Smart Thoughts About Stupidity

We have a culture that looks down on or is bigoted about stupidity. Maybe it’s a natural thing, a survival of the fittest and most intelligent, or maybe it’s a way of feeling more superior, and therefore the fittest. We of course shake our heads at the stupid things people do. What an idiot, we think. How can people be so stupid? You dummy. He’s the village idiot. She’s as smart as a sack of potatoes. The names go on.

There is a natural derision for the stupidity that people exhibit. And yet we know we all have momentary lapses where we do or say stupid things. Perhaps it’s because of that human fallibility that we scoff so loudly at others, trying to cover up our own stupidity. At its worst stupidity will kill you; at the least it will embarrass you.

I remember back to years ago when in a group of friends we knew too many Daves. There was Dave the engineer, Dave the store owner, Dave the grunt, etc. Dave the grunt was in the army, a perennial private because he just wasn’t very bright. He wasn’t a bad looking guy but he was a few marbles short of a bag. People made fun of him all the time. It began to disturb me because we can learn some things but only if our brains have the capacity to do so. People are born with different levels of intelligence. There is nothing they can do about that and it’s not their fault. Making fun of a person’s stupidity is the same as making fun of them because of their height, or eye color, or skin color, or nose shape. They cannot help it. It’s what genetics tossed into the bag when they were being made.

It is wisdom that we learn and you can have a stupid but wise person, or an intelligent yet unwise person. As people continued to deride the grunt I observed the interactions. What I started to realize was that we didn’t make fun of him because he was stupid; we made fun of him because he wasn’t very nice and he was stupid. He was nasty to women and just very rude in general.

Years later I had another friend who is intelligent enough but not overly bright and given to some very wrong concepts about the world. Another person once said some very insulting words to her face, about, “well you’re just not very bright,” or, “you’re stupid. What do you know.” I thought this was terrible because the very witty and intelligent person making such comments was smart enough to not need to say this but she was just very mean. The person who was stupid in some senses was also a very nice person. In fact, she let the comment slide right off of her. She had tons of compassion, worked well, was diligent and talented in her own way. She had enough friends because she was nice.

So I learned stupidity doesn’t necessarily lose you friends, but nastiness does. The above example works for the intelligent but unwise (and spiteful person) and the stupid but wise person, who can not think beyond a certain level but learns from life’s lessons. Stupid people may not create the next world-saving device but it’s smart people who will be more likely to use it for destroying. I’m not saying that stupid people can’t do the same (George Bush is a good example of powerful stupidity) but stupidity alone does not make a person a failure.

We often laugh or shake our heads in wonderment at someone’s stupid actions, even our own. But sometimes that is a momentary thing. However, the next time you make fun of a person’s intelligence, think about why you’re doing so and if you’ve ever had a stupid moment. May we all use the smarts we have and use it well. Happy Friday.

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Filed under Culture, memories, people, science

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