November 22, 2010

Stupid People

No, Nicky. I'm saying that you should go to The Organ Stop for pizza the next time you're in Mesa. The Wurlitzer organ is a classic — oh, company's here.

Buon giorno. Stupid people get on my nerves. You too, huh? That's not surprising. But — what exactly are "stupid" people?

We all know some people who do inexplicable things that a reasonable person would not say or do. "What did you do that for? That was stupid!" Some people seem to lack simple common sense. But quite often, it's not that cut and dried. Sometimes, there are reasons for what we consider "stupid" things.
  • Uninformed. If someone did not know better, it is unfair to find fault with him. "I've never seen one of those before, and didn't know that it would do that. Sorry."
  • Differences of opinion. You believe this is true, I believe that is true. Disagreement itself does not equal stupidity.
  • Fatigue, stress, medications acting up, distractions. Don't give me that smug look, you know it's happened to you, too. One of my best examples was on September 11, 2001. I was driving and missed my turn. So I went back, tried again, missed it again. Terrorist attacks two hours south of me are quite a distraction. Another thing that comes to mind is my own writing. I have re-read and almost cringed at bad wordings because I wrote at less than optimal times, giving the readers less that they deserve. So, I try to fix some of those.
  • Different understandings. Whether it is culture, upbringing, social conditioning, simple ignorance or whatever, it is often best to define our terms.
  • Just not thinking. Pay attention, Percival. Focus, Frankie.
  • Laziness. Let's face it, some people do not want to be bothered to actually think, but want others to do the work for them. We all have those times, but it should not be a lifestyle.
  • Prejudice and bias. The assumption that people of (insert persuasion here) are stupid in the first place. How can someone of (that persuasion) explain to you about Concepts B through Z, when you say flat out that his Concept A, the foundation of it all, is a lie? Not only is his listener unable to understand the rest of the points, he thinks that the speaker is stupid. The listener probably seems stupid to the speaker as well because of his refusal to try to understand.
  • Anger and hate. No, I am not going to repeat that article. But I have seen many times when people are so obsessed with hate, or become so angry, they "stupidify" themselves. Sometimes, I believe people are being deliberately stupid because they refuse to understand the point that the other person is making, believe that the other person is incapable of making a valid point, or they have their own bias and just don't like what the other person is saying. Similarly, declaring something to be true or untrue does not make it so, no matter how much you may disapprove. Something that is both sad and frustrating is when hateful, biased people agree that they are intelligent and their opponents are the stupid ones.
  • Deceived. Sometimes, it's rooted in hate and people are jumping on a bandwagon. There are some very intelligent people I know that are deceived into hating. They are not stupid, but they are not thinking for themselves.
It's easy to be judgmental because someone does not know what you're talking about. What is it that we do to sabotage our own efforts at being understood, receiving blank stares, wrong replies or just, "Huh?"

I want to add that I do not quite go along with the old adage, "There is no such thing as a stupid question." Yes, I believe that there are stupid questions — under certain conditions. If someone is simply not bothering to think, not paying attention, has already given the answer several times &c. It seems that the most productive thing to do is to make the best of that situation, and perhaps avoid wasting time with that person, or getting into that situation with that person, in the future. Capice?

So, we can mess things up ourselves: 
  • Using "lingo" that is peculiar to our knowledge, experience and occupation. "Jesus is the propitiation for our sins." "The sling lift is malfunctioning." "The trajectory compensated for the apogee of Mars." Sure, this makes sense to your associates, but other people get lost in your terminology.
  • Incompleteness. We expect people to understand us, but we did not lay a foundation for their understanding. It's like opening a book in the middle and trying to understand the story.
  • Great expectations. The dickens of this is that we can assume and expect people to know what we are saying without doing a "check point" to make sure that everyone is on the same wavelength. Bonus: You can demonstrate this yourself by saying or writing something back: "If I understand you correctly, your belief is..." when you're trying to understand someone.
  • Joe Thesaurus. Some people like to put on airs by filling up their sentences with expensive words instead of communicating plainly.
  • Consider your audience. This ties into several points above, I know. When I was in a class on speechifying, I was told to talk as if I had an audience of twelve-year-olds. This helps in many ways. There were times I had to talk to uneducated people in one part of my job, and then report to the business-oriented supervisors on the other end. Speaking plainly helped in both areas. Caution: Do not "dumb down" your words, or act like you are above people and doing them a favor. Instead of communicating, you'll be insulting. "Do you understand this, or shall I say it again slower and use one syllable words?" That example is blatant, but sometimes, we can appear that way to our hearers or readers.
  • Creating an emotional situation. Just try to talk reasonably with an angry crowd. Worse, get people worked up seven ways 'till sundown and then try to make sense to them. There's a difference between stirring up emotions and giving a motivational talk.
  • Bad timing. Sometimes, you should just clam up and wait because now is not a good time.
  • Limited understanding. You try to explain something, but someone does not have the background (and possibly the intellect) to grasp what you are doing. Are they "stupid"? Possibly, but more likely, you are being unfair by expecting too much. Then, you are on the receiving end. Even though you have the superior knowledge, you are considered stupid or even a liar because they cannot (or will not) grasp your point. For instance, God says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" (Isaiah 55.8-9). Also, spiritual things are not understood by unbelievers (I Cor. 2.14). So, explaining a deep biblical concept to an unbeliever is usually frustrating because he cannot receive it. Therefore, you are the stupid one for believing in something he cannot understand. Agonizing. It's a good thing that we have Jesus to explain God to us (John 1.18).
In summary, we all have stupid moments. And yes, some people really are stupid. But more often than not, they could be having a "moment", and if you knew what was going on, their "stupidity" would actually be understandable. If someone called you stupid, you would probably bristle and respond, yes? Then try this: Cut them some slack, and think about some of the ways you may have fouled up, even though you fully believe that you are not really stupid. Matthew 7.12.

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