzsche, one of the first to call himself a nihilist, coined the eternal “God is dead.” Karl Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  

But anyone who has read the Book of Exodus knows that rejection of one’s own God, people and country has pre-dated the known world.

There’s a certain level of truth to their notions, but then, the student who cheats on a test might occasionally answer a question correctly; without a basis in research, this truth can never be fully realized, not even in their favor. Those can most successfully argue their case who swallow their pride and examine the history behind their notions, rather than believing that history begins with them, or that they are the first to entertain these thoughts.

If the young atheist takes into consideration the possibility that religious zealotry may have been borne of evil, rather than the other way around, this not only would
mean giving merit to the views of others who may disagree (such as I), but also giving themselves a true platform to refute those opposing views.

Once the young skeptic lets go of his Pioneer Complex, he may become empowered by the wisdom of his forebears; even if his perspective doesn’t widen, he is likely to become a more potent speaker and thinker. 

But this can happen only if the notion of “firsthood” is discarded.

Remember — all the true inventors, innovators and pioneers — our Teslas, our Turings, our Einsteins — had a deep understanding of the history behind their notions. They studied under mentors, they read tomes upon tomes of references, and — even if God wasn’t a part of their spiritual vocabulary — they recognized that they were not the sole proprietor of right and wrong.

Because, in the end, why cheat on a test when you can ace it, and, in doing so, prove the teachers wrong?

Noah Mamet is a writer, artist and aspiring composer. Born in Boston, he currently lives in Utah, studying content writing and digital media.