On Stupidity

aerial view photography of container van lot

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything of substance here. Of course, after you read this you may determine I still haven’t posted anything of substance. You be the judge…but I don’t necessarily need to hear your verdict. 🙂

In fact, I’ve been awaiting a shipment of Drivel. Turns out it has been sitting in a cargo container at the Port of Baltimore for quite some time. The COVID-19 pandemic has been messing with a lot of things in our supply chain, eh?

You might remember the story of this blog. I started it right after a National Emergency was declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You also might remember that one of my first rants was about stupid people. Truly, no insult is intended when I suggest people are being stupid. When someone is stupid, I argued then on the basis of a definition from Google Dictionary, it is because that one is “showing a great lack of common sense.” That definition has recently been updated by Google Dictionary from the Oxford Languages to read as follows: “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense.

No insult is intended because, in fact, all of us have been stupid at some time. There is no sin in stupidity, thankfully, because I have been among the stupidest of the stupid. Indeed, I have been the Prince…no, make that King…no, make that Emperor of Stupid. I won’t go into the details. You’ll have to trust me when I say that I’ve been truly stupid at times. Because I have to count myself among the stupid, it is hard to point fingers at other stupid people.

Still, it is important for us to talk about stupidity because of its danger.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and minister who was also concerned about stupid people. His interest in stupid people grew as he watched Adolph Hitler come to power in Germany prior to World War II. His observations grew into a Theory of Stupidity. Now, I’m not going to try to explain it because this video from Sprouts School does it so much better than I ever could. Before you read on, take the next 6 minutes to watch it. You won’t regret it.

Welcome back! Pretty fascinating stuff, huh? You can read the excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s papers that inspired this video and I hope you will. The video uses much of that text word-for-word. It is useful to have the text in front of you for your reflection. But let me pull a couple of interesting quotes from that text and include them here.

You’ve probably noted already that Bonhoeffer could take issue with one aspect of the Oxford Languages definition. He might not agree that stupid people can be lacking intellect. On the other hand, though, he might agree because he also writes:  

The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

The reason for their stupidity, Bonhoeffer argues, is that they are made stupid or that they allow it to happen to themselves. Indeed, people may not only sacrifice their common sense but their intellect to others. How and why that happens Bonhoeffer wonders.

Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity…The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote reminds me of a video I saw on both Twitter (not always a reliable source) and in Newsweek (a usually more reliable source) during the past few days. Here’s the gist of it from the person who posted it on Twitter:

End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, and then it claimed to be Xerxes, and then Jesus got involved, and then the alien turned out to be a reptile with a posse of gargoyles.

@hemantmehta

I know. You are wondering if this is an accurate rendering of the clips. I did too. It is but, really, you need to go back to the links above and watch it for yourself just as I did to be sure.

Two things are noteworthy to me in the video clips. First is the banner that runs under the video. You can make a donation and receive The Great Delusions DVD set by Josh Peck. Uh huh. Second, at the end of the video that same Josh Peck, who is one of the two guys listening to this story and nodding along in rapt belief says, “Well, the Bible says…” and then the video cuts off. Don’t you also want to know how in the world Josh Peck connects ANYTHING she said with the Bible?!?

However, this behavior from Josh raises an even bigger question: Can Josh Peck even recognize a great delusion when it is sitting six feet from him? Of course, this distance calculation does assume they are practicing “social distancing” and why wouldn’t they, right?

Sharon Gilbert is an evangelist who specializes in End Times fear mongering. She talked about this close encounter of an alien hook-up on Jim Bakker‘s television show (yes, he still has a show). Now, consider who she is and what she wants in light of Bonhoeffer’s quote about “every strong upsurge in power” whether of a political or religious nature. I’m not sure which kind of power she is craving but it could, of course, be both. Do people listen to her and follow her, thereby granting her power? According to her Twitter account, over 6,700 stupid souls do follow her. Again, “stupid” is not an insult. These are people who, in Bonhoeffer’s words, have been made stupid and allowed this to happen to themselves. I’ll let you count for yourself the number of people in that one video segment (including Jim Bakker whom you only hear) who are clamoring for so much power over others.

Stupid people are on my mind again because we are now over two years since the Novel Coronavirus first appeared on the scene in China. We are 20 months…yes, 20…since the National Emergency began. Through 2021 we have all been yearning for a return to “normal.” Yet, we learned this week COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. in 2021 are higher than they were in 2020, even with vaccines widely available, accessible to most Americans, and usually free. Look, I know there are legitimate reasons why people cannot take the COVID-19 vaccines, but stupidity should not be one of them. Let’s be honest…stupidity accounts for millions of people refusing the vaccine.

Yesterday, as American’s were celebrating a mostly “in person” Thanksgiving, news was breaking about a new “heavily mutated” COVID-19 variant in South Africa, Botswanna, Belgium, Hong Kong, and Israel that is scaring the pudding out of epidemiologists and researchers. Overnight, European countries that were reopening are closing again to travelers from South Africa. Earlier today, Friday, November 26th, the World Health Organization named the new variant Omicron. In the same article New York Times reports the U.S. is closing its borders to seven countries in Africa. Curiously, though, we are not closing to Hong Kong, Belgium, and Israel. Hmmm.

Bear in mind what Bonhoeffer said about stupid people. They are more dangerous than evil people.

Why is this?

When people become stupid they relinquish their intellect and common sense to another person who needs them to do this so they can feel powerful. Whether it is an End Times preacher, a spouse, a colleague, a boss, a leader, a politician, or even a president it matters little. The effect on the stupid person is the same: they give up the ability to think critically for oneself. They become a mindless clone for person who seeks to control them like a puppet. As the Bonhoeffer video illustrated, they even begin to sound like the person who has taken their intellect, sense, and power. Hence, they become a weaponized minion of the powerful one.

If we are to find our way out of the pandemic, we’ve got to help free the people who are stupid about the pandemic. Bonhoeffer writes,

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Frankly, I’m not sure what “external liberation” looks like in this situation, especially in an age when social media holds so many people captive to the unadulterated, unmediated crap it flings at us.

I do believe in the power of relationship to help people find a way out of stupidity. Daryl Davis, in his TEDx Talk, gives us some hope for how to use relationship to liberate people from their stupidity. However, like Davis, we have to find the will to act and the courage to engage.

If you liked this TEDx talk, you may also enjoy the longer documentary from PBS about Davis, Accidental Courtesy.

Remember, as Bonhoeffer wrote, “The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.”


Farewell to Facebook…er the Meta-verse

In case you hadn’t heard, Facebook has a new name. The new name for the company that we used to know simply as Facebook is Meta. The name change came at a time shortly after Frances Haugen (aka The Facebook Whistleblower) went public with everything she knew about the nefarious company and its leadership. At a time when the company is being seriously questioned about its power and its abuse of power, it decides to announce that it desires even more power…you know, Meta power! Sigh. Now, doesn’t THAT give you confidence in the leadership of Meta?

For me, that was it. I decided to leave all things Facebook in October. Honestly, I can’t remember when I’ve felt better! It’s a great feeling to be unhooked from that time, brain, and soul sucking platform. Okay, so that’s how I experienced those platforms it and I respect you if that is not your experience. Just don’t try to Messenger me. You can still reach me through this blog or in the following ways:

Leaving all things Meta means I won’t be sharing this blog on Facebook, What’s App, Messenger, Instagram, etc. You are welcome to share it in anyway you like. I’ll still speak to you and count you as a friend. But my divorce from Meta is now final.

Author: The Driveler

Tom Klaus is the Driveler. On March 16, 2020, the first day of the Novel Coronavirus shelter-in-place order for his state, he started writing a daily blog to keep himself from stressing too much about the pandemic situation. He thought the daily blogging would last for only a couple of week but it stretched on to 77 consecutive days. Then he continued writing daily for a while after that as well. At some point the blog became The Daily Drivel...mostly because he was mostly writing the stream of consciousness drivel that was pouring out of his head, running down his face, and, sometimes, out of his mouth. In November 2020 he launched The Daily Drivel as a free-standing website/blog.

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