Sunday, August 1, 2010

As It Stands: 'I know I'm right' syndrome or being stupid and proud of it

Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted: 08/01/2010 01:30:22 AM PDT

Regardless of the way some of us act, no one is perfect. That's where stupidity comes in. Because we know we're not perfect we often try to cover up our mistakes, or even the mistakes of others. That's stupid because everyone knows their time to screw up will come. It's as inevitable as taxes and death.

I won't even attempt to number the stupid mistakes I've made in my life. I sometimes talk about my stupidest failures and joke about them, hoping to get a smile or laugh that could help take away the sting.

James F. Welles, Ph.D, the author of “Understanding Stupidity: an Analysis of the Unnatural Selection of Beliefs and Behavior in Institutions and Organization,” wrote that not all failures are stupid. It seems in a behaviorist's universe, there is no such thing as stupidity. Behavior, Welles asserts, “is simply (or complexly) caused, and the corruption of the learning process and limitations on a living system's ability to adapt are inherent in the process of life.”

An understanding of how stupidity affects us could make us better people. We call self-deception stupid because we ignore facts that could help or hurt us. For example, say you're a politician arguing there's no such thing as “Global Warming” and you find new relevant information that proves otherwise.

What do you do? Change your position to reflect the truth or ignore it to further a political agenda? If you do the latter, you are stupid, greedy, or you have a broken moral compass.

Facts enlighten us and result in clear thinking. Accepting facts is acknowledging the truth. To turn away from facts is stupid. But not everyone is interested in the truth.

Go here to read the rest.


Ernie Branscomb said...

First, I know that you are right. Most people don’t want to change their minds. My problem, when it comes to politics, is that both sides seem like they are probably wrong, but we still have to make choices. We vote “yes” or “no”. There is no “what if we changed this just a little bit”.

The “stupid wars” that we are in is a good example of my frustration. What if we are truly at war to protect the U.S. from incredibly evil and hateful people. What if we just laid down our weapons and walked away, are there people that think that they wouldn’t still try to kill us? It worked for Gandhi, but Gandhi was not fighting against people that thought of him as an “infidel”. Still many of Gandhi’s people were murdered, while not defending themselves. And, indeed, Gandhi himself was eventually murdered. I’m not sure that I want to be killed just so I can be called “a man of peace”.

As Gump said; “Stupid is as stupid does”. I liked your column, it is very thought provoking. Now, if you could just provoke a few solutions that would fit in my stupid head.

Keep up your great work!

J2Bad said...

Complexity is the enemy of stupidity, but certainty is seductive because it just feels so good at an emotional level. That's why we so frequently boil things down to sides, and usually to just two of them. This or that, nothing in between. It's hard to fathom all the possibilities that actually exist in a complex world filled with billions of people, and rather than taking to time to become truly informed, we decide that things are either one thing or another, shutting out all that difficult complexity.

As Ernie points out, Gandhi's brilliance was not in simply imagining a new possibility, a new way to see the world, but in getting other people to see it along with him. That was a political, rather than simply an intellectual achievement. Today, our politics just seems dumber, and more willing to revel in its stupidity, to drum up ignorant fears of poorly understood "others" about whom all bad things can be attributed. When we ask, what if the people who attack us are just evil and hateful, we're giving in to the easy seduction that's so constantly offered by political opportunists. It's comforting to see the world in terms of good vs. evil, so we reward the people who feed us that comforting narrative.

But, of course, evil is just where you find it. No one thinks that they're evil. We don't, and we've killed way more of "them" (and their hapless neighbors) than they have of "us." And knowing that doesn't stop us from supporting the killing that we've become convinced is necessary, even though killing people indiscriminately and in such a wholesale way will only elongate the cycle of violence. That's too bad, too, because we could use some new possibilities.