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+4 votes
and...does stupidity exist? If people aren't stupid, then why do they appear to be stupid so much of the time?

No more elaboration needed!
call me stupid, but i would like a little more elaboration.
yea, fleshing this out could be helpful.
i voted this up because of the conundrum i think exists at the heart of most liberatory tendencies -- if anarchists (or whomever) are correct about people being unhappy with the way things are, then why don't more people do something about it?
the normal responses are a) people do do things about it, just not typically things that are seen as political
b) people are tired and downtrodden

both a and b are obviously true, but neither are entirely satisfying.
there's a interesting essay by either msr or frere dupont called something like "why is it that others have no feelings for us" that talks about this question.

there's a rarely stated assumption that seems to work amongst many leftists/political people (although sometimes an egoist will say it explicitly)  that people don't rebel more because they're stupid/short sighted/whatever.
@bornagainanarchist, fair enough:

Right now I'm reading Guy Debord's complete cinematic works, and he explicitly states his contempt for humanity, saying that a lot of people deserve it. As dot states, a lot of the egoists/individualists say it explicity as well, Renzo Novatore stated that he had a contempt for the working class for tolerating their slavery. Obviously, your not going to be inclined to want to help people whom you feel are stupid, and this question is to do nothing more than probe the personal feelings of the people on the board. I'm rather divided on this topic, I feel that rather than people being stupid they just stick whatever is pleasurable to them, and we are a very rare type of people who finds criticism of modern society (as opposed to certain parts of it, everyone loves that!) to be pleasurable. Or , is it the anarchist who poorly states their opinion?
thanks, rs666 and dot. that gives me something to think about. i like the question and plan to attempt an answer a little later on.

2 Answers

+3 votes
(this feels incomplete, but I am putting it up as an answer hoping it prompts comments or questions that further stimulate...)

I think there are stupid people, I don't think people are stupid. I also question the implication that people who choose to continue to live in the imiserated status quo are making stupid choices. I think it is short-sighted, demeaning, and ultimately not really helpful.

In my experience people make choices based on what seems like the available options and what will work out for them best. This is often clouded by morality, but I think that morality is actually pretty optional. As this relates to anarchists, I think that a lot of people make what is a pretty rational choice - that to continue with known variables, which to anarchists generally is read as compromise, collaboration, selling out, or apathy. I would view it more as resignation: Sure, it might suck (and some of it doesn't: look at this fancy car/house/tv/whatever!), and sure, in the long run it might not be in our (or our loved one's) best interest,  but for as much as we live lives confused by concepts like linear time, we are still animals that live very much in the present- and short-term.

When I worked with homeless kids (not, mostly, anarchists), they frequently made choices that were inscrutably "stupid" to most people, but they were based on the realities of their lives as they were experiencing them. And given that the bottom line for a lot of them was survival today/tonight, they made extremely smart fucking decisions. Not all. Some made extremely stupid decisions, but for the most part, smart.

From this, I started to think about other folks I know who choose to live lives in compromise/service to 'the system' (yech). My parents aren't stupid. They ARE conflict averse, and they made choices based upon this and their concern for raising two children, one of whom remained a dependent (with their own dependents) well in to their thirties. For these two smart people there is a combination of psychological factors and environmental factors that have led them to be where they are today. Pretty much everyone makes compromises, and that isn't necessarily indicative of stupidity any more than it means that all compromises are equal or that anarchists should compromise their attacks and criticisms of 'the system' (yech).

Just because I understand why people make choices they do doesn't mean that I have to agree with them. Also, to refer back to my parents - I will never convince them of my perspective over the path they've chosen. Nor would I try to. My goal is not to win converts, or to add numbers to the A-team tally sheet.
by (22.1k points)
edited by
and even my life is somewhat compromised, but atleast I have the means and the knowledge not to work! I wish that could be said for everyone, atleast the means...there are very few people who actually like their jobs
+2 votes
this question would seem to require a definition of "stupid" (and a corresponding one for "intelligent"). but i'm not taking that on right now.

what one sees as stupid, others may see as smart. like so much else, it depends so much on context. i agree that many people seem to do things that seem stupid to me. but in most cases, they have their reasons, even if i would disagree with them. as ingrate points out, something may look stupid from one perspective (a long-term one) and yet it may look very smart from another (a short-term one).

i have a friend who cannot grok a computer to save his life; yet he has no problem understanding situationist writings. i am a computer programming whiz, but i still have yet to get all the way through "society of the spectacle". which one of us is stupid, and which one intelligent?

"If people aren't stupid, then why do they appear to be stupid so much of the time?"

i think you have touched on a key point with that question. you are talking about two different concepts:  what one is (identity) vs. how one acts (behavior).  what does it mean to say "johnny is stupid"? is it different from saying "johnny just did something stupid"? or, how many times does johnny have to do something stupid before he "becomes" stupid?

i guess my bottom line is that stupid and smart are relative and subjective concepts. and i tend to think of them in terms of behaviors, rather than as essentialist identifiers.

maybe this is more of a comment than an answer...
by (13.4k points)
Nope, it's an answer (in my books at least.)
I give it one thumbs up (cause thats all i'm allowed??  much prefer the newfie-democratic version of 'vote early, and vote often'.  [you had to be there. :(])

And i wonder if we aren't ignoring a distinction between 'doing stupid things'  that cause self-harm (like i'm doing right now),  and those that cause harm to others (you do not want to know what i'm thinking here..).
i generally refrain from believing people are "just stupid" for all the reasons you mentioned, but inevitably when someone pisses me off i generally call them an idiot or something
i think it's definitely a comment. (it doesn't answer the question, it questions the question's premise.)
it's a good comment, however. ;)
i haven't defined it on purpose because people use the word so frequently and everyone has a different definition of it, except most tend to agree it would be stupid not to look and see if cars are coming when driving through a stop sign or something like that
hyper simplistic, but broadly applicable:
intelligence: the ability to figure shit out, in any given situation, with the knowledge, experience and resources at one's disposal.  

stupidity: the opposite of above?