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.


42 responses to “The Fatuous

  1. I’ve been lucky enough to never have been in a work situation with people like that, though I do disagree with some of the bone-headed perceptions of people I’ve worked with.

    In semi-social situations, though, I’ve run into the chronically ignorant. The one that comes immediately to mind is from when we were on a bowling league. I didn’t even try to discuss anything of significance. I just bowled and chatted. The ones who were the worst, of course, were the smokers.

    We finally quit bowling the season that I was going to retire. We were planning to travel — AND we had just had it with the smoking as it was the only time we were around cigarettes any more.

    The next year smoking was banned from all business building where people were employed. I imagine the smokers were upset about that.

    I have one old friend from high school who sends me all the stupid stuff. I don’t remember her as being particularly ignorant back then, but…

  2. It’s unfortunate that people run about thinking in a closed minded manner, but it’s great that some of us can recognize it. Thanks for posting.

  3. GAH, I can’t believe your neighbour actually said that. What an arse.

    The food stuff made me laugh. I used to work with a couple of guys who complained bitterly whenever we went out to lunch at a place that served “weird” stuff. To them, “weird” described any food that wasn’t a hamburger & fries, pepperoni pizza, or steak & potato. I used to take great delight in ordering whatever I figured the most ethnic and/or vegetarian item on the menu, just to get a rise out of them.

  4. Bravo!
    The world will be okay (in relative terms) as long as there are those of us who are not close-minded.

  5. “These are the people who get their news from the National Examiner because the National Enquirer has too many words.”


    Let’s hope the film “Idiocracy” never comes true!

    – RG>

  6. What a hellish bunch of people to work with. Tell me it didn’t snow despite the fact that it was too cold…

    But the smugly stupid refuse to realize just how pig-ignorant they are.


    the sacredness depends not on emotional connection but on a specific configuration of genital connection.

    had me giggling maniacally at my desk. Thanks, I needed that.

  7. Mike – Who knew bowling would attract people like that?

    Dr. Monkey – We’re practically twins, aren’t we?

    ETC – It’s more than unfortunate sometimes — it can be downright dangerous.

    Mary Lynn – He’s said lots of other head-shaking stuff. This was just the latest. The food stuff gets old so quickly for me — but never for those who think it’s so damn funny to ridicule my food choices all the freakin’ time.

    Bob – Where ya been, dude? I see you on the FB all the time, but not so much in bloggy world (where it really matters). But I’m not so sure about your hypothesis given that some people believe the stupid are procreating at a much faster rate than the not stupid.

    Grouchy – “Hiyo” ha ha ha. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Idiocracy. I think you mentioned it before. I’m really gonna have to see it.

    Jazz – NO! Of course it didn’t snow. I think that was probably the worst job I ever had — the work itself was okay, but everything else about it was horrible.

  8. Oh, how I wish I had written this. Lovely, funny stuff with a real bite. My kids did that too, at one point; I think it is part of the growth of the intelligence. What is really scary is that so many people never grow past it.
    Just a comment to Mike. I smoke. I know it is stupid. Doesn’t mean I have to be stupid in all areas. You sound like my husband and the ‘woman drivers’ he castigates even when they have heavy beards.

  9. Good on you for “squelching this particular quirk” of XUP Jnr. I recall a time of my shy, conflicted, teenagerhood when I silently asked myself why I felt such doubt about the rightness of a particular fact or comment when adults should be so much more intelligent than us young ‘uns. Archie Bunker really helped me realize the stupid fallibility of adults.

  10. I couldn’t agree more.
    The greatest gift in life is curiosity.
    The most dangerous thing is certainty.
    All that aside, Ooooh slimy white stuff, and hee hee you said genital.

  11. omygod – so true – I know one of those that is proud to never have read a book. ugg

    Heck you don’t need a textbook to explain high & low pressure systems – it is the papers on a daily basis!

  12. Tell me about it… one of the reasons I moved form the small town that I grew up in was the small-minded, xenophobic idiocy that seemed to be everywhere! Not to suggest that these folks are confined to small towns, but they just seem to be more dominant there!

    Sadly XUP – and maybe I’m just being negative about this – but I think it is we who are the minority here. Look at the people we elect (e.g., Stephen Harper, George W), the shows on TV (e.g., anything that ends with …Idol) and popular culture in general (the public and widespread profound grief over Michael Jackson’s death, NASCAR, MMA fighting) and it seems that the idiots are indeed in charge.

  13. I wish I had written this post. I come across this quite often (as we all do) and it takes a lot of energy for me to not grab someone and shake some sense into them. I don’t know everything, but I admit it. I don’t understand taking pride in being stupid or unaware. In my opinion, it’s the worst thing people can do.

  14. Preachin’ to the choir sista! Can I get an A-MEN!!

    Living in the US for almost 6 years I have stories upon stories upon stories!! Not saying that back home does not do this as well. I am surrounded by those people who think that Obama was not born here.

    The weirdest thing I find is that most people do not realize down here that zee is zed most other places!! I know, I’m crazy!

  15. Grouchy – Where would we be without YouTube?

    MaryG – I’m thinking/hoping it’s just part of being young, too. I seem to remember knowing everything at some point in my life. And, it’s interesting isn’t it, that smoking is being equated with stupidity these days? I don’t think everyone who smokes is stupid even though smoking isn’t the cleverest thing to do.

    Violestky – Good old Archie Bunker… were shy?? I don’t believe it.

    Bandobras – “The greatest gift in life is curiosity. The most dangerous thing is certainty.”… Are you sure?

    Elliot – Well this was a while ago, before the internet and before weather became the news. And, do you actually think a newspaper explanation of high and low pressure would have convinced them? The textbook had simple diagrams.

    Trashee – I wasn’t going to even get started on TV shows because lots of people watch various programs I’d never watch, but they seem like reasonable people otherwise. But generally speaking, the fatuous DO seem to rule the roost.

    Mo – I agree. And they’re always so self-righteous. Like you implied, these are the people most likely to inspire violence.

    Helen – It’s too bad that you have to experience America in an environment like that. How much longer do you have to be there?

  16. Why do you hate the United States? Do we have to invade you? Because we will the next time we vote in a Republican President. Remember the U.S. invented Hippies, Hippy Chick. I can Photo shop up the documentation to prove it too. Well just as soon as I am done with the Birth Certificate for Obama’s New Jersey Birth in the same damn hospital where I was born…which is going to look really awesome too wait and see.

  17. P.S.: Look on the happy side all those women you worked with back then are probably dead.

    I think of that a lot when young people come to work here and I say pithy things to them like, “Remember what I just said when you are my age, because I’ll be dead and won’t be able to throw it up in your face.” Wow, I think I just figured out why I am one of the few workers in this company with my own office…dang.

  18. I admit to being completely closed minded about food (I’m very upfront about the fact that I am a picky, boring eater with no desire to broaden my horizons), and I do generally avoid ethnic restaurants, not because I think the food is “weird shit” or because I have bigoted ideas about the culture, but because I just don’t like the smell of strong spices like curries. (A coworker is eating a very strongly spiced Asian lunch right now in the next cubicle and it would be killing me if I didn’t have a cold right now.)

    I also admit to watching more of the “stupid shows” than any sane person should, but I really am quite a sensible and reasonable person otherwise. No, really. Hey, they give me some good fodder for ranting, if nothing else. 😉

    You definitely *should* watch “Idiocracy”. You might have nightmares that the future shown in it will really come to pass, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And, yes, it is campy. But fun campy.

  19. Stupid people annoy me too. Like everyone else who has commented here, I have also dealt with many of them throughout my life, and the one good thing I can say about them is that because they exist, I have perfected my eye-rolling technique. (Not that they even notice …)

  20. I find this ties in with your post earlier this week…about poverty and why some people don’t succeed.

    Some people are poor, because even though they’re honestly working hard, they can’t get ahead. They never got that lucky break, or never got a decent education.

    But…on the other hand, some people don’t succeed…well…because they’re STUPID. (For precisely the reasons you rant about above).

    Guess which group I feel the most sorry for?

  21. Good point Friar. What bugs me most is the ones who succeed in spite of their stupidity, and then act smugly superior to everyone who didn’t succeed.

  22. If you don’t mind me saying so, I believe this is one of your better posts.

    As for smoking, I’m surprised how many people still do. It’s craziness. My mom was a smoker years ago (among other things) and she’d say, “Come on, son, you only live once.” (There’s a classic if I’ve ever heard one.)

    Now, in her mid-seventies, she says, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken care of myself.”

  23. I’ve smoked cigarettes and cigars and a pipe (not hash or crack – tobacco) for the better part of 30 years now with no real ill effects. So I will claim that there is no real proof.
    You people who think you know everything really annoy those of us who do.

  24. @zoom

    Exactly. These are the people that should just shut up and thank their lucky stars they got to where they did.

    Instead, they’ll lecture you because they “know better”, and they’ll treat you like you’re some kind of idiot.

    I have a PhD…I dont’ like to wave my education in people’s faces…but sometimes the ass-clowns make it SO TEMPTING…

  25. Cedar – Where do I say anything about the US and/or hating ya’ll? As for you — I think you’re the best mentor a young American person could have on the job. Well…depends on the job, I suppose.

    Louise – At least you’re aware that the shows you watch are stupid and enjoy them for their stupidity and your reasons for sticking to the Wonderbread diet seem reasonable. Although.. have you tried Vietnamese food? It’s very plain – no sauces or spices — just lots of fresh stuff and then you can add the sauces later if you want. And tofu? Tofu is as plain as you can get. Have you tried that?

    Hallie – Hey! How’s the sailiing?

    Bandobras – Maybe….

    Pinklea – There’s nothing like a good eye-roller. Although if the rolled eyes are aimed at you, there’s also nothing as annoying. I can roll the eyes with the best of them. We should form a support group or something.

    Friar – Ya, I’m not feeling sorry for the smugly stupid whether they’re poor or rich.

    Zoom – Sometimes it almost seems like being fatuous is actually the key to success.

    Tom – I’m having a bit of a stroke here that you actually approve of one of my posts. (Give me a minute…) BTW – you mom stole that line from George Burns. And yes, I’m also surprised at how many people still smoke, Especially hospital workers. And government employees. Their buildings are always lined with smokers and cigarette butts.

    Lebowski – Smoking constricts your blood vessels — especially the important ones that carry oxygen to your brain.

  26. My thoughts turned to this post when I read of the Burger King workers in Missouri who ousted a mom from their restaurant because her 6-month-old wasn’t wearing shoes. You know…no shirt, no shoes, no service! Such stupidity.

  27. Agree, agree, agree! And also think it’s one of the finer posts you’ve written (that I’ve read yet).

    I find these people very scary … You cannot reason w/ them or debate or discuss. They are righteous in their ignorance … :~(

    And Ottawa is full of them – I don’t get how such a rich (and I’m not talking funds) city can be full of such close-minded craziness, esp Kanata where I live.

  28. My step-daughters are always trying to “educate” us with some tid-bit of generally highly inaccurate information that their friends told them. I’m extremely quick to make them research these stories, particularly if I know it’s a ball of lies. Their faith in the veracity what other people tell them is shaken, and I think that’s good.

    Every opportunity I get I am trying to get them to question things… question what other people tell them, question what TV says, question advertisements. I want them to think things through for themselves and be fully engaged.

  29. You know I always loved you. You’re just so damn petty…er, I mean pretty…damn pretty, when angry and calling me names. Gets me all frisky. Someone’s gotta keep you on your toes.

  30. @XUP

    Yes, ideally, people shouldn’t smoke.

    Or drink excessively. Or eat too much. Or eat meat, gamble. drive too fast, do extreme sports, fly to vacation resorts, have multiple kids, watch TV, drink too much coffee, or curse and swear.

    But they do.

    Who DOESN’T have a vice they enjoy?

  31. I remember when I had my first job as a nurse being talked down to because I got my BS in nursing while the others had just gone to nursing school. I think they thought I was less of a nurse. Because I was so young, they did plant a seed of doubt in me. People should think before speaking. Seems to me that there are more and more stupid people these days. I’m getting cranky in my old age.

  32. But, don’t you think that pig headedness should be allowed to exist so that we all could have occasional laughs at everybody else’s expense?

  33. Ugh, I’m right with you. I get particularly narky about the ones who believe that getting cold will give you a cold and the diet shake brigade. OK, go ahead, drink it. You’ll just get fatter. And stupider.

  34. Mary Lynn – I hope the baby wasn’t eating Burger King? That would be even more stupid.

    Olivia – Thanks Olivia. It’s so difficult to try and deal with people that cannot be reasoned with and that you can’t have a conversation with that makes any sense.

    Susan – Seriously, you’ve totally been misrepresenting yourself. You’re starting to sound like a really awesome mom and role model. Here all this time I’ve been thinking you just ignore these kids and shoot them dirty looks when they get too close to you. And here you are educating them and mentoring them and helping them to become healthy, happy adults.

    Tom – Ha ha (I think)

    Friar – I’m pretty sure everyone except Jeebus has a vice or two. Some vices are just less advisable than others. Crack cocaine would be way up there on the less advisable list, smoking maybe somewhere in the middle – which leaves a nice bunch of vices to enjoy from the “not too stupid” list. (PS – I have vices myself, but don’t tell anyone)

    Linda – Interesting isn’t it – how the stupid can make people with a little education feel foolish? It’s the first thing they always attack – your “book learning”. I love it when they say, “Oh ya she went to all them fancy schools but don’t know nuthin about real life like we does.”

    Ramblereed – Hi! Thanks for visiting the blog. And you’re right, there is a purpose for all species on earth. Although these people? They are more dangerous than amusing most of the time.

    CP – You’d think just from years of observation they would have noticed that when it’s really freakin’ cold it’s usually also cloudless and sunny and when it snows, it ain’t

    Stella – Ha ha. We had a woman at work who would snarf down about a dozen of those “weight loss protein” bars a day – along with her regular meals. How could she not notice that each one was about 200-300 calories and that they were supposed to replace a meal or maybe a snack? She seemed to think the more she ate, the more weight she would lose. If only.

  35. Self-congratulatory stupidity is irritating like hell. Self-congratulatory wisdom needs a bit of scrutiny, too.

    I would like to think of myself as a superbly critical thinker and happily join the club of other superior human beings. But I have to hesitate, because in the end my impact on the world is not a lot dramatically different then that of some Joe Blow’s.

    True, I might think, vote, read, talk and buy a bit differently, but the difference is really superficial and does not qualify for total absolution.

  36. Since I’ve been on Facebook, I’ve learned so many of the funny amazing people I knew in high school grew up to be Rush Limbaugh enthusiasts and eco terrorists, I’m appalled–and I’m sure they feel the same way about me!