How to Deal with Stupid

Before It’s Too Late

Jan 10, 2018 · 7 min read
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Well, I wish I could tell you to just stay the hell away from Stupid, but realistically, that’s not feasible. One would have to completely sever oneself from all human interaction.

And honestly, no matter how much isolation you practice, there will still be remnants of Stupid all around you. Even if you went full I-am-a-rock-I-am-an-island-bananas and buried yourself in the middle of the woods, Stupid would find you. And it would dig you up and tell you you’re not funny and to stop being so weird (Stupid DOES NOT get hyperbole). Then it would bring up politics, at which point, you better be packing a laser pointer because nothing distracts Stupid like a rapidly moving, tiny red dot.

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Although, the Fast and Furious movies work in a pinch.

To put it another way, Stupid’s like a virus: while you may have some immunity to it, you’re still surrounded by those infected and they keep wet coughing in your face.

And I’m not even on Facebook!

Now, before I get into the weeds here with my fancy technique for dealing with Stupid — which I’ve acquired over a lifetime of eye rolling and near-spontaneous combusting when confronted with the white hot glow of dumb-dumbs — I should clarify the very important difference between ignorance, which is curable, and bold, brash, irreparable stupidity.

Essentially, it boils down to one very important dynamic: Stupid is what happens when ignorance is rewarded. Repeatedly. This reward could come in the form of some tangible compensation or it could simply be the absence of negative consequence. Or even, neglect.

And because it’s been rewarded (or neglected), Stupid is also really fucking loud about it. It’s the 23-year-old guy in the coffee shop where I’m writing this, with the ponytail/bun, explaining to his wide-eyed associate, at decibels that make the blender seem shy, the single most important characteristic that all great comics possess.

My guess: They’re funny.

His: “They’re like, ya know, channeling something.”

Points for trying but, what exactly are they channeling? Because I’ve seen The Conjuring and I only laughed ONE time.

Side Note: Something tells me that if you looked at this guy’s list of “great” comics, you’d find Gallagher at the top. I mean, I like comedy that requires tarp-ing the audience as much as the next guy, but… come on!

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Obviously we all start out ignorant and generally remain so on a vast variety of topics. For instance, not to brag, but I have absolutely no idea why Snapchat exists.

Actually, to be completely candid here, I’ll admit to something rather embarrassing…

I got a C- in my Intro to Logic class.

I blame this C- on one thing: Intro to Logic is a philosophy course that uses symbols (read: NOT WORDS) to explain well, logic. The moment I saw random letters sprinkled about like some right-brain-fucking-version of algebra, I started drawing pictures of my professor struggling to pull Venn diagrams out of his ass.

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However, this is not an example of stupidity. This is an example of immaturity. Which is very different and almost never rewarded (though, I’ve never given up hope: No. You shut up).

But it is also an example of ignorance. Thus I must admit to ignorance regarding notions of convergence in probability theory. And the very important distinction between ignorance and stupidity is, were I actually stupid, I’d claim:

A) to understand what I just wrote


B) fake news.

I bring this up because you can’t avoid Stupid merely by reading a book or listening to a lecture (or drawing offensive caricatures). Stupid will stalk and harass you regardless of your formal or informal education. It might help strengthen your resistance, but it’s no guarantee. Because Stupid thrives in the status quo. Meaning, whatever it is that we do unquestioningly, at times unconsciously, is where Stupid incubates.

And also on the Internet.

Therefore, the vital factor toward avoiding or managing Stupid is the ability to not only think, but to think critically.

So, while you may never need to “diagram an argument” or Snapchat things, you will have to make day-to-day life decisions that require you learn and analyze a variety of information. This also requires that you be curious enough to investigate other ideas and concepts and never merely take information at face value.

For example, I probably shouldn’t assume It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is representative of all Philadelphians or that Reddit never lies.

Furthermore, you must know the agenda or interests of the person (or parties) from whom you’re obtaining this info and continually pursue additional sources… because I still have no idea who’s editing the Wikipedia entry for the Nimrod Expedition or what motive they have for not linking, at minimum, to the Wiktionary definition of “nimrod” (some us may have *ahem* giggled until we did additional research on the topic).

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Oh, right... I knew that.

And even then, you must maintain a healthy skepticism because informed questions are what keep us all from falling into the monotonous delusion where the Stupids live (and parts of Florida).

According to George Saunders, “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” And luckily, laughter is an especially strong inoculator against Stupid.

In all humor — satirical, absurdist, parody, etc., there’s usually a strong element of truth. It might be an ugly truth, or a silly or very exaggerated truth, and it might not be your personal truth… but it almost always taps into something real.

Take fart jokes for instance: unquestionably hilarious (depending on my mood), because like the good book says, “Everyone Poops.”

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Stupid, however, believes humor’s only purpose is to perpetuate its very limited worldview, which is often deficient in objective reality (e.g., “Maybe you poop, but I do not poop”).

If humor falls outside of that intention or that worldview, it ceases to be funny (or possess any compelling meaning or reason for being). With Stupid’s modus operandi being a refusal to feel genuine discomfort (ironic, given it’s probably really constipated) or critically examine assumptions, Stupid isn’t laughing because that would require it recognize the underlying veracity of a joke or a situation. Instead, its preferred humor is one of deflection, denial, or vanity. Therefore, Stupid can be both the smug Prius owner who’s offended by damn near everything or the sanctimonious Humvee driver viciously laughing at the saddest thing you’ve ever heard.

As conspicuous as Stupid may seem, flaunting about with cheap, Cirque du Soleil-style mental contortions, it’s very tempting to think we’re impervious to its “charms.” Especially since the alternatives to Stupid, Doubt and Inquisitiveness, are real douche bags. They’re the asshole party poopers who question your buffet options (and life choices) and never know when to leave.

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Nobody ever said critical thinking was fun (that I know of).

Which makes it all the more important that we never forget how thin that line between willful idiot and well-informed, thoughtful citizen (with a sense of humor) really is. The fact is, if we’re not careful, anyone of us could become infected with Stupid and not recognize it.

For instance, I could be a carrier of Stupid and be spreading stupidity like Typhoid Mary right now and, unless I ask myself, “Is this Stupid?” or you ask yourself “Is she drunk?” and then sincerely contemplate that possibility, we could do serious damage to each other with our stupidity.

Or maybe it’s ignorance. Either way, use a condom.

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