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The complexity of stupidity

Phil reading
Phil Fitzpatrick


TUMBY BAY - Stupidity is a complicated subject. Context is everything.

Just as common sense can be nonsensical; cleverness can be stupid.

Stupidity comes in myriad forms. There is imbecility, idiocy, dullness, obtuseness, thickheadedness, foolishness, irrationality, illogicality, fatuity, silliness, lunacy, folly, senselessness, recklessness, and absurdity. To name a few.

Cleverness can also come in multiple forms. Apart from its positive manifestations like wisdom, acumen, savviness and intelligence, it can include many undesirable aspects.

They encompass cunning, craftiness, slyness, shiftiness, wiliness, trickery, deceit, connivance and deviousness.

A few gifted individuals can embrace stupidity in all of its forms simultaneously.

Others can selectively adjust their level of stupidity according to the situation at hand. Politicians are particularly good at this.

Donald Trump is a master moron. He’s so smart he’s stupid. But we’ve got some strong contenders in Australia too. It is slightly satisfying that some of them prove stupidity isn’t gender specific.

At the last election, one of these worthies had a policy of saving tradesmen’s fuel guzzling utilities from a perceived threat by electric vehicles.

Alarmingly, she’s still a minister in the government. To quote one commentator she “is just genuinely dumb; like, really dumb”.

One of the commonest forms of political stupidity is not thinking through what might be the unintended consequences an action or proposition.

Becoming involved in corruption, for instance, is basically a stupid idea. The lure of cash and other benefits tends to overwhelm rationality to such an extent that the impacts are not considered.

One of those ramifications is, of course, getting caught. Few corrupt politicians think about the odds of being found out when they solicit favours or accept bribes and kickbacks.

History tells us, however, that they will eventually be caught. That may not happen for many years, but it will happen.

It is only in places like Papua New Guinea, one of the most corrupt nations on earth, that a lot of corruption tends to go unpunished.

This highlights another form of stupidity, public acceptance of corruption as normal and inevitable.

Another consequence is the damage that corruption causes. This may be to other peoples’ lives, the environment or society in general. Knowingly doing something that will cause widespread damage is both evil and stupid.

Someone like Peter O’Neill, PNG’s disgraced ex-prime minister, may have gotten away with accumulating wealth from his devious activities but he managed to destroy his historical legacy in the process.

Of all the things he did, he will always be remembered as the man who held his nation up to ridicule and brought it to the point of bankruptcy. How stupid was that?

We all do stupid things. Being stupid is part of being human. We trust people who don’t deserve our trust and then we make excuses for them, particularly if they are family members or close kin.

We make unwise financial decisions. We get into our cars to drive when we’ve had too much to drink or taken illicit drugs.

Raging hormones are great assistors of stupidity. When we are young, particularly if we are male, we take unnecessary risks that are extremely stupid.

Ego is a great motivator of stupidity. So too are belief systems, particularly fundamentalist ones.

Stupidity is rampant among humans. It can go viral for the smallest reasons. The tiniest event can trigger stupidity on a mass scale and cause horrendous outcomes.

World War I caused 20 million deaths and was the outcome of a single assassin too stupid to realise the tragically stupid political consequences his action would provoke.

That war, as catastrophic as it was, will pale into insignificance at the latest iteration of mass human stupidity in ignoring its contribution to climate change.

We never learn because we are too stupid.


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Bernard Corden

Dear Phil,

The same minister implemented the JobActive Work for the Dole program, which resulted in the death of a young teenager at the Toowoomba showgrounds back in 2016. Over three years later the bereaving family is still awaiting an official report from the federal government.

Not too many vulnerable workers on a Newstart Allowance could afford cosmetic surgery or botox but it has not produced any significant evidence of critical thinking in the former employment minister and to quote the late irreverent Bernard Manning...…….."They ruined a good arse when they put teeth in her mouth"

Bernard Corden

"Credit is a system whereby a company that cannot pay gets another organisation which cannot pay to guarantee that it can pay." - Charles Dickens

Philip Kai Morre

What is the real definition of stupid, mad, psychopath, and other related words. What is a normal human being and abnormal human being.

Any measurement to measure their authentic self. I have experience with the longlongs in the street of Kundiawa that those perfect strangers are more energetic and intelligent.

They can think of the box if you listen carefully to their conversations. Their command of English is fluent and their reasoning is justifiable.

Nobody listen to Sigmund Freud or Albert Einstein in their scientific finding, with Freud into inner world of psychoanalysis and human consciousness and Einstein into outer world of space and time with his theory of relativity. Now they are geniuses. There are many people similar to those two example.

In fact Hitler or Amin are the worst type of mad leaders who caused millions of people to die as things went from bad to worse.

Even our own leaders with bad decisions cost the country millions of kina. They are thieves going around stealing.

Paul Oates

Maybe an answer is that often it takes a long time to catch up with the crooks since its a natural reaction to just 'put off until tomorrow what you should do today.'

The French king Louis knew he was sitting on a revolution but was supposed to have said: 'After me the flood.'

His successor then came undone and had his head chopped off like King Charles of Britain a hundred years earlier.

Were they too stupid of did they just lack the cunning to stay alive while they enjoyed the privileges at the expense of the many poor who suffered both before and after the revolution and beheading. What really happened is a coup at the top but not else at the bottom of the pile except more misery.

Today's Costa Nostra and cocaine kings are no different. The real heroes are those who bring them down despite the obvious reason why these people and their followers exist.

There wouldn't be an illegal drug problem if everyone didn't use the product or turn their back when they see what's going on. There wouldn't be corruption at the political level, government or in the public service if people reported it and the police were prepared and able to prosecute the perpetrators.

There wouldn't be scams over the internet if people didn't believe they could become rich or get what they desire by not working hard for it. That's what we used to say in the villages 50 years ago: "Inogat narapla rot. Em hat wok tasol em inap lo girapim PNG.'

Yet modern day cargo cults and there equivalents just keep coming. Horse racing, gambling and poker machines and their like are just updates of the same problem. Ponzi schemes like what happened in the US a decade ago haven't put people off from investing in high risk 'opportunities'. I've seen any number of down and outs who regularly 'invest' their meager funds in lotteries and Lotto in the hope of getting rich quick.

The whole world is caught up in a huge Ponzi scheme or credit problem that everyone hopes will just be put off until they are dead. Everyone is living off credit and if the roundabout ever stops, the world's finance system will inevitably collapse.

Where does the problem start? With you and me.

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