How To Train Your Idiot


Half the world is composed of idiots, the other half of people clever enough to take indecent advantage of them. ~Walter Kerr

People are surprised to find out that an awful lot of people think that they’re idiots. ~Eric Schmidt

 

I still think this is funny

It’s been said that during heated arguments in online message boards, the subject of Hitler and/or the Nazis will eventually arise. I’ve also heard it whispered around the Net that the 2006 film Idiocracy will work its way into any conversation about the seeming decline of intellectualism in America. I cannot say whether this is so, having only recently seen Idiocracy and also being a tiny blogger fish in a great big sea of whales, but I did feel the need to discuss the subject today. Call it one of my occasional sardonic moods, or the fact that I’m confined indoors during a stretch of lovely spring weather, or maybe just my daily saturation with idiocy.
Today’s post is all about idiots. A celebration of the dimwitted, an ode to obsequiousness. Some of my readers may even think I’m an idiot for doing so. Personally I don’t care one way or the other. I’m pretty confident in my self-image of nonidiocy, and I can explain the difference between Manhattan clam chowder and the New England variety, thus, I am no chowderhead.

What? They left out Girl Scout Cookies?

The sad truth is that idiots are everywhere. Idiocy exists across gender, ethnic, religious, and cultural lines. The term “idiot” itself, like “dumb,” used to be one of those cheerfully un-PC medical terms for a mentally challenged individual. It has been softened to mean merely a foolish or stupid person. I believe the above quote by Kerr to be true. There are idiots and there are those who gleefully take advantage of idiots. For a shining example of this, look no further than the U.S. Congress.

There is a curious side effect to being an idiot. Surveys have been done to suggest, for example, that bad drivers see themselves as great drivers, and everyone else as a terror of the two-lane road. Obnoxious cell-phone users see nothing wrong with their breaches of etiquette but criticize their fellow talkers. They want to talk endlessly about their inane or silly hobbies to others who are obviously disinterested. (This idea is illustrated brilliantly in the French comedy Le Diner de Cons, the basis for the recent remake Dinner for Schmucks, in which buffoons are invited to dinner by intellectual snobs only to be ridiculed all evening.) As with their own children and dogs, people have a glaring blind spot for their own idiocy.

And I iz also remorseful

What actually makes an idiot? I’m sure that, like red wine or the designated hitter rule, everyone has his or her unique opinion. Personally I’m less likely to think of you as an idiot if you’re considerate, polite, low-key, self-effacing, and/or relatively quiet. These qualities are becoming all too rare in Westernized societies (my parents once wondered aloud if I’d been stolen away from some Asian country.)

It is also important to discern idiocy from other lookalike qualities. There is rudeness, of course, and plenty of non-idiots are rude whereas I have met a few polite idiots. There is ignorance, which can be remedied via a steady diet of reading. There are also the people whose intellects will never, despite their best efforts, rise above the temperature of a lukewarm April day. There’s also a rare species called the Wise Fool who only pretends to be an idiot and/or a silly person in order to get what he wants. This is one of the many reason I’m so fond of The A-Team‘s Captain Murdock.

"Baby, I am not an idiot. Seriously."

Personally I try to be patient and kind with idiots. It’s actually part of my job. I’d never call them idiots to their faces, and I’d also never engage in any sort of argument with them (remember the old advice about not trying to wrestle a pig?) Most of them, judging by the cell-phone and driver surveys, aren’t aware of their own idiocy anyway.

I’ve found two healthy ways to deal with idiots. I can gently try and guide them in the direction of knowledge and enlightenment: suggesting good books, debunking myths, speaking in a measured, grammatically correct way. I can also wear a mask of restrained gentility, which is what I have to do anyhow. If I fight on their level, or drag myself down, I’m not doing myself nor them any favors.

Since idiocy seems to be a lot like herpes (just when you think you’ve vanquished it, it rears its ugly head at the worst time), I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a whole lot I as a single person can do about it. I treat it the way I treat mosquitoes in the summer. Plenty of preventative measures to keep the little buggers out. Even so, I wind up with a few stray bites.

I’m also not going to take advantage of idiots. If I had a con-artist side, I might well be rich by now considering the personas I can put on (I once convinced an idiot fellow passenger on an airplane that I was a Scottish scion to an import-export business called MacVandelay Industries.) But that’s not me. I’d much rather just be left alone, skirting the fringes of society and privately laughing at everyone else’s idiocy.

And when that gets boring, I head to the ice rink or the target range. Purely as a release…nothing more.

Man, I'm glad I'm not an idiot

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on March 2, 2011.

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