Stupidity Is Winning

face palm - gecko

And whiplash from SMH!

I’m having a tough year; damn near everything pisses me off these days. I’ve never been angrier at the human race than I am lately. My disdain for people is at an all-time high, and that’s a sick way to be; it’s not at all natural for me.

In fact, retirement brought me a long-time-coming epiphany of sorts. I’ve long been known as one of those angry, critical types. A high school friend once named me “the angry young man” (so this has been going on a while). I’ve always accepted it as true. What I finally realized is that it isn’t me…

It’s you.

When I ignore the world and just do my own thing, I’m generally happy as the proverbial clam.

But every time I read the news… Or go online (oof, comment sections)… Often: Or go for a drive… Sometimes: Or interact with people at all.

stupid pills 2Why do people seem to addicted to stupid pills?

It seems to be getting worse. Or maybe I’ve just had a lifetime full of it; a belly-full.

Perhaps exposure to an irritant has increased my sensitivity to dangerously allergic heights.

That can happen with things (a friend of mine became allergic to his contact lenses).

Stupidity isn’t new. People have been stupid about things since stupid was invented (along with dirt; sliced bread came later).

I came across a 1988 newspaper clipping I’d saved. It referenced a hot news story of the day: the one about three whales trapped in an ice hole and how $500,000 (1988) dollars were spent freeing them (with President Reagan cheering them on).

The clipping was an editorial in reply to the response to an earlier editorial by the paper. That first opinion piece suggested that whales die all the time in ice holes (thus providing food for polar bears), and perhaps our efforts were better spent in more productive ways.

operation-breakthrough

Hey, Reagan’s on the phone!

Of course readers lost their shit over that. Of course they did.

The reply to the shit storm pointed out the dynamic of whales in the wild and suggested that it wasn’t our responsibility — or even a particularly good idea — to redress nature, which is famously ‘red in tooth and claw.’

A little girl down a well — another big news story of the day — we expend every effort; she’s a little girl! Further, little girls down wells aren’t normal, natural occurrences. Cry me a river, but they are for whales.

The point of the story being that when you approach a topic with ignorance and emotion, there’s a good chance your opinion turns out to be stupid. By which I mean clearly and definitely wrong.

One doesn’t need 1988 whales; one finds massive human stupidity — along with massive commentary about said stupidity — consistently throughout history. (And I’m not wrong about the stupidity. I’m just another in a long chain of observers, many of whom are far wiser than I.)

For instance, recently I read how Florida officials are concerned about people painting (endangered!) wild turtles. The paint can poison them, and it makes them more visible to predators. WTF? Painting wildlife? Really? Definitely stupid.

painted-turtle

“Stupid damn humans…”

As I’ve said many times before, people haven’t changed much, but society has and in huge, sweeping, profound ways. (We’re only beginning to understand just how profoundly.)

One of the more crucial ways society has changed is that, by connecting us so much, our actions and behaviors no longer occur in the relative isolation they once did.

And by the way, this goes beyond social media to economics, travel, and government. The global village that Marshall McLuhan predicted in the early 1960s is pretty much here. It began with television when we started seeing the world in real-time.

Social media has accelerated the process enormously. We went from just watching to participating!

I’ll spare you the Leon Wieseltier quote about the importance of citizens in a free democracy making quality decisions. (If they want to keep that democracy free.) But I do think there is a crux point:

Highly connected technological modern society requires we approach it rationally and with at least a modicum of knowledge. The irony is that technological modern society makes vast quantities of knowledge readily available.

Bottom line: While people are no more or less stupid than they ever were, that general traditional human stupidity is causing a lot more damage these days.

Case in point: Trump and Brexit.

Stupidity made the latter a done deal. I hope and pray it doesn’t happen here in the USA. But when I read the news… I very much fear it will.

§

opinion-factsIt’s very popular today to say, “I’m entitled to my opinion!”

Yes.

Yes, you are.

But feeling, or even believing, something is true doesn’t make it true.

Tragically, the very people most in need of learning this are the very people least likely to do it. Something called the Dunning-Kruger effect generates, in some people, a force shield Captains Kirk and Picard would both envy.

The research that led to discovery of the D-K effect was inspired by an unmasked bank robber who rubbed lemon juice on his face (it stung!) thinking it would render his face invisible to security cameras. Because lemon juice can be used as a (crude) invisible ink.

Yep. That actually happened.

But don’t take my word for it. Take his:

So stupid is self-perpetuating. As he says, it requires knowing something to know whether you’re good at it or not! The D-K effect shows why stupid is so hard to eradicate as well as why even trying is such a challenge.

§

This was back and forth post for me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. The intent made clear is: No more Mr. Nice guy! I’ve formally given myself permission to rant at will (and everyone else). Yet I find myself reining back, trying to find a more balanced perspective.

I urge myself to ignore the readers; I got rid of most of them, anyway (over 2,000). Why do I care? Spew that spleen and venom! Release the Anger Kraken!

Apparently, in this case, it’s not you. It’s me.

Apparently I really am more balanced even though so much of society frustrates and outrages me. I do see the Yin enough to be personally uncomfortable expressing just the Yang. Go figure. Surprised the shit outta me, let me tell ya!

[Doesn’t mean I won’t stop complaining about the Yang, though!]

Turns out a lot of this is on me (both in the usual sense of owning it and in some other senses as well). Ultimately, it’s not clear whether it could realistically be much better, which leaves me in a bit of a Weltschmerz pickle.

About all I can do is express my pain — what might be dismissed as “ranting” (and so it is). But there are psychological studies that suggest venting is good for your mental health. Standing up and giving voice to what you believe is a Good Thing.

And to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to!”

After all, it might be therapeutic! Or at least cathartic.

Or maybe some other tic…

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

10 responses to “Stupidity Is Winning

  • dianasschwenk

    Those darn emotions eh? I think there is good on both sides of the argument Smitty and that too much in one direction or another throws everything off kilter.

    On another note, I have never thought of you as an angry person, more of an intellect.

    Oh and I love when use German words like weltschmertz because I don’t have to look it up! 😉 ❤
    Diana xo

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well, it’s a pity I retained almost nothing from the four years of German I took in high school, or I could throw all kinds of German into a post for ya! But it turns out I apparently have no facility for spoken languages (might be related to the defective hearing).

      Lady Di, my thesis isn’t as simple as “emotions bad; intellect good.” I’ve never thought that. As you say, both have their points. A metaphoric way I’ve put it before is: the mind steers; the heart pushes. I do absolutely believe we must be guided primarily by our intellect.

      Here’s a case in point: Me. I am an angry person. A very angry person. Angry to the point of truly hating people, finding them “worthless” and a “waste of skin.” That an emotional reaction to the frustration and outrage engendered by what I see as unnecessary foolishness — even outright stupidity. The hate and anger can raise to the level where I genuinely support “taking out” such people to spare the world (meaning me) from their damage. At times I feel so strongly I would happily load the gun, gladly put it to some people’s heads, and gleefully look them in their fucking stupid worthless eyes as I pulled the trigger…

      So,… is that an emotion I should let rule me? Is that an emotion I should allow myself to believe is anything other than wicked and wrong and due to my own frustration? Isn’t this exactly the sort of situation where my intellect, my intellectual understanding of the value of all people, even when my heart doesn’t feel one shred of it, should rule?

      Or do I embrace my emotions and go with a “kill them all and let God sort them out” ethic? My heart says one thing (“Go for it!!”), but my mind says another (“Um, dude! Chill the fuck out!!”). Which should I listen to?

      We can agree on one thing for sure: Too much in one direction or the other isn’t good. Balance is everything. Moderation, too (although I like to be moderate with my moderation, too). How many times have you seen me use this image I made:
      Balance is all!

      The “Center Way” is the Right Way! 😄

      • dianasschwenk

        Well, when you put it that way… 😉

        Here’s something interesting that occurs to me because of what you wrote here:

        I’m the opposite! My intellect tells me that people get what they deserve, that our world’s over-populated and something’s gotta give and if that means war or plague or whatever so be it! No second chances, lay in the bed you made, reap what you sow, etc.

        It’s my emotions that bring ME back to the center. It’s my compassion and love for humankind that pushes me to be more tolerant, compassionate and willing to listen and walk a mile in their shoes…

        So what do you think of them apples?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think I like apples! 😀

        Let me ask you a question: Your compassion and love… where do you think those emotions come from? Do they just happen, or do they come from your worldview, your overall understanding of the world and how you want it to be, the kind of world you want to live in?

        Are you not, as I am, driven to try to make the world a better place? Our passions fuel that drive, but isn’t it our intelligent apprehension of the world — and how it could be — that makes us want to do that? On that count, we are the same .

        There is also that, because of your upbringing — the thinking behind them what raised you passed on to you — you’re an outstanding example (one of the best I know) of virtue ethics working as it should.

        There are generally three ethical approaches: Deontological (ethics are spelled out in rules to follow), Consequentialism (ethics depend on outcomes), or Virtue (ethics depend on character and mind).

        The first is “easy” — just follow the rules. The second requires figuring out the consequences of your actions and judging them. The third requires being “of good character and mind.”

        Because of your old-world upbringing, you were trained in virtue ethics. Every post you write reflects this! And because you were brought up that way, your emotions are aligned with those principles. (So was I, but something went a bit wrong with me. Too much education, maybe. Too many disappointments. Flawed character. Something.)

        And maybe I should mention that this post, and ones that have preceded it, and ones I’m planning to follow, aren’t necessarily to be taken as “I’m right; y’all are wrong; everyone toe my line.” I do sort of think that sometimes (okay, okay, often), but that, again, is the emotional hind-brain response. The correct rational one is that this is just me venting my frustration, disappointment, and rage.

        Doesn’t mean I’m right! 😮

      • dianasschwenk

        You might have something there Smitty, but I know I am also moved by emotion, I have tears pressing on my eyes when I am moved to act, I relate on a heart level to stories and feel a spiritual connection to people. Although I was raised to work hard and do right it was taught to make me self-sufficient. My parents taught us we can’t really count on anyone. My bleeding heart, as my parents might call it, opens the door for people to take advantage of me, at least in their minds. My dad would say, “Be nice, but not too nice.” They were confounded by my generosity, thinking I would help others get ahead at my own expense.

        As for you, I have never thought that you present any subject in a ‘I am right, you are wrong’ way. In fact, you often address the pros and cons of both sides of an issue. In this post it was very clear that you were venting and not trying to convince anyone of anything.

        It’s interesting to me how you describe yourself as ‘angry’ and suggest that without leaning on your intellect you could easily pull the trigger. I just don’t see that in you. I just don’t!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I dunno, Di. The sense of your parents I’ve gotten from your posts about them speaks to people with pretty strong values. And I believe you are a church-goer? Life-long? If so, another strong source of values.

        Your generosity may transcend that of your parents, but didn’t they live in frugal, even challenging, times? You’ve lived in a more affluent environment then they have, so it’s not surprising you’d be more open. It can be hard to be generous when you’ve worked so hard for so few pennies.

        But, of course, I’m second-guessing you here. 🙂 Where do you think your generosity comes from, if not from your upbringing? Do you feel it’s a natural trait you just have? Or does it come, in some way, from your experiences?

        As for me, I do try to see both sides. Yin-Yang is a deep part of my world view. That doesn’t mean I don’t think one way might be much better than the other!

        As for pulling the trigger, keep in mind I’m a very metaphorical guy. The actual idea is obviously preposterous, so I’m using hyperbole to signal the depth of my feelings. That said, I’m afraid I really do often wish there was some way we could do without the very worst examples of our species. Send them to Mars or something…

        (If you were a science fiction fan I could make a joke about the “B” Ark…)

      • dianasschwenk

        (smiling) Who knows eh? I do think that people, when at their best, treat others the way they secretly hope others will treat them. I also think that you and I could do exactly the same thing with totally different motivations and that I would assume you did it for the same reason as me because my motivation is my only perspective and I would just transfer that. This is probably the greatest reason for miscommunication between humans. Glad to hear you’re using hyperbole…I think I’m actually more of a literal person…maybe…I don’t know. 🙂

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Absolutely! One question is how often people are at their best. I think some have never learned about their best side (upbringing again). You know, that saying about ‘Everything I need to know about life, I learned in Kindergarten.’ There’s a version you might like: “Everything I need to know about life, I learned on Star Trek!” Says a lot about the fundamental values espoused in that old show.

        Also “Absolutely!” on what you say about motivations. This is exactly why I’m so big on literature and history (and philosophy). The more we explore the stories and thinking of others, the more able we are to understand motivations other than our own. These are tools for understanding people and society.

        And, exactly as you say, the failure to grasp the thinking of others leads to miscommunication and misunderstanding.

        A basic Liberal Arts education is almost as good as traveling around to other societies to see and learn other ways of life. That education leads to understanding, one of the most precious human traits.

        Heh… As I wrote that I had a flash. I wonder if the core issue for me here isn’t the perception that the degree to which people understand the world seems to have gone down in my lifetime. That while science understands more and more, there is a growing gap between those who are a part of that and most of the rest of the world… who understand less and less and the world gets more and more complex. The key concept is understanding.

      • dianasschwenk

        yes, including understanding that science doesn’t always get it right. And maybe that’s me in a nutshell. I still measure everything against my gut and experiences; including science, faith, conventional wisdom, etc.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        If, like Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, your gut is proven right time and again, I’d definitely say go with your gut! (Because, after all, what your “gut” really is is your accumulated experience and knowledge.)

        I would urge not thinking of science as “getting it wrong,” though. That’s not unlike blaming Christians for the Crusades. Yes, the Crusades happened, and yes, science sometimes gets it wrong. But the overwhelming case by far is that Christians do a huge amount of good in the world, and science usually gets it right.

        At least eventually. 😄

        Put it this way: Nothing else in human history has the success rate of science. That we’re having this conversation is proof of that.

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