Just Plain Stupid

The technological marvels of our era have promoted mass vanity, the delusion that we are the masters of our destiny: a perfect storm for mass stupidity.

William Kilpatrick’s recent article “Should Transgender Criminals Plead Insanity?” got me thinking, not about transgender issues, per se, but about the bigger societal picture.

It seems that nearly every day I read some headline or essay that describes the condition of modern society to be one of mass insanity, which, to me, goes too much in the way of clinicalizing our condition—reducing it to a disease, a label that somewhat excuses it, making of it something that happened—that victimized us—rather than something we chose. Indeed, for those among us swathed in this nonsense from birth, it may in fact be inculcated insanity, but how about the rest of us?

I say, let’s just call it what it is: mass stupidity. The technological marvels of our era have promoted mass vanity, the delusion that we are the masters of our destiny: a perfect storm for mass stupidity. 

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Stupid. It’s not a politically correct word. At all. “Mama says, ‘Stupid is as stupid does,’” the very talkative Forest Gump would tell his lifetime friend Jenny—or anyone else who would listen. Just in case the reader is among the rare few who have never seen the movie Forest Gump and don’t know its titular character, let me introduce you. The main character, Forest, was very slow mentally. Yet, his mother had struggled to bless him with as much common wisdom as she could muster. Gump’s simple, blunt truth—that our decisions and resultant actions display our mind and heart—is unassailable. 

A while back, on a visit to the home of one of our children, in a conversation about politics, I expressed my exasperation over a certain policy that was being employed—calling the policy out for what it was: stupid. I was immediately, quietly chastised by a preschool grandchild who politely informed me, “We don’t say stupid, Grandpa.” 

Of course, I would expect nothing less of my children as parents than to set reasonable boundaries for politeness’ sake, so bringing this up is not intended as any kind of a judgment. And recalling my own childhood, we would have done well with a little less name calling.  

Still, though my siblings and I were chastised for calling each other stupid, it seemed that, in the culture of the day, nobody had a problem applying that label to a public policy, someone’s horrendous action, or to ludicrous ideas or ideologies.

Of course, when I say stupid, I’m not talking about low intelligence, I’m talking about foolishness; nor am I suggesting that it is in any way proper, polite, or moral to use the word as a label for a person.

I know individuals with extremely low natural intelligence—the Forest Gumps of the world—who are much wiser than some of the most naturally intelligent people ever, people who seem to spend much of their time in a self-induced stupor wherein the workings of the mind have been gummed up with sick self-interest and consensus peer pressure to the point where the gears no longer turn. To choose the pathetic paths some of us choose over the destiny God provides for us is just plain stupid.

Angels, and human souls, created in the image of God, are intellect and will. A will so completely given over to evil that its decisions are reduced to the computation of the means of self-gratification is not much of a will. Just as a blind person’s hearing often acquires a spatial recognition ability far beyond that of a sighted person, the soul of a person given over to evil—blind, in essence, to all that is good—becomes little more than raw intellect; somewhat of a computer, a thing nearly devoid of personhood. 

Perhaps this is why it too often seems that wisdom is inversely proportional to natural intelligence—that there is a seeming positive correlation between high IQ and arrogance. Every God-given gift, especially any that exceeds what is average, is a temptation to arrogance, and vanity and foolishness are very common bedfellows. And if one has become blind to the true, the good, and the beautiful, one’s untempered intellect is all that remains—a great forerunner of artificial intelligence.

And yet, even Chat GPT knows better. I recently gave it the following assignment: “Please read all of my published articles at Crisis Magazine and write a 300-word essay, in my style, in first person, explaining why, while artificial intelligence is possible, artificial wisdom is not, and how intelligence, without wisdom, is a very dangerous thing.” It nailed it, saying that

Wisdom requires not only knowledge but also experience, intuition, and a sense of morality.

And summed up saying

…while artificial intelligence may be possible, artificial wisdom is not. Without wisdom, intelligence can become a dangerous tool that can cause harm and perpetuate inequality.

That’s a good computer. I gave it a pat on the head.

We have grown used to the adage, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” In fact, most of us have no problem recognizing that we are sinners. Would we be just as open to an adage that says, “Love the one who acts stupidly; hate the stupidity”? 

People, it seems, are fine with admitting that they offend God and neighbor. That is, we are fine with admitting that we are sinners, that we make selfish, petty, immoral decisions; but many of us are not fine with having any of our actions described as stupid. 

Why is it that we would be alright with admitting that we are weak, petty, selfish human beings, but we would be offended at the suggestion that we blunder stupidly? I mean, is there really any difference? Another old adage says, “Do not bite the hand that feeds you.” That’s a pretty straightforward concept. After all, to do so would be stupidly against our own self-interest.

But isn’t that what we do every time we sin? We disobey, we offend, we betray the One who created us. How much stupider could anything be? The plain fact of the matter is that evil is stupid. Acts of stupidity are not always immoral, but immoral acts are always stupid, for in the end of all ends, they wreak greater havoc on the sinner than on his victims. 

Secrets of Playboy, a 10-part series that aired some time back on A&E, detailed the stupid lifestyle of Hugh Hefner, how he used people for pleasure, leaving misery and suicides in his wake. In Hefner’s own words, “If a man has a right to find God in his own way, he has a right to go to the Devil in his own way also.” 

Choosing to go to Hell for a few momentary putrid bodily excesses is just plain stupid. Let’s call things what they are. The world is getting progressively more technologically advanced and progressively more foolish in the process.  Choosing to go to Hell for a few momentary putrid bodily excesses is just plain stupid. Let’s call things what they are. The world is getting progressively more technologically advanced and progressively more foolish in the process.Tweet This

John the Baptist, in preparing the way for “the one whose sandal strap I am not worthy to unfasten,” thought it necessary to reprimand Herod concerning his unlawful marriage to his brother’s wife; to call sin sinful; to call the sinner’s attention to his sin in an effort to save his soul. 

In like manner, I submit that we all have a responsibility to call stupidity stupid. We need to do so in as kindly a fashion as possible, but do so we must. Admittedly, stupidity is not always the result of serious evil; some atrociously stupid things are pursued due to laziness, carelessness, or a desire to fit in—things that seem to be minor sins. But the world can go to Hell just as surely from pettiness as from boldness. Petty sins pave the way for bold evil. 

Theologians think that Lucifer was the most astounding natural creation of all, possessing the greatest natural intellect of any creature. Surely, in the final analysis, that makes him the stupidest of all, for he had the most to lose; and in a fit of arrogance, he forfeited all without gain. 

It will be said that we need to meet people where they’re at to convince them that sinning is not in their best interest—in this life or the next. However, for Hugh Hefner, having his sins pointed out to him had become a point of pride. He thought he was being smart—squeezing the most physical pleasure possible into a short life at the expense of others. 

I suppose that, to paraphrase Chesterton, Hefner was stupidly happy in the way that the beasts are stupidly happy. And that is the point; he lived a stupid, pointless life, and he left a stupid, pointless legacy. Stupid, bestial happiness is not real happiness because we are not mere beasts, and the pursuit of such creates an emotional and spiritual wasteland of unfulfillment—a pointless wallowing in self-delusion.   

In Matthew 5:22, Jesus cautions us that “whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” Undeniably wise. But we do it to ourselves. We are the ones who have a perennial penchant for finding our identity in our temptations and our faults. The admonition to call no man a fool in no way obliges us to not call foolishness foolhardy. Christ wanted us to know that it is reprehensible to reduce a person to his sins—that is the devil’s game. 

However, it is worse still not to call one’s attention to the sins he commits, or to fail to expose sin for the massively stupid thing that it is. Exposing the stupidity of it all peels back that veneer of sophistication that comfortably shrouds evil, a veneer that makes it all seem smart and modern and freeing; the veneer that all too often has characterized the media’s lapdog, sycophantic portrayal of Hugh Hefner and ilk.  

The sycophant who has the delusion of having hitched his wagon to a star is not likely to ever see the gross stupidity of that star, especially if that delusion has brought him pleasure, wealth, and accolades. One does best to develop a healthy fear of the never-ending cascade of glitzy short-term goals that endlessly present themselves to us, for they are most often the foundation of the stupidity that would claim our fate.

Foolishness has become the national norm. Our country’s near sole source of computer chips is a murderous, godless, communist regime. We finance a war against a nation that supplies our oil and then we release our oil reserves to gain short-term price relief. We’ve developed a huge trade deficit for the sake of short-term low prices on things we should be manufacturing ourselves. The dollar will fall because it has been manipulated for short-term political ends. Men are winning women’s swim meets. Kids are told that they can choose their gender…

The list goes on and on and on. Many of us vote based on short-term personal gain and pop consensus—the foundations of all stupidity. It seems that a growing number of us choose our religious affiliations by the same process. How else does megachurch prosperity theology get to be a thing? It certainly has no root in revelation. 

It is, of course, especially in our current culture, considered crude and uncultured to use the word stupid, a norm that is perhaps this culture’s cleverest accomplishment: the maligning of the very word that best describes it!

As for me, I gladly prefer crudity to stupidity, and I will gladly be considered uncultured if current culture is the measure.


  • Jerome German

    Jerome German is a retired manufacturing engineer, husband, father of eleven, and grandfather of a multitude. He contributes articles to Crisis Magazine and Catholic Stand. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he has recently (under the pseudonym Jerome Linus) taken up the long-overdue task of recording and publishing songs that he has been writing for most of his life. His first effort, In God We Trust, hit stores worldwide on January 12.

tagged as: Art & Culture Politics

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