Stupid Is As...
the continuing saga of brain erasure
A few scattered thoughts on stupidity. Sometimes I feel guilty when I rant about how stupid people are, how inconsiderate, how incurious. But then I shake it off, and think: “It’s not me, it’s you”
“Only two things are infinite. The Universe and human stupidity. And I’m not so sure about the Universe” (attributed to Albert Einstein - but who knows)
Stupidity is everywhere. People make idiotic decisions that yield bad results, then make a similar decision again a few months later. People vote for a political party or for a candidate because their parents voted for that party and that candidate. For the longest time I could not decide whether the educational system breeds half-wits because the instructors are half-wits or because breeding stupid people is advantageous for perpetuating the system. In the process of applying for US citizenship, I was doing my “biometrics” (a fancy DHS word for “fingerprints”). The girls pressing my fingertips onto the little glass rectangle asked where I was from. I said “Czech Republic”. “Is that in Europe?” She asked. “Do you know where Germany is?” I asked in return. “Not really, “she blushed. “Well, the Czech Republic neighbors Germany and yes, it’s in Europe!”
Many years ago, in the late 70’s (the population was stupid then too, just less proud of it), a good friend from New York was making a collect call to Salt Lake City. “Where is that?” asked the operator. My friend kept his cool. “It’s in Utah” Her retort: “Is that in the United States?” “She blinded me with science”
It’s more than only geography. Stupidity is not merely tolerated, it’s celebrated. Just listen to our President. The man veritably beams with pride for his fathomless fatuousness.
When I was a kid, every household had an encyclopedia. My parents being intellectuals (an offense often punishable by a jail term under the Communist regime) insisted that we have not just one but three encyclopedias: an encyclopedia of general knowledge, an encyclopedia of science (!) and, as a Christmas gift for me when I was 9 years old, “A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom”. This last one was a series of books that I adored. Richly illustrated, it contained all the five vertebrate groups: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Every time I asked my dad about something he didn’t know the answer to, he said: “Go look it up. And let me know, too” My family was no exception in this. “Go look it up” was the standard reply we all got.
When I started getting serious about the English language, around the age of 15, I first learned by imitating my American and British friends - this was in Israel in the late 1960’s. The Brits were harder to understand but their slang was a lot of fun. A few years later, when I was enrolled in the Linguistics Master’s program at the University of Essex, I thought the English language would be my career. That did not happen but I remain a grammar Nazi. I hate to see that the past participle is disappearing (sentences like “I have went” “You would have saw” are now so common, I don’t think “gone” and “seen” will ever make a comeback)
Listening to politicians and TV talking heads speak is painful. Original thoughts expressed in an original way disappeared long ago. I enjoy listening to old Kennedy and Nixon speeches. Say what you will about them as politicians - but they were articulate.
In the past two years stupidity has reached hitherto unscaled heights. The released Pfizer documents point to an enormous crime having been perpetrated. Does anyone bother to read at least one page? Does anyone care that their freedoms have been trampled on, their futures destroyed, their prospects diminished, even their children’s lives massively marred and diminished? Very few do. They don’t read. They don’t travel much. People are apathetic and deeply incurious. And I know why.
They had no one in their childhood who said to them “Go look it up!”