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On stupidity

Thursday 22 March 2018

There seems to have been an awful lot of Stupidity around lately. I try to keep calm, intoning mantras ("DoooooooooooH"), and doing my best to avoid the dangerous pages of the newspaper ... which unfortunately means about 95%, and even the Weather page is an insistent reminder of global warming.

Because of this, perhaps, I have kept stumbling across juicy quotes about stupidity, and now have quite a list. So I thought I'd share them with you, as therapy. Here they are...

As a warm up, here are a couple of examples of high-grade Dumbitude:-

"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the children of Texas."

Attributed to Miriam 'Ma' Ferguson, Governor of Texas in the 1920s, in response to a campaign for English/Spanish bilingual education in Texas (possibly apocryphal, but still...)

And here's a bit of literary criticism:-

"One of the best things about books is that sometimes they have great illustrations."

George W. Bush

So, what are we to do with brain-aching gems like that? We can of course become incensed and point out in detail why such statements are ...er... inadequately matched to the real world, but...

"It's dangerous to argue with an idiot - to do so, you have to descend to his level, and he has more practice."

Anon (or at least I can't track down the source)

The vast rise in evident Stupidities has been fueled by the Internet, of course. Anybody can have a Stupid reaction to anything, and publish it world-wide in seconds - Whatsapp is perfect for knee-jerk, brain-dead responses; while Twitter is perfectly structured to reduce anything complex to over-simplification in 140 characters. Above all, the Internet makes for the democratic production of cooperative stupidity. As Mark Twain pointed out long before the Internet was imagined:-

"One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona-fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork."

The problem is that Stupid discussions lead to Stupid actions (take Brexit, for instance). Now, many Stupid political decisions are beyond our personal control (or anybody's control, in the case of Donald Trump), but we could at least start by improving the level of public discourse. For instance...

"It is better to keep your mouth shut and seem stupid, than to open it and remove all doubt."

Mark Twain again

Or to put it another way...

"Better to be master of your silence than slave of your words."

That quote was attributed to Shakespeare when I came across it, but it seems not. I thought it might be Polonius, but no ... and an internet search came up with attributions to various other people, or simply Anon. Any thoughts? Anyway, the Spanish, as so often, have a good version of this idea ...

"En boca cerrada no entran moscas."

Or 'If you keep your mouth shut, you won't swallow flies' - but the original Spanish sounds much pithier! A blunter, more Anglo-saxon version might be: "If you don't know what you're talking about, SHUT UP!"

(So perhaps I should...



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