On Educated Idiots

It used to be easy to pick out the morons. You merely needed to look for the slack-jawed dimwit who clearly couldn’t be relied on to walk ten feet without doing something stupid.

I do, of course, differentiate these morons from the mentally handicapped, who have the excuse of being mentally handicapped. The people of whom I speak of in this post suffer from something worse: stupidity.

I also differentiate these nitwits from the ignorant and merely uneducated, who may lack formal schooling and knowledge, but are otherwise capable of rational thought and acts of noticeable intelligence. These merely ignorant and uneducated folk in turn are capable of expanding their horizons significantly given the resources and time to rectify their conditions.

I also differentiate stupid folk from folk who do merely something stupid. I do at least one stupid thing a week, if not a day, and I would consider myself not stupid so much as capable of doing some brilliantly stupid things in between my acts of seeming intelligence. Then again, perhaps I severely overestimate myself. Then again, I do appear at least to possess enough faculties of the mind to recognize my own intellectual shortcomings. But I digress. Everyone is capable of doing something stupid, but only idiots make it not only a regular habit, but turn their idiocy into an art form. They fail to learn from their mistakes and prove Einstein wrong, for it is not only insanity that can cause people to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

Anyway, it used to be easy to pick out the morons. You merely needed to look for the slack-jawed dimwit who clearly couldn’t be relied to go five minutes without putting his or her foot in his or her mouth (which, incidentally, likely smelled like feet given how often said appendage had been placed there). These folks were often uneducated and full of unjustified self-esteem, and could often be found believing themselves more important and more intelligent than they actually were.

However, as education becomes more commonplace, a certain breed of idiot has grown more common. Now these types of idiots aren’t new. In the past, plenty of upper class folk with the cash to spare received educations, but as can be seen from a simple perusal of history books, those who were idiots remained idiotic regardless of their class and education. With education so widespread, this breed of imbecile has now taken on a prominence unprecedented in the history of the human race. This breed I speak of is the educated idiot.

A piece of paper attesting that one has attained a degree in whatever subject is no substitute for actual intelligence. The tragedy of the educated idiot is that not only do they believe that their degrees indicate intelligence and competence on their parts, but so too do others who place a greater emphasis on what is claimed by a sheet of paper rather than what is evident in sustained observation of someone who is clearly dumber than a sack of rocks. I bring you one example through the personal experiences of someone I’d talked to regarding the odd and at times bewildering management practices in movie studios.

A member of my extended family, who works in Hollywood and has actually had quite a few interactions with the upper management of various major studios, once told me of an executive who boasted about not only knowing nothing about movies, but was also proud to say that they didn’t watch movies. I don’t know who they fucked, who they share blood with, or where they presumably got their MBAs in order to reach the position that they did, but last I checked, it served a person well to know something of whatever it was they worked with. Last I checked, the workplace in Dilbert was not one to idealize. Unfortunately, it appears that these beliefs are wrong and incompetence and willful ignorance are not enough to keep a moron from attaining a high position in the world.

Being something other than stupid and incompetent requires more than knowledge and a knower. It requires that those two factors are combined with a context in which the knower applies their knowledge in a constructive manner. It means knowing how to use what they know and combining it with other thinking skills to do something satisfactorily. A piece of paper is no substitute for an engineer who actually is capable of building a bridge that doesn’t break down within a year of construction.

Also dangerous are educated idiots who fancy themselves authorities on things far outside their areas of greatest competence. There is a reason after all, for there being a fallacy called ‘appeal to authority.’ Now, some authorities being used as a source for something makes sense if said authorities are not only experts in the field of relevance, but are also widely recognized as such beyond their having a fancy piece of sheepskin. However, there is such a thing as appealing to the wrong authorities, as in cases where one decides that a Hollywood (back to this place again; seriously, what is the deal with the rampant idiocy gathered there?) celebrity (and by this I have reservations about one’s definition of the term) happens to be a reliable source on things like politics, economics, or vaccines.

Here’s the thing, celebrities are not necessarily experts; like you, me, or most people, celebrities are people with their own limited amounts of free time, biases, and personal limits. Something stupid and ignorant coming out of some actor’s mouth is no more valid than that same stupid and ignorant content coming out of Joe Shmoe’s. Remember, actors, athletes, and a bunch of other people who fall into the realm of celebrity are not paid to think (or at least not paid to think about things beyond their area of competence). If you want an expert, look for the actual expert.

Regardless of what their education, do not mistake a moron for anything more, for an educated idiot is still an idiot. Unfortunately, with the Internet being what it is, it’s even harder to avoid these people, especially given that cynical types and other idiots are willing to give them platforms to broadcast their idiocy. For those looking to escape the harsh reality of idiocy not only being prominent but also continually unpunished, I recommend H. Beam Piper’s Day of the Moron, which, regardless of its politics and certain dated aspects, is an entertaining enough read.


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