Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

I don't mind stupidity. Ignorance I have no tolerance for. Stupidity is excusable. Some people just don't have the extra smarts required for more than the basic functions of life. Breathing, standing, eating, sleeping and sex are simply the only things that some people can wrap their minds around. Don't get me wrong here. I'm not talking about book smarts. Many intelligent people get through life without a PhD or some other combination of the alphabet behind their names. It takes just as many brain cells (probably more when you factor in motor control) to rebuild a car engine or construct the frame to a house as it does to examine the migratory patterns of fruit flies across the average North American kitchen.
There are however some people who, through no fault of their own, are stupid. It doesn't matter what they read or what their learning style is. They simply go through life, never adding to their body of knowledge or their skill set. They remain stupid. This is sounding very derogatory. I realize that and I certainly don't intend it to sound that way. Stupid people are quite often the nicest, gentlest people you could ever hope to meet. "Yes but," the P.C. social commentator would say "the word stupid is antiquated and demeaning". According to the above commentator we should use words like “challenged” or “synaptically disadvantaged.”
If you want to use a derogatory term - and I do - use the word ignorant. Ignorance is different than stupidity. There can be no blame assigned to stupidity except maybe bad genetic material. Ignorance however, is a whole other ball game.
Ignorance has an implied choice about it. Ignorance suggests that despite all the best advice, all the profound thought and after careful contemplation, you're going to do something asinine. Some examples of what I'm talking about: Racism, sexism, totalitarianism, gay bashing, animal cruelty, wife beating, child abuse, driving slow in the fast lane, chewing with your mouth open, general closed mindedness... Get the picture?
Stupid people may exhibit some of the tendencies of the ignorant person but in their case, they have probably not been properly educated on the ways and customs of our society. Stupid people can and will learn the basics. Ignorant people have the ability but consciously refuse, to learn the basics.
Here's a test for you. You decide if this person is stupid or ignorant:
Picture a worksite somewhere in a developing community. Two framers are building the frame to a suburban family's dream home. As they are hammering in nails, one of the framers decides to head off to use the facilities. He decides that the ladder is too far away and that - to save time - he'll just lower himself off the roof, hang by his fingers and drop the last two feet. He doesn't look first and when he lets go, the board he was aiming to land on breaks and he falls into a four foot hole, breaks his femur goes into shock and bleeds to death. At the funeral the other framer looks at the casket, gives a chuckle and says, "I probably should have told him about the hole." Our poor dead framer in the casket was merely stupid. After all "Look before you leap" is one of the basic tenets we live by. He didn't head that little voice in his head and ended up dead for it. The other framer is ignorant. He knew about the hole, new the potential consequences of the action, did not warm his co-worker and showed little in the way of acknowledging his culpability in the death of his friend.
Anyway, heavy thoughts for a Tuesday afternoon.
 Look before you leap.


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