The Stupid


     It was Remembrance Day yesterday which used to be Armistice Day and is Veterans Day in the US. We honour those who fought and died in service of their country, defending freedom and oppression; in wars that cost millions of unnecessary lives. 

            ‘The stupidest thing humans do is go to war against each other. As a species we have the capacity to self-destruct, despite our knowledge and technology, despite knowing better. It’s just plain stupid,’ I said to Camp

            ‘Bukowsky said: The problem is that intelligent people are full of doubt, while stupid people are full of certainty and Einstein said that there is only one thing more infinite than the universe: human stupidity. You know that you are dealing with stupid people because they always blame somebody else and are never responsible when something goes wrong,’ Camp said, leaning back in his chair, taking a sip from the mug in his hand. 

            ‘I read an interview with an Austrian psychiatrist, Heidi Kastner, who wrote a recent book about stupidity,’ I said. ‘She points out that the central characteristic of stupid people is that they only prioritize their own position and ignore everything else, and that in this time of the pandemic, stupidity is booming. Everybody is suddenly a medical expert and attribute skills and knowledge to themselves that they simply do not have,’ she points out. ‘If the washing machine is broken, they trust a mechanic but when it comes to vaccines and science, they are suddenly self-proclaimed professionals and without any background or knowledge they make recommendations and give advice to others, mostly on social media.’

            ‘Now that’s stupid,’ Camp agreed.

            ‘Kastner also points out that trust in science and academic expertise has suffered with the increase of social media, in particular since this idea of alternative fact has been promoted by the Trump administration. There are no alternative facts. There are facts and then there are stupid positions that ignore the facts. People used to at least acknowledge when somebody has studied and acquired knowledge about a chosen field and therefore know what they are talking about. Everybody else kept their mouth shut and believed what the experts were saying. But this pandemic has made it socially acceptable to paint scientists as conspirators and those without knowledge the experts. How stupid is that?’

            ‘Conspiracy theories are attractive because they provide an all-encompassing model for explaining a complex world. This mistrust of experts and the talk of alternative facts creates a basic mood that leads people to carve out their own position based on some obtuse ideas and they confuse stating the facts with freedom of expression, based not on empirical evidence like statistics or peer reviewed results but on intuition, heresy and unsubstantiated theories.’

            ‘Intuition can be useful when it comes to things like sympathies or antipathies, for example. But when it comes to evaluating facts, intuition is dangerous and leads to stupid conclusions, like the Covid-vaccine is unsafe or spiked with controlling micro-transmitters.’

            ‘Are you saying we live in an age of stupidity?’ Camp said.

            ‘No, but stupidity is popular and ignorance is bliss.’

            ‘Bliss is freedom to come and go when I please and feeling fit and healthy when I get up in the morning and a fresh brew when the sun goes down,’ Camp said.

            As if Vicky overheard us, she appeared at our table with two fresh beers.

            ‘How are the studies going and how is campus life?’ Camp asked.

            ‘It’s a totally different world out there and the learning environment is very stimulating. I had no idea how little I knew about anything. Made me feel stupid. It’s frightening.’

            ‘Socrates came to the same conclusion,’ Camp said.

            Vicky gave him a quizzical look. ‘An old Greek guy,’ Camp said. ‘A teacher.’

            ‘I love my professors, especially the cute young ones,’ Vicky said. 

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