Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Idiot proof

I'm working on a new definition of the word "stupid" as in, "I'm surrounded by stupid people." I find that many don't know what I mean by the term "stupid people" so I want to make my meaning crystal clear so that when I say it, any individual can know if that label applies to him at that moment or not.

I started with a standard definition related to innate intelligence. You don't have it, you're stupid. But then I was confronted with a few truths. The first is that people who lack intelligence sometimes work harder to compensate. And that isn't stupid by any stretch. And the second is that some people who have plenty of IQ points still sometimes do and say stuff which is remarkably stupid. Next, I saw that English (which has no true and pure synonyms) has plenty of words which reflect a lack of intelligence so why waste "stupid" duplicating the efforts of a perfectly reasonable word like "idjits." Finally, I noted that sometimes stupid people are defined by their poor driving which is not a function of innate intelligence or its lack.

So I moved on to a notion of stupid which might presume a limit on intelligence but which did not demand or hinge on it. So I started with the driving. A guy cuts me off, or merges poorly, or is putting his makeup on while shaving his phone which is reading the newspaper. He's stupid even if he has a PhD. Stupid, there, seems to be more about egocentricity. This person believes that he is the only person in the world and doesn't care about the needs or even existence of anyone else. Yep. That sounds stupid to me. But is that the only definition?

Then I was answering someone's question and another guy looked at me and said "I don't see how you can say that."

And it hit me. That's stupid. That's stupid because it assumes not that I don't exist, but that I don't have a reason for having said what I said. That is an uber-egocentricity. Sure, someone else exists, but I can't lower myself to see things from his jaundiced point of view because even if there is a reason, I am too smart to consider it. How does this apply to driving? It is the guy who swerves into my lane while he is busy texting and looks at me as if to say "what right did YOU have to be in the lane I was swerving into?" He can't imagine that I have a reason to exist where he will end up.

Look, I hear people say all sorts of dumb things. I hear them show a lack of knowledge, insight, appreciation or subtlety. I see people lack imagination, or sensitivity. But to hear someone say "I can't fathom how you came up with what you said so either you are way dumber than I am, or you used NO logical reasoning to get there while I always do" is to hear someone be stupid. How tough can it be to consider that someone else has a point of view which is based in a way of looking at the world which is informed by a different, yet equally valid understanding of things? And if that understanding is in error, how difficult would it be to try and draw out the error and correct it rather than dismiss the entire statement?

Will there be situations where some other guy's statement defies any and all logic or reflects a lack of process? Yes, but isn't it smarter to assume that what is said comes from a place that at least the other person thinks is reasonable, and try to figure out what that place is before simply dismissing? A little intellectual empathy is not a bad thing.

So that's my definition of stupid -- egocentric to the point where one condescends to point out to others how dumb they must be and to show that one can't even deign to think on their level.


Feel free to comment and understand that no matter what you type, I still think you are a robot.