Stupidity: Organic vs Functional

 The point of these essays is to educate: if necessary, to jolt minds, set in their ways, to see another more-real perspective, a perspective with a higher degree of integrity.

Meriam Webster starts with two perspectives: “a: slow of mind : obtuse” and “b: given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner”  The Oxford English Dictionary defines “stupid” as “Having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.” 

Both sources distinguish two kinds of stupidity: the first I’ll call “organic stupidity” – an individual’s lack of the mental capacity for well-reasoned thought; the second I’ll call “functional stupidity”- an individual’s failure to use their innate capacity to learn and reason. 

As with the many roles every individual takes on in life, a person can be highly competent in some roles, and functionally stupid in the performance of other roles.  In point of fact, only the rarest of individuals is not a combination of competence and functional stupidity.    

It follows then that you are, one way or another, a stupid person.  To maintain that you never make stupid choices is to maintain that you are God-like.  Muslim artisans – and artisans from other spiritually-oriented cultures – have a practice to remind themselves of their own fallibility: conscious incorporation of a minor defect in every work.  After all, only God is capable of perfect work.

What leads to stupid choices? 

Frequently, stupid choices result from allowing your animal nature to dominate your human nature – allowing anger and cynicism to dominate your human capacity for understanding and compassion.  A perceived need to “be right” or to “look good” can lead to stupid choices. 

At other times stupid choices result from making choices based on faulty or incomplete information.  In the information technology realm, this is referred to as “garbage in – garbage out”.  Does your information come from recognized reliable sources, confirmed by multiple independent, professional sources, like recognized national and international professional organizations engaged in investigative journalism – the mainstream media?  Or are you falling prey to the REAL fake news outlets?

My greatest concern is the rampant functional stupidity in one particular American role – that of elector – voter. 

Please read the excellent article linked below, “How to Fix American Stupidity” by Steven Nadler.   The author, in defining stupidity as “a kind of intellectual stubbornness” is kinder than I will be, but a kindness likely appreciated by those inclined to see his point.  I would rather have an impact on those disinclined to see his point, those who act with functional stupidity in their role as elector to the detriment of our Democracy.  

The term “Functional Stupidity” much more accurately describes the plague afflicting American democracy today.  It is a kind of stupidity born of willful ignorance.  The kind of stupidity that results from allowing yourself to be intellectually and emotionally manipulated by the known purveyors of “red meat”- opinion calculated to create angry responses and based on carefully cherry-picked facts and outright lies, calculated to create emotional responses designed to short-circuit that capability which distinguishes human-beings from animal-beings: the ability of well-informed, rational thought to be the master of our animal emotions and drives. 

If what I have to say angers you, then I am speaking directly to you, and your recognition of your angry response is the point.  I want to kill off what is in you that has you responding to this perspective with anger, rather than with reason.  According to the classic Kubler-Ross model of the stages of grief, anger is the second stage, and for many anger will be a necessary transitional stage on the path to reason’s mastery of your animal nature.  My intent is to cause attitudinal movement toward the death of the kind of irrational, often emotional thinking that leads to short-sighted, destructive choices. 

Vetted facts, presented in a context that has a high degree of integrity, (that is, a context that a consensus of knowledgeable people would consider a nearly whole-and-complete, fair and balanced presentation) are critically important to personal freedom and to the only true freedom of choice – fully-informed freedom of choice.  Where do YOU get the information that informs your choices?  Could you be smarter about that?