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.