Tag Archives: intelligence

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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Movie Fallacies: Eyeglasses

The movies are notorious for giving us views of the world that don’t actually reflect reality. Granted, movies are make-believe, there are those “realistic” ones that still skew the truth. Early operatic Valkyries colored people’s views of Vikings and it is still popular to see hulking Norse berserkers with giant horns (or wings) on their helmets, when in fact, archeological evidence indicates this was never the case. There was one helm with straight conical horns and deemed ceremonial due to the decorations, rather than functional.

Now, if we look at Hollywood’s view of intelligence, it almost always involves glasses, especially for women. If a woman isn’t portrayed as a vixen or a housewife, then inevitably she wears glasses so that we know she couldn’t possibly be sexy and therefore must be intelligent (because no way can Hollywood fathom sexy and intelligent–sexy and devious yes, but not straight-on I’m-going-to-solve-this-crisis smart).

Sometimes synonymous with eyeglass intelligence is that of nerdiness. Your nerd, more often guys than not, in any movie is often connected to a computer and wears glasses; big glasses, nerdy glasses. Once in a while you may have an exception, the guy that works a computer all the time but doesn’t wear glasses but it’s rare. Tom Cruise or some other star might, in the role of his Mission Impossible character, need to use a computer but he doesn’t have to wear glasses. Even Tosh in Torchwood, when she’s at the computer puts glasses on.

And that’s what happens to most “intelligent” women, no matter their age in a movie or TV show. As soon as they’re at a computer they wear glasses. Because Hollywood thinks we won’t believe a person’s intelligence without that very noticeable symbol. Although most people don’t need reading glasses until they’re in their 40s or 50s you would think, by Hollywood standards, that everyone is going farsighted early. When I worked on Level 9  for its brief life, the show (about cybercops) was full of computer users but one young woman had to toss glasses on each time at the computer, because that’s just what computer users do. I’m sitting here right now typing without glasses and I do need reading  glasses in low light.

Hollywood’s second name is stereotype. All those old westerns had the good guys in white (or light colors for B&W) and the bad guys in black. Then The Avengers came along and sexy, competent Emma Peel wore black. Gotta give that show credit for mixing it up a bit at an early age.

Next time you’re watching a show that has an intelligent woman in it, check to see if she’s ever sexy in her glasses (also a rarity) or if she is only ever dressed to kill minus the eyewear. And look for that sign of her intelligence when she puts her glasses on, no matter how young she is. And check those nerdy scientist guys. Even if they’re good looking hunks, chances are, if they’re scientists or tied to computers, they’re going to have the eyeglasses (and maybe even the ubiquitous white lab coat).

Hollywood is certainly not into leading in the forefront and often into perpetuating stereotypes. I’m betting some of the HBO shows break those stereotypical taboos more than other stations. Maybe PBS too. It would be interesting to do a survey and see who the worst offenders are, or if it’s the formulaic movies. Signing off, without glasses, and with intelligence.

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Sixty-Year-Old Woman has Babies

Everyone is talking about the 60-year-old woman who had in vitro fertilization to have babies. There were three embryos but one was removed because of health reasons, whether to the woman or the embryo wasn’t clear but I believe it was the embryo that wouldn’t survive. She gave birth prematurely to twins in Alberta.

But now every news show seems to have jumped on the ethics bandwagon. Is it right, is it ethical? Should parents so old have babies? Etc. ad nauseum. Let’s break this down into the two questions? Should old people (you define the age) have babies and should physically fit people have babies?

Looking at that last question first, should people who are physically debilitated have children? Years ago Ablerta performed mandatory sterilization on people from 1928 to 1972. The Sexual Sterilization Act was to keep undesirable traits from showing in offspring. Of course there would be no offspring with sterilization. Some of the people who were reviewed for sterilization were alcoholics, paupers, epileptics, prostitutes, mentally retarded, psychotics, had Huntington’s disease, or in some cases were just abused children themselves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_Sterilization_Act_of_Alberta

Very draconian and far reaching. There are recent cases of quadriplegicshaving children. Crippled people who may spend their lives in wheelchairs or walking on one leg have successfully raised children, even as have people with low IQs, which did not pass on to their children. Although alcoholics should probably be held responsible for children born with fetal alcohol syndrome, they’re usually not barred from having children and they may be less fit than a 40, 50 or 60-year-old in good shape.

So, should “old” people have children? Maybe they’re less likely to run off with someone else, making the other spouse a single parent. People who come from those large families of twelve kids or so may find that if they’re the youngest their parent is indeed old by the time they’re born. Sometimes one parent is much older than the other. Under various reasons of health, emotional or financial instability people have given up their children for adoption or to be raised by grandparents. Sometimes the parents die. As someone pointed out, Obama was raised by his grandparents. He seems a normal human. Old people don’t grow horns and become another species. They’re capable of raising young humans and there’s no guarantee that one 60-year-old is as fit or unfit as another.

What I find interesting is that people of older years have had children before but this time someone, maybe the Alberta health authorities, decided to alert the media and the media leapt for the bone. Even mainstream media seems to be going more tabloid these days with the sensationalist nosiness. When will we start taking responsibility for our own lives and what we do and stop sticking our noses into everyone else’s business?

These parents may turn out to be rotten or the best parents ever. Pretty much it’s the luck of the draw that all of us get at birth, and at least they’re not living in poverty, nor in 1928 when the Alberta government would have seen fit to sterilize them.

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