The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.
Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.
I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.
Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.
Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.
Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled? Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?
All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people. Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it. “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.
So, stupidity is universal. Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.
Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid. Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.
So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public. Start locally, and work your way up from there. I’ll wait.
Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas. I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious. Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”
Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior. Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means: he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.
Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing. After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?
Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement. Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.
No? You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past? Why not? And so it goes. Knowledge can be used two ways, no?
Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were. You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts. Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts. In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.
The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep. It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level. Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help. Reinforcing consequences will help. If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences. Live and learn.
Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not. Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them. Never. You can eat them. Or not. You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.
And now, I present to you, our government. Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government. I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.
Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?
They know the general public is stupid. They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise. They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life. Set. For. Life.
See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise. No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.
The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name. The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.
They. Don’t. Care.
Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?
Nope. Why not?
Surely they want to stay in Washington. Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.
How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass? How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us? I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.
You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.
They are professionals at reading us, the stupid. They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents. They may SAY they are, but nope.
So, here we are. Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.
Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent. Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.
In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.