The Fatuous

Back when I was in school, I once had a part-time job in an office filled with a gaggle of women who’d been working there since they dropped out of high-school 20 years ago. They felt quite superior to me because they had had “good” jobs since they were teenagers and didn’t have to waste a lot of time and money in school like I was. They thought I was the most ridiculous female they’d ever known.

If I tried to correct the spelling on some document, they’d ask what difference it made how the word was spelled since we all knew what it meant anyway.

They said stuff like, if everyone in the world was a vegetarian the earth would become overrun with cows and pigs and chickens and stuff.

One day the temperature plummeted to way, way below zero and they were all crowing about hopes for a snow day the next day. I should have known better, but I mentioned that it won’t snow if it’s this cold. Well, that just cracked them up. “Oh ya, we forgot, it has to be summer to snow. Har har har.”

And on and on like that all afternoon. I didn’t know the science behind it all, but I offered to bring in a textbook that would explain it all.

“Don’t bother,” they said. “We already know the colder it is, the more it snows. They can write anything in a book.”

They mocked me over that snow thing until the day I left that miserable hell hole.

I think if I had to pick one quality that I find absolutely the most irksome in a human being, it would be this form of self-satisfied stupidity. A stupidity that believes itself to be full of wisdom and knowledge. A stupidity that gushes from a mind so tightly closed that not a glimmer of light will ever penetrate it again.

I admit that there are oceans full of stuff I know nothing about. There are zillions of facts, ideas, concepts, notions, philosophies, etc., etc., that completely confound and elude me. So, I’m not saying everyone has to be an egghead or even be highly knowledgable or formally educated or anything. Not at all. People are much more interesting if they’re curious, open-minded, continuously engaged in learning.

But the smugly stupid refuse to realize just how pig-ignorant they are. These are the people who get their news from the National Examiner because the National Enquirer has too many words.

These are the people who, for example, still think it’s the most hilarious thing ever that people eat tofu (even though people have been eating tofu for hundreds of years). The people who have an endless storehouse of “slimy tasteless white stuff “ jokes. And, who staunchly declare that no way they’d ever put that shit in their mouths (while snarfing donuts).

These are the people who believe Obama wasn’t really born in the US based on nothing more than the fact that they don’t like having a president of colour.

People like the neighbour who told me the other day that he was taking all his money out of the bank because, “They got some Ay-Rab in charge there now. All those people steal, so I told them flat out – I’m not leaving my money here to be stolen by the Ay-Rabs.”

People (and there are a surprising number of them) who refuse to set foot in an ethnic restaurant because it’s not “normal” food or because “all those people eat cats and dogs and try to pass it off as chicken.”

People who believe that the institution of marriage is sacred and that it the sacredness depends not on emotional connection but on a specific configuration of genital connection.

People like my aunt who does not see the relationship between her chronic, hacking cough and the pack and half of cigarettes she smokes every day. “No one has every proven that smoking is bad for you (cough, cough)” she rasps. “WHAT?” I say, in shock and awe. “Oh, they say a lot of stuff, but none of it has ever been proven, (cough, cough)”.

You get the idea.

It makes me so crazy. Every once in a while, my daughter will come out with some “fact” I’m pretty sure is incorrect. I ask her where she got this fact and it’s usually somebody at school told her who was told by somebody else. “Let’s look it up,” I say. And she gets all agitated that I won’t believe her. “My friends don’t lie!!!!!!” she exclaims and refuses to entertain the idea of double-checking.

Instead of pitching her out the window at this point, I will go and look up the fact myself and then come back later and show it to her when she (and I) have calmed down. So far she has grudgingly accepted that, indeed, her friends might not be the ultimate authorities on everything.

If I do nothing else as a parent I’m determined to squelch this particular quirk of hers before she gets too much older.

Because, I think, not to discourage this kind of stupidity would be a bad thing. As Aldous Huxley said:

At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.