On Stupidity, Capacity, and Religion


I am kind of participating in a Facebook discussion about stupid people.  In the discussion someone posted a YouTube with John Cleese and Bill Maher.  I completely agree with their points.  The idea that we should expect people to strive to be somewhat intelligent is a proper one, regardless what P.C. people may argue.

This gets kind of long.  Not much hope for that. It is actually a bigger subject than we normally might think, and this still only scratches the surface.  But I am not necessarily inviting discourse, just talking .  If I didn’t think that this level of mentality wasn’t threatening the world and the USA in particular, I wouldn’t even write on it.  But people pandering to the stupid people of the USA has picked up so much steam that at some point we have to look at stupidity long enough to sort out some things.

Who Is Building the World, Anyway ?

In order to talk about stupidity we need to actually understand a bit about how very intelligent people can and have set up the world in a fairly sane way.  This world didn’t just pop up like a kernel of popcorn, fully expanded and ready to go. Everywhere you look, there is intelligence displayed – in beautiful buildings, in well-engineered bridges, dams, road systems, well-planned city centers, and many, many more things – things that matter.  These things perhaps even define our civilization.  

Part of the world, however, isn’t exactly physical – it is mental.  Education underlies it all, that part, anyway, and IMHO all the rest, too.  Our political systems, as flawed as they may be at any point in time, are part of that legacy.  We have this American Experiment that is always going awry in some fashion or other.  We have some very wise and far-seeing people to credit for that.  Not a one of them was stupid.  But, for those who haven’t read up on it at all, it didn’t start with them.

The Scottish Enlightenment and Education

For those of us who’ve been taught that the American Founding Fathers thought of all that stuff on their own – which is most of us – I recommend they read a book called “How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It” sometime.  It is about something most of us know nothing about – The Scottish Enlightenment.  The American Founding Fathers are the second or third generation of that kind of thinking. It amazed me that Jefferson and Franklin and all didn’t just spring out of nothing.  

I like the short list on the Amazon page:

  • Who formed the first modern nation?
  • Who created the first literate society?
  • Who invented our modern ideas of democracy and free market capitalism?

The Scots.

A review of the book “Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence”, in 1979 sums one important point:

…far from bearing the imprint of Lockean political theory, the Declaration, as Jefferson originally intended it, can be properly understood only if it is analyzed as a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, and that Jefferson’s views on the nature of man and society derived not from John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government but from the works of Thomas Reid, David Hume, Adam Smith, Lord Kames, Adam Ferguson, and Francis Hutcheson.

And what did the Scottish Enlightenment start with? Universal public education. Bloody hell, they not only did that, but they seem to have invented adult education to boot.  (Couldn’t we use some of that right about now?)

It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It is about a remarkable, small, poor country that did something right – after doing some things remarkably badly just before – let themselves be led by wacko fundamentalists.

Perhaps America needs to be run by fundamentalists for a while – so that everybody can see how fucked up that is and vow never to let it happen again. That is what it took for the Scots. Maybe it is going to be necessary for the USA, too.  I dearly hope not.  But if the Stupids do take over, Scotland’s story might give us some glimmer of hope here, too.

The Scots got rid of the system of leadership by religious dogma – and went in the completely opposite direction – and what was the reaction of the fundies? The Puritans? The threw a temper tantrum and decided to come to America. Where they eventually created the myth that they came for religious freedom.  

Yes, folks, all of that garbage about heading for the New World to practice their freedom of religion is a made up story. 

In reality, they came because no one else would let them do their crazy stupid shit anymore. They were the exact OPPOSITE of religious freedom.  The very real Salem witch trials, as an example, had nothing to do with religious freedom and everything to do with religious hegemony.  They were strict Calvinists, and tried to force everyone to be like them – dour, self-loathing, anti-intellectual, fun-haters, and infinitely sexually repressed.

Ring a bell?

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Forrest Gump and the Handwriting On the Wall

Forrest Gump (more on him in a moment) was scripted to say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  And he went on to great success in everything he did – all in spite of himself and because no one in the script could imagine anyone as monumentally lacking in capacity as the character Forrest Gump.  It is truly amazing how many people who’ve seen that movie think that someone like that could achieve anything whatsoever.  

Oh, isn’t he cute, though?”  Casting Tom Hanks in that role made stupidity acceptable and even desirable.  “Hey! LOOK! Being an idiot is COOL!

This aggrandizement of Stupidity only holds true for those who slept in the back of our classrooms.   This whole “Stupid is great” thing — When Forrest Gump came out I cringed, knowing where it was heading.  And sure enough, shortly thereafter “Dumb and Dumber” came out.  Dumb was even COOLER!  Those movies didn’t start it all, but they lent a sheen to it that made it even more acceptable to be stupid and bask in one’s stupidity. It made stupid people want to band together.  (Yes, I am thinking Tea Party.  No, I didn’t say it out loud at the time.)

Literally, within 5 seconds of hearing about the character Forrest Gump, and before actually seeing it, I thought, “Oh, shit! Now they are going to think stupid people should be represented in Congress and the White House.” I literally and consciously suspected we were being set up for a Dubya – before I even knew there already WAS a Dubya. Forrest Gump made it okay to be blindingly stupid. The movie and character made stupid adorable. Thanks, Hanks!

Once given permission to be proud of being stupid, the Stupids must and will suck the world down with them – until it all goes to hell, and the world will then need to regroup and start over again – and this time to prevent the Stupids from having a voice. Stupids don’t need a voice.  They need others to create and maintain a benign society so that Stupids don’t die from being so stupid.  It cannot happen until the stupids DO get in charge. Because up until then no one would believe how really fucked up the stupids can really make everything.

If they ever get control, it will not last long.  Perhaps only a decade or three.  At some point, we (society and civilization) will come out the other side, like the Scots did.  But I think that, from where we stand now, we WILL have to go through it, once the Stupids think they are entitled to run things (and they are on that path as I write this). They will never let up until they have ruined everything.

Intelligence is Foresight, Applied

Stupid people are intrinsically incapable of seeing what any results will be. Ergo, they have no foresight. Further ergo: Bad results are as likely as good results, and probably more so.  It is very close to the legal definition of insanity – that they “don’t know the difference between right and wrong”, but in a different sense of the phrase.  In this case, they don’t know what a workable or successful decision is or versus a wrong one.  They think that all thoughts are equal – born equal and equally valid.  Seriously. I’ve heard one say this, even, that science and everything is all just one opinion versus another and that all voices should be heard and respected.  WTF!?  In SCIENCE? 

The only cure for stupidity is to let the stupids make their mistakes and let them (and society, to whatever extent) suffer from their mistakes in judgment (lack of foresight). Only when the Stupids REALLY know that their results are terrible will they back off enough so that the capable people can step in and correct things.  But will they actually even recognize that the results are terrible?

John Cleese: “The problem with people like this is that they are so stupid they don’t even know how stupid they are.  You see, if you are very, very stupid, how can you possibly realize that you are very, very stupid.  You’d have to be relatively intelligent to realize how stupid you are. . . In order to know how good you are at something, it requires exactly the same skills as it does to be good at that thing in the first place.  Which means – and this is terribly funny – that if you’re absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you are absolutely no good at it.

Stupid Is More Than Just Bad Grades

Stupid is NOT just an intellectual, academic lack. Stupid is LACK OF CAPACITY. We all actually know this, even if we’ve never put the words together in that order before.  But I will tell you, if you’ve never been in the presence of a real lack of capacity, then that someone really has no idea. Anecdotally, I was in the Army training with two feeble-minded Private E1’s. Somehow I had gotten the information about their IQs.  I wasn’t surprised at all at their IQs.  They were right down at the level Forrest Gump was supposed to have in the movie.  Literally.  They were incapable of doing much of anything. How they passed their Army entrance exams, I will never know.  They simply had the capacity of a pair of slugs.  No one that feeble-minded could ever have a success in any endeavor beyond simply taking care of themselves.  In other words, Forrest Gump, that character we (except for me) all know and admire – he just simply isn’t possible in the real world.  And the hard reality is that we ALL know that Forrest Gump is an impossibility – even those P.C. people who don’t want us offending people of low capacity because we might hurt their feelings.

The Enablers Is Not Me

Political Correctness Alert?  Be my guest. I am not here to worry about what some people think.  

If they want to feel sorry for the people of low capacity, let them.  But we don’t have to all agree on it, just because some folks want to make a big deal about people getting their feelings hurt.  I don’t want really inherently supid people running my country and my government into the ground, just because someone else thinks I might be hurting someone’s feelings.  Sorry.  Everyone KNOWS who is intelligent and who isn’t.  And who is monumentally stupid and who isn’t.  And we certainly do not have to open the doors of government to people of low capacity, just so those people don’t get their feelings hurt.  Or so that the P.C. people can push us into accepting stupid people in government.  I want the best people POSSIBLE in my government, dammit.  Look at where it has gotten us in the political process right now – with the 17 mental midgets vying for the White House on the Republican side. Look at Sarah Palin and George W Bush. One had his finger on the nuclear red button and the other wanted to be a heart beat away from that much power.

Well, I am sorry, but we don’t get any do-overs with the Nuclear Red Button, folks.  We can’t tell an idiot White House tenant that we understand he didn’t really mean to push it.  If he or she pushes it, we won’t be around to fix it.

Yes, as much as anything else, the enablers of all of this – including Trump and the Tea Party – is Political Correctness. When smart people begin to bully everyone into not pointing out when stupidity enters the room – because we can’t offend them! – it all goes to shit pretty quickly.  Stupidity is, in fact, the elephant in every room it walks into.  Lack of capacity cannot be hidden, and it cannot be changed.  Stupid people cannot run a government, for example – though we may be narrowly avoiding just that. (I think the next few years give me hope for even the long term.)

Intelligence is PLANNING and thinking ahead

Intelligence cannot be separated from foresight.  I could give you one thousand examples.  Ten thousand if you care to stick around.  Smart people look at information/facts and are able to predict what the results of a certain action will be.  Yes, intelligence is measured in verbal presentations called questions on IQ tests and other written tests along the way, and that ability (capacity) to assess things and choose a best choice on tests carries over somewhat to the real world – though not always.  (I haven’t seen it fail, but I hear tell that it does.  At least in Hollywood.)  Choosing the right answer among a group of choices indicates that a person can or cannot process information and connect bits of information into a coherent whole.  And believe me, some people aren’t capable enough to do that connecting well.  Information processing and connecting is one side of intelligence.  The ability to predict results correctly is an bigger share of intelligence, IMO.

The Stupids Enter Politics

That predictive capacity is what Stupids cannot do well enough to be given much responsibility.  Look at the comments continually made by the Stupid 17.  Each is saying things that are going to completely rule out his/her capacity to win the election in November, all in the name of sounding more stupid than the candidates standing next to him/her.  WHY would any un-Stupid person say such things that rule out the possibility of winning next November?  There can’t be any reason for doing so – but still they do it.  Stupidity.  Stupidity times 17.  And as Cleese points out, they “lack exactly the skills that [they] need to know that [they] are absolutely no good” at being candidates for the most powerful and responsible position in the world.  But they also are no good at recognizing that OTHERS can see their stupidity.  Sarah Palin. I rest my case.

Responsibility is, at its heart, the ability to foresee results and choose a GOOD result, instead of just fumbling and coming out with some random result.  And the Stupids – underneath it all – KNOW that this is the case with them.  (Inside they might think otherwise – in a few specific ways.  But in their real world, they know that others – everyone – around them can do so many things that they themselves cannot do.   They ARE at least that observant.)  And the non-Stupids need to be able to keep those Stupids from affecting the results in stupid ways.  (Can one separate “stupid is” from “stupid does”?  I certainly don’t think so.)  

The beginning of the end was back in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich had the seemingly brilliant idea to join the forces of the Republican Party with the Stupids in their electoral battles with Democrats.  This wasn’t done out of any intelligent reasons by the older line Republicans, the business Republicans.  It was done because they had almost never had control in Congress since the inauguration of FDR (1933) and that little silliness called the Stock Market Crash of 1929.  So, the Republicans saw a fairly united group of fundamentalists who worked against the Democrats already, but who had never entered the political arena as a united force.  The fundies were invited into the big tent of the Republicans.  Why? In order to win elections, period.  NOT to share the power, once they grabbed it.  Only to increase vote count for Republicans.  Come Wednesday morning after the election, and the business Republicans went back to doing what they do.  Thank you, fundies!

INSTANTLY, though, stupidity had a seat at the table.  The BIG TABLE.  The one that – for eight years – had a Stupid with his finger on the Nuclear trigger.  He was so Stupid, they even called his advisor “Bush’s Brain”, and he had all the shots called by his handler, the Vice President Dick Cheney – the guy who shot a hunter friend in the face one day.  It only took 6 years from the invitation to the fundies until we had Forrest Gump in the Oval Office.  In politics, that is instantly.

And once the Stupids had the Gumper in the White House, it was only a matter of time before some of the Stupids thought, “Well, some of US are as smart as Bush, and we should be getting some of these Senate and Congressional seats.”

The beginning of the end…

Fundamentalism and Stupidity

Why do I seem to equate fundamentalists with Stupids?  It might be because they consciously choose to refuse intelligent, reasoning analysis of many –  perhaps most – subjects.  Science. History.  They look up answers in the Bible and stretch credulity with their “logic” pertaining to that book.  If they THINK it says something, then that is the only logic they need.  How stupid is THAT?  The Bible is, to them, the answer to everything.  (Face palm time for you? It is for me.)

Refusing reason is, in my book, choosing to be stupid.

Abdicators All

I’ve put some thought into it, having had a few fundies in my life, and I’ve concluded that they all are abdicators.  

What does that mean? They abdicate responsibility for their own lives (and often the lives of their children, too). Using the brains God gave them isn’t good enough for them – they have to look up an answer in the Bible.  “Don’t think! The Bible will tell us the answer!” The Bible is their authority source, and they “believe in” its authority in all things.  They verbally and consistently credit Jesus with having worked on their unique and individual behalf and bringing anything good into their lives.  They give over to Jesus their decision making.

What would Jesus do?” is only the tip of the iceberg.  They abdicate responsibility for their lives and become suckers for huckster con-men charlatans.  I’ve seen this with my own eyes, folks.  Televangelist preachers are in a parasitical symbiotic relationship with their believers. One side wants someone else to make their decisions for them and the other side says, “Okay, if you will give me X, Y, and Z, I will make decisions for you, on behalf of the authority of the Bible.”  

This actually happens, people!   For a short time I had a girl friend who wasn’t allowed to have a TV in her house, according to her pastor.  But she wanted one, so she inveigled me into getting her one, and when a teenage narc friend of her son’s saw it, he turned her in.  For having a TV.  In that relationship with her pastor, her side was choosing to be stupid and open to be used, while the other side (the pastor) chose to use her and control her.

This is a real part of society.  It is not people who are BORN stupid.  It is people who abdicate the responsibility over their own lives and CHOOSE to be stupid – to believe rather than be logical, to accept authority rather than figure things out for themselves.  And over time, when they have not thought enough for themselves, they lose the capacity to DO that – and they can’t think for themselves anymore.  Voluntarily, they have turned themsleves into Stupids.

And these people are allowed to actually VOTE – to have a voice in who represents us or works on our behalf.  (Face palm time again?)

JUST WHAT HAVE YOU WROUGHT, NEWT?

So, when the Republicans chose to open their doors to the fundamentalists, they were getting in bed with the Stupids.  And looked at from the Stupids’ side, they were getting in bed with yet another group that was wanting to use them.  It’s bad enough preachers telling them what ideas to have, but they then got in bed with POLITICAL people – who had no intention whatsoever of giving them anything that was in the Stupids’ own self interest.  Since this arrangement was similar to that with their preachers, the Stupids/Fundies were comfortable with that arrangement; it was familiar to them – “Someone else is the authority and we are the flock.”  And they WERE used.  Oh, yes, they were used.  They were used to win elections, and then when it came time to write and pass bills, lo and behold the Republicans felt no need to give the Fundies anything for their useful and compliant behavior at voting time.  No scraps, no offices, no say in what bills went to legislatures to be voted upon.  Nothing.

But unlike church, where Jesus is all, sooner or later some of the abdicators (the fundies) were going to look at Republicans as people – and not exactly holy people, either. How many disgraced televangelists was it going to take for the Stupids to realize that they were being suckered?  [Answer: Perhaps an infinite number.]  Every benefit was going to the User Group, the business Republicans, and nothing was coming to the Fundies.  Yet, year after year, the Stupids voted against their own self interests.  

Not all Fundies are equally gullible or equally abdicators, or equally Stupid. Some of the less gullible ones eventually woke up to some of what anyone with any intelligence realized a long time ago – they woke up to the unfairness.  

At that point, the business Republicans were pretty much screwed.  They just didn’t know it yet, but their party was about to be overrun with Stupids.  And there was nothing they were going to be able to do about it.

Thus was the Tea Party born, thanks originally to Newt Gingrich, the man who himself didn’t see what the results were going to be.  He – and his fellow business Republicans – seem to have not thought that far ahead.   That is the kind of decision that Stupids do – they don’t have any foresight.  They want the cookie from the cookie jar, but they don’t think about the price to pay when Momma finds out.  Those cookies just look SOOOOO good.   The Tea Party came along and was pushing the same issues that fundies had pushed since forever – whatever the Bible said was good, and everything else was evil.  Shades of fundamentalists throughout history and throughout the world today.   Newt just missed the fact that they had a bull by the horns.  And bullshit only goes so far when you are dealing with bulls.

Government  Needs Those With Capacity In Order to Govern Well

Now the Republicans have a much-repeated urban myth that says that government is evil and blood-sucking and it “Government isn’t the solution to the problem; government IS the problem”.  Ask any of them. Saint Ronnie told them so, so it must be TRUE!  With such slogans are Stupids swayed.

Late in the book on the Scottish Enlightenment, in a VERY understated way, it mentions that, in their new-found wisdom (after the horror that was the 1600s and Puritanism) , the Scots found it a good idea to train and educate a sort of profession that worked at the many functions that they realized they needed their government to do the things that individuals couldn’t do themselves and companies was not willing to do.  As the title says, “…How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It.”  

They built a government functionary class, people to do the everyday work of governing. It’s not all galas and committee meetings.  Today a pejorative is used often for such people – bureaucrats.  Unelected, these people were the cogs that made the government function. It was their profession, to work in government offices.  Someone had to do the filing and the clerical work, the hiring of contractors to do the physical labor needed to improve utilities, the organizing in myriads of ways.

We have such people to thank in many ways for our modern sanitary systems and water treatment plants, our roads and their upkeep, the wiring of our cities, the organizing and facilitating of our daily commutes, answering the help phones for Social Security and the IRS, etc.  Some of the work is physical, but much of it is not.  Each job needs people educated to certain levels and trained to keep data sorted and filed, as well as entered.

While some of these people are fundies, apparently not many are.  Those jobs fly in the face of what fundies currently believe about the world.  Hence, this sort of training is not so common among them, and is looked down on within their subgroup of society: “Big government!  Stealing our money! Making rules without legislation!”.  If government is the problem, the Fundies tend to avoid working within the problem. 

Stupids these people are not.  Government can’t use stupid people, so the avoidance is fairly mutual.

This beginning of a professional government functionary class was a threshold moment, it seems, upon which the beginning of organized western style government is perhaps based.  Read the US Constitution.  The responsibilities delineated therein can’t be accomplished by waving a magic wand.  PEOPLE are needed.  Modern society could not function without the infrastructure of our modern cities, if not states – and somehow that infrastructure must be tied together so it can do all of its jobs properly and responsibly, on nehalf of the citizenry.  

That is one way the Republicans are wrong.  They think that when government is gone, they will be able to do as they wish, with no holds barred. Oh, boy, do they need a psych exam.  They want, it seems, to rape and plunder citizens and gobble up other companies.  In a real jungle business world, criminal activity will rule that world.  Embezzlement, insider trading, Ponzi schemes of all sorts.  P.T. Barnum in the economic sector, taking advantage of all the marks.  They are drooling.  They can smell the Stupids’ blood and they are howling at the Moon…

It can only happen by playing everyone for fools, and – in dismantling the education system – turning more and more citizens into Stupids.  We may be on the brink, or we may be on the threshold of something better.  It depends on whether or not the Stupids get enough of their kind into office and get to dismantle the government like they hope to do.

I myself vote for those with capacity. Even ONE numb nuts Gumper President was one too many.

 

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