The world is full of stupid people doing stupid things. All around me, all the time, a level of ineptitude that can only be explained by the fact that a large percentage of the population must surely be clinically daft. And stupidity comes in many guises: politics, religion, administration and business are always a gold mine of nincompoopery, but there are examples everywhere, as evidenced by this completely random top-of-my-head selection:
Town planners who signpost your selected destination for the first three roundabouts, but not the last two. People who still text or phone while driving, which even they must know is statistically as dangerous as drunk driving. Footballers who regularly commit pointless and unnecessary fouls in dangerous positions that frequently lead directly to the opponents scoring. People who create instructions for putting flat-pack furniture together that don’t make sense because there is no hole G into which you are supposed to insert dowel B. A group of siblings who spend £1m on lawyer’s fees in the courts arguing over what was a £1m inheritance. Creationists who deny the existence of dinosaurs despite overwhelming evidence because they would rather take literally what is in a two thousand year old book. Experienced athletes who ease up at the line at an Olympics semi-final to ‘save energy’ and get pipped at the post. People renting their apartments online who think they will entice prospective tenants with just two dingy blurred photos, both of a sofa. The Flat Earth Society. Reckless tombstoning (google it). The list is endless.
But how do we define stupidity? Often it is un-arguable, but it can also be subjective. Most people would agree that you should judge it against a benchmark of common sense. But who defines common sense? We all think we have it, and presumably we all consider that the judgements we make are founded on it. But one man’s common sense can be another man’s nonsense.
Of course I myself could in no way be considered stupid; it is the buffoons around me who are the problem. But wait…. who was it who spent time and money fixing a brass sign saying ‘please shut the gate’ to the inside of my gate, so it was not visible when the gate was open and could only be seen when the gate was already shut? Who spent 50 minutes on the phone waiting for a call centre to answer, then as soon as it did, managed to press the ‘terminate call’ button instead of the speakerphone button? Who walked 4 miles to a cheap supermarket yesterday to get some bread, bought some other things while I was there, and got home to find the one thing I had forgotten to buy was the bread? Yes, alright, alright, it was me.
We all do stupid things occasionally, yet funnily enough we judge other people’s stupidity much more harshly than our own. They are prize idiots, we just made an uncharacteristic mistake. Well at least that’s one thing we can all agree on.