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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Conscientious Stupidity Is As Conscientious Stupidity Does

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sincerely Ignorant

Can a person be sincerely ignorant? I believe so.

If knowledge represents light, then ignorance, the antonym of knowledge, represents darkness. When people act without sufficient education, information, or awareness, they promote ignorance.

A. Some people are ignorant, and remain in the dark, but do not act with negative purpose. They simply do not possess important information particular to the task, so they act ignorantly without without their will. They are in the dark because they are unaware of “light.” Completely uniformed children may be ignorant.

Example: "A toddler who tries to stick a fork inside an electric switch acts ignorantly."

B. Yet, other people are ignorant, and remain in the dark, yet they choose to act with negative purpose. They deliberately deny to enrich their knowledge with important information particular to the task, so they act ignorantly with their will. They are in the dark because they are aware of a potential “light” but refuse to seek it.

Example: "In 1950, when Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (Republican, Wisconsin), was asked about the fortieth name on a list of 81 names of people he claimed were communists working for the United States Department of State, he responded that “I do not have much information on this except the general statement of the agency that there is nothing in the files to disprove his communist connections.”

The Conscientiously Stupid

Can a person be conscientious and stupid? I believe so.

Like ignorance, stupidity is based upon a lack of knowledge. People who act with stupidity lack intelligence, understanding, or reason, but their acts of stupidity involve the inability to understand or profit from acquired knowledge. This may be caused by a congenital (innate) lack of capacity for reasoning or by a temporary state of daze or slow-mindedness (falsely assumed or strictly reactive).

Economic historian Carl M. Cipolla is famous for his essays about human stupidity. One essay, “The Fundamental Laws of Human Stupidity,” explores the controversial subject of stupidity. Stupid people are seen as a group, more powerful by far than major organizations such as the Mafia and the industrial complex, which without regulations, leaders or manifesto nonetheless manages to operate to great effect and with incredible coordination.

These are Cipolla's five fundamental laws of stupidity:
  1. Always and inevitably each of us underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
  3. The probability that a given person is stupid is independent of any other characteristic possessed by that person.
  5. A person is stupid if they cause damage to another person or group of people without experiencing personal gain, or even worse causing damage to themselves in the process.
  7. Non-stupid people always underestimate the harmful potential of stupid people; they constantly forget that at any time anywhere, and in any circumstance, dealing with or associating themselves with stupid individuals invariably constitutes a costly error.
  9. A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person there is.
    Consider what Cipolla is saying. Don't you find it simply amazing how, at any one time judged rational and intelligent people will reveal themselves to be unashamedly stupid? And, don't you find yourself, on a daily basis, harassed by stupid individuals who will appear in the most unexpected places at the most inconvenient times.

    Cipolla found stupidity to be determined by nature rather than culture. Isn't this the same category of human characteristics as hair color or blood group? You quickly find that stupidity does not discriminate – it will be found in any and all human groups, in the same frequency. Stupidity, then,is not determined by race, education, social status, or income level. Blue-collar workers, university professors, parents, children, wives, priests, MENSA members – just open yourself to the fact that you can find significant stupidity despite the differentiating characteristic.

    As Cipolla puts it, “the majority of stupid people are basically and unwaveringly stupid – in other words they perseveringly insist in causing harm and losses to other people without deriving any gain, whether positive or negative.”

    One fellow blogger says, “This brings to mind the fable, often attributed to Aesop, of the scorpion and the fox.”

    “A scorpion asks a fox to carry him across a river. The fox is afraid of being stung, but the scorpion reassures him that if it stings the fox, the fox would sink and the scorpion would drown as well. The fox then agrees; nevertheless, in mid-river, the scorpion stings him, dooming the two of them. When asked why, the scorpion explains, “I’m a scorpion; it’s my nature.”

    The truth is that stupid people cause losses to other people without any gain to themselves. The result is society as a whole is constantly being impoverished by stupid people. And, of course, this stupidity is very dangerous.

The Dangerous Nature of Both

When people choose to remain ignorant, despite the need to educate themselves, better their conditions, and begin new paths out of their “dark” existence, they practice sincere ignorance. These folks really live “in the dark” out of single-mindedness and stubborn opposition to acquiring information. Well beyond traditional, sincerely ignorant people take pride in their resistance to change or to explore different ideas.

The people who are sincerely ignorant help spread the darkness of intolerance, injustice, and inequality through their “dumb pride.” They so despise any potential value they find in gaining new knowledge that they create their ideals based on antiquated, often illogical, principles. They stagnate as they remain convinced that their limited scope of reality is all they will ever need. These sincerely ignorant individuals live by the creed that gaining enlightenment through knowledge is unnecessary.

On the other hand, those who choose to live in conscientious stupidity do not apply the knowledge they possess. These people do often seek and find information while incorporating bits and pieces of it into their lives. They just don't take the time to digest the knowledge and fully understand its meaning. The conscientiously stupid may possess great intelligence; however, they willfully use their intelligence in manners inconsistent with reason and advantageous gain.

The mentality of the conscientiously stupid is informed and deliberate but maladaptive. In other words, conscientiously stupid people will act in this maladaptive manner (a way that is unsuitable, inappropriate, or counterproductive) specifically to prevent new data or to disrupt carelessly a thoughtful and appropriate circumstance. Their actions could be created by misunderstandings and neglect, but they could also be created by trickery and malice.

In an ideal world, ignorance and stupidity would not exist. And, we all see thee folly in setting such ideal goals.

I believe the grandparents, parents, other relatives, teachers, sages, and tutors of the world – all of us – must begin now to create activities and interests for our children that DISCOURAGE ignorance and stupidity. The tremendous heap of sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity dumped upon these children by the media, by Madison Avenue, and by the extension of the welfare state is leading to their indoctrination into a society that prides itself on being dumb, lazy, and entitled.

Instead of fostering opportunities for education and meaningful knowledge, American society prides itself on exhibiting its reckless, mindless, ignorant behaviors as the norm. Fantasy, full of violence and aggression, rules the minds of many young people as they play video games, watch television, and people movie theaters.

Just consider reality shows ranging from Honey Boo Boo to Keeping Up With the Kardashians to The Bad Girls Club – these programs thrive on stupidity and ignorance. The audience will say “it's just for laughs,” but I see evidence that youth doesn't distinguish the line between their own lives and scripted reality.

If Cipolla is right and “stupid people are seen as a group, more powerful by far than major organizations such as the Mafia and the industrial complex,” we have a lot of work ahead of us to educate our young. And, everyone should help with this positive transfer of knowledge. Many adults would do well to begin putting tons of credible information into their own heads before they indoctrinate the children with sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

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