Saturday, May 29, 2010

On Idiots: Lucubrations from One of the Fold

What is clear is that idiots are never in shortage, always in abundance. At first, this may seem impossible. Suppose we were to assume the first sentence meant: Most people are idiots. How could that be? Wouldn't you have to change your definition of what an idiot is if it accounts for more than half the population? Would it not be like calling anyone under 6'8" short when the vast majority of the population fails to attain such heights? Should not the definition be a sliding one, one that changes as people change, again, like height? It wasn't that long ago when a man standing 5'5" was considered a tall man, or at least, one of average height, even though 5'10" is now the average height for males in the U.S.

Unfortunately not. I can even sidestep the whole messy problem of defining an "idiot"; it's a bit like jazz: if you have to ask then you'll never know. You see, most people can easily be idiots, well more than half the population (as I suspect is the case) because being an idiot is like being dead: the varieties in which the matter of your composition can be arranged and you still be you, i.e. alive and like you in all matters important, are far, far fewer than the ways in which it can be arranged and not be you, i.e. dead or someone else. So, while there are a few ways not to be an idiot--such as holding opinions and views about the universe reasonably close enough to actual reality that can expected from someone living in the era they happen to find themselves--there are far, far more incorrect perspectives, viewpoints and opinions to hold: hence, the possibility of there being more idiots than not. While 2+2 has only one correct answer, it has an infinite number of incorrect answers; and no, two and two make five is not also a very fine thing.

And as more and more peoples find themselves in lands where they're free to be as stupid as they can be, more and more people make full use of these newfound rights and privileges.

Think that the planet is younger than the last iceage? Guess what! No problem! You can still get full use of modern medical technology and your little mouth breathing progeny survive to carry the idiotic memes one generation yet! Think man descended from an imaginary (for a lack of a better word) MAN? Hey, no hard feelings, feel free to use that cell phone and flat screen! Still ignorant about the inherent shortcomings of human credulity and the outpacing of technology to human evolution and are taken by any idiot with a microphone and radio tower or communications satellite? Come over here you big hairy ape and have a beer, watch the endless left-turning race and have a vote while you're at it!

Что делать? Shto dyelat? What to do? Well the good news is idiots are people too. The bad news, idiots are people. Most are benign and harmless. I'm an idiot much of the time, yet I don't hurt anyone; well, a few feelings may be hurt from time to time, but nothing too bad I'd like to think; nothing lasting anyways. You see, when it comes to many facets of life, ol' Bazarov here is as clueless as the rocks under his feet or the dramatic yokels he calls neighbors. What's the best way to paint a bridge? Fuck if I know. What's the most aerodynamic shape for a passenger plane? Beats me. Most efficient use of natural resources? Ain't got a clue. I have little interest in finding out if it means personal resources being spent without financial compensation either. Which is the nasty side of idiocy; complacent ignorance. But the human mind is rather limited. We can't all write sonatas and build rocket ships while being expected to maintain healthy social relationships or be great parents. Some few people seem to pull it off from time to time, and the best we idiots can do is try not to ruin their days. The point is just because we're idiots in most things doesn't mean we're all idiotic with everything. Free countries exploit this and excel because of it. There are prices to pay though. I'll leave it to the reader to think of some instead of proffering some partial list which would only demonstrate the preferential workings of the author's sometime idiotic mind. So we needn't worry about many idiots much of the time.

What is worrisome, however, is when some delusional idiot convinces other idiots they have some Great Idea or Great Ideas. These have led to our species most spectacular bouts of suffering. If we were to separate ourselves from natural disasters that have befallen our lot, we clearly are the better at producing longstanding and wide, over-arching suffering. Hell, I'm guessing it's a safe bet that most people alive on this planet today still behave as if humanity were a diverse collection of separate species, with different inherent wants and desires, that we're not all the same apes in different wrappings, all thinking desperately about sex and our position in the social pecking order.

These idiots, the ones with Great Ideas, are only taken seriously by others because, most often by chance, the idiots with Great Ideas have happened to exploit one of our species' vulnerabilities: the assigning of emotional responses to various convictions or opinions. When someone says something we don't agree with hostility is usually the first response, much like calling someone an idiot :) We have this tendency, this instinct to assume bad things about one another. It is far easier to walk into a room full of strangers and get them to dislike you, without spending any resources other than your breath, than it is to get them to like you. We're usually suspicious of outsiders, be they literal or figurative. Once we've bought into something, we often seem that we'd rather go down with the investment rather than admit to anyone we were wrong and switch ship. And if we do switch ship, the first thing we usually try to do is set the same course the previous one was on.

The question remains: What to do? Nothing. You can't force people out of idiocy. I'm not sure it's all that ethical even if you wanted to. People are the way they are because of the genome they got in the environment they find themselves in, both of which no one gets to choose for themselves. I suppose tolerating it is a different question, but trying to force the stupidity out of an idiot is a bit like trying to get the stink out of a fart: you're best off just waiting for it to go away. When the last human has perished it'll be safe to breathe again. I plan on cashing in my chips well before then, and I think you'd be an idiot not to. I'm but one of the many idiots this Century is revealing via the internet. A whole ocean of ideas, comprised of a few precious drops of reason, the rest a furling, bubbling foam of utterly oblivious ignorance and vile, loathsome, petty and apish ways.

But hey, it's fun to point fingers and name-call.

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