This I Believe

Bob - Lewisville, NC 27023, North Carolina
Entered on August 14, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: humility

I believe in stupidity.

Of course, it would be a rare person who does not believe in stupidity; given how often one encounters it in daily life: driving to work, standing in the grocery checkout line, or reading the police blotter for any given Saturday night. But despite stupidity’s pervasiveness, I find that most people approach stupidity as a casual religion, giving lip service (often of the four letter variety) but ignoring its role in the important aspects of their lives, even denying, sometimes bizarrely, its existence in the critical history shaping events of the world.

The problem with stupidity is that we crave order and logic in our lives, and stupidity plays havoc with our carefully constructed worldviews. Most baby boomers would rather ignore the evidence and believe in bizarrely complicated and impossibly secretive JFK assassination conspiracy theories than accept the idea that a crucial event in their young lives could have been the result of the stupid plans of a lone failed communist loser. More recently, 911 conspiracy theorists are willing to bend the very fabric of space and time to avoid believing that stupidly twisted hatred and stupid bureaucratic bungling could combine to wreak such havoc. At the personal level, most people, when encountering the peak of their professional careers, will construct complex scenarios of backstabbing and executive maneuvering to explain their stationary station in life, never acknowledging the possible role of stupidity in their bosses’ decisions, much less their own performance.

However, I believe stupidity can be a liberating rather than frightening ideology. Stupidity brings with it consequences, and the unequal distribution of these consequences is society’s imperfect but quantitatively most important first line of defense against empowered incompetence. Stupidity is not however just for stupid people. Like the rain that falls on the just and unjust, no one in the world can escape the effects of stupidity: they’re own or others. Forest Gump, who knew a thing or two about stupidity understood: it happens. Stupidity is the final limiting factor in the plans of the overly ambitious. Stupidity is why no one will ever corner the market, take over the world, or manage a powerful secret society with more than 3 people for longer than two weeks.

I believe that while stupidity has always been with us, we are now in stupidity’s golden age. Our population density, information age communications, and talk radio insures our daily dose of stupidity. Meanwhile, high stakes disaster scenarios face us almost continuously, and our responses thus far have been… well, stupid. It is not that I am calling for more stupidity, but that I believe we should quit trying so hard to attribute contrary and counterproductive actions to anything other than stupidity in its many flavors: blind, ignorant, arrogant, evil, or greedy. Only then can we go forward, not ready for combat with a nonexistent foe, but with the realistic impatience one should reserve for stupidity.

Of course, you are free to disagree with me about stupidity; it does not bother me, for I will believe you are just being stupid.