Scientists have discovered a new species that are believed to have been around since the beginning of man. They are now the fastest growing minority in America and possibly the World. They are everywhere. Lurking in your subways, airports, government offices and Wal-marts. They are a growing factor in American culture. It only takes one to destroy a major company or even…a country. Scientists classify them as Stupidimundos Homosapius. Common folk, such as ourselves, know them as Stupid People.
Before we begin, first, a word of warning: I am going to use the “S” word a lot in the essay. No, not S—T, an even harsher word: STUPID. So, be offended if you so choose – only understand, that is your choice. Second, I am using my personal definition of stupid which see stupid as an attitude of mental laziness, a choice to not try to learn, a social condition in which questions are discouraged – in other words, you “are not” stupid – you “become” stupid [clearly, within biological limits and innate talents]. Forces within you, within your family and within your society either help you be less fixed and literal and rigid in your thinking, ie. stupid, or help you develop an attitude of inquiry, an ability to see situations from different points of view, to avoid simplistic answers to complex questions, to imagine what could be, etc. I think you get the idea. Here is a good example of stupid from today’s paper:
Man about to be Fined $750 for walking Through a Park to Launch his Kayak on the Ottawa River
The NCC said: “To comply with the Province of Ontario’s emergency order to close all outdoor recreational amenities, the NCC closed its parks and greenspaces, except for walk throughs. Our overall approach is consistent with public health advice, encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors close to home rather than driving to a destination further from home.” Wow. That’s stupid. The man is doing his very best to by safe and would have been fined if he had not returned home without paddling on the river.
Here is “stupid” at the National level: The case against total lockdowns
This is part of a report in today’s Ottawa Citizen by S.Thomson: “Lyman Stone, a researcher with the American Enterprise Institute, lives in Hong Kong and wonders if most of the world is deploying a sledgehammer to defeat COVID-19 when a few well-placed hammer blows would do the job, along with a lot less collateral damage. Some academics, public health officials and politicians around the world have been making the case that these strict lockdowns aren’t necessary. The case isn’t always just about avoiding economic pain, either. Many of them are concerned about the mental health toll of the lockdowns and others are simply trying to find the best way to fight a resilient and deadly virus. “It seems that lockdowns don’t add a whole lot after you’ve done other social distancing measures.” Most prominently, Sweden has taken a relaxed view on the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, allowing bars and restaurants to stay open, along with schools for younger children. People in Hong Kong have taken the virus seriously and reacted diligently, wearing masks and closing schools, but the city is not shut down the way most of the western world is.”
Being stupid means being simplistic. Being stupid is making generalizations. Being stupid is treating people as if they are stupid and then being surprised when they do act stupidly. Stupid, you see, is created. There is no “objective” stupid – we create stupid attitudes and behaviours by how we educate people, how their families raise their kids, how much responsibility we expect from people, etc. So, if you see ‘stupid’ remember that this reflects the greater society. I do not think the Swedes are stupid, I think that are behaving like responsible adults by treating people like responsible adults. I do think democracies, especially, should be following their lead and not over using the power of the State like a sledge-hammer. Take Hong Kong, they learned from SARS, and their response, which did NOT involve a total lockdown, has resulted in 4 deaths in a city of 7.5 million – and they had much less time to prepare than Canada did! Read more about the details at https://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/the-case-against-lockdowns-can-we-fight-the-covid-19-outbreak-without-confining-people-to-their-homes/wcm/8db29775-dcd7-4dd2-88a0-d9d8f540dc7a/
So what did most countries do that was stupid? They lacked imagination. They could not imagine that what was happening in Asia would happen to them. They could not imagine that, as is the case of Canada, letting 1.3 million Canadians to return to home to be “safe” only infected the country, as no serious, mandatory quarantining or tracking or testing happened. [as in those Asian countries which had success]. Furthermore, ALL Western Democratic leaders did not act proactively – they were, in effect, all followers, not leaders. They were stupid. They lacked imagination. Only when the situation was clearly worsening did “draconian” restrictions get implemented – which, of course, means it was already too late. You say: “but they didn’t know.” That is a child’s excuse. And wrong. We saw what South Korea did. We saw what Singapore did. We saw what Taiwan did. All democracies. They acted proactively, quickly and decidedly. Who was stupid? Them or us?
Now, is this so terrible? We are doing our very best. There is peace and tranquility across Canada. People are [mostly] being obedient and following government guidelines. It’s not so bad, right? Of course it is not bad YET. When you do something REALLY stupid, like our flawed response to Covid19, the effects are not felt until much later, in some cases, only decades later when the trauma that children and youth have experienced blossoms into full scale anxiety or depression. Now, this is only a “maybe” – if you are not a mental health expert, because for the experts, this is a given repercussion. Also, the economic impact may also be disastrous, if you are not in business or an economist, but for these experts we are playing Russian roulette, and the gun IS loaded. In both cases, there is no certainty, while saving lives today by a complete shutdown is certain to save lives. Stupid. Why? Because life has no certainty. We may save lives today by being simplistic [note: I am not saying do nothing, please read the article referred to above to see what Sweden and Hong Kong are doing], but it is probable that the long term ripple effects will kill or damage more lives. Even today our total lockdown is killing innocent people. What about the cancelled elective surgeries? What about those with anorexia or drug addiction who cannot see their counsellor? What about the unemployed who are despairing contemplating suicide? Besides, let’s face it, this is a long term struggle and total lockdowns are not sustainable. So, let’s be smart, admit defeat, and avoid a Pyric victory. Let’s use our brains and be smart by following the proven examples of countries like Hong Kong who have experience with viruses and have had success with this new virus because of their lessons learned. So why do we keep doing what we are doing? Fundamentally, though, politicians and public health officials are risk-averse. “If you follow the official guidance you never lose the lawsuit,” said Stone. More stupid. By the way, In general, non-lockdown countries are enthusiastic mask-wearers and keep their social distance with being told to or being fined.
Finally, you should know that this ‘rant’ of mine was inspired by a quote I read from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the German Lutheran Pastor killed by Hitler for resisting the Nazis. In other words, our response has a moral component. That means there are political repercussions to how we act. And it you think that being stupid [our response to Covid-19] will make the world a better place, well, then I should quit being a teacher and just give up and let our youth wallow in their ignorance. Here is what Dietrich wrote while in a concentration camp:
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than evil.
One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease.
Against stupidity we are defenseless.
Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.
In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
As a final gift – here is the rest of Bonhoeffer’s quote:
‘If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.
‘Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity. ‘But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.’
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from ‘After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, vol. 8) Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.
written by Gordon Kubanek