I had a talk with a friend who is a Corrections Officer (prison guard) the day after a late night marathon of prison documentaries. I asked him what it was really like. He told me stories that dare genuinely terrifying. Prison is in fact much, much worse than anything caught on film. What he told me about being a guard going into prison every day is analogous to what it’s like dealing with stupid people. He explained that the prison actually belongs to the inmates, and that the guards are only visiting. During an eight-hour shift, the guards are held in mental and emotional captivity by prisoners who make foolish short-term decisions, disastrous long-term decisions, and despite being in prison for doing what they were imprisoned for and are planning to do again when they get out of prison, (drumroll) see no need to change their behavior.
That’s why the inmates, despite the best efforts of the guards can figure out how to make and smuggle drugs, kill, and escape. The prison is their life; it’s not complicated by family, a job, or romance.
Well, most inmates aren’t concerned with romance.
That’s what its like arguing with stupid people. The live in a static, blissfully ignorant world without the complexities and nuances that most wise or smart people use to filter and color their opinions. Stupid people leave no room for conflicting ideas or thoughts to be taken into consideration. Taking outside opinions into consideration doesn’t mean agreeing with them or changing your position on a subject. It just means that you understand that there is information that you don’t have that can help you form a better, more informed opinion.
I hesitate to use the word “smart”. Smart people are often well hidden and don’t expose themselves. They say far less than they think. They are also skilled at recognizing and avoiding contact with stupid people.
I suspect that the only reason that smart people hang around stupid people is because stupid is a temporary condition.
I’ve devised a series of questions that helps me to decide if I am stupid. Feel free to use them on yourself.
1) What are my deepest, fundamental, core-beliefs on _______?”
Hint: Religion, Sex, and Politics are great places to start.
2) “What evidence can someone give me that will change my opinion on _______?”
Hint: If the answer is “Nothing”, I’m being stupid.
Remember, stupidity is easily compartmentalized. It’s easy to be a clever, witty, smart man about 99% of the subjects I deal with, and be stupid about the last 1%. If I am ever in a situation and asked if I was stupid, I’d still have to say yes. I’m using these numbers because no one, in recorded history was “100% not stupid”. The best and brightest among us just try to recognize and eliminate our own stupidity.