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  • Donna Reid

Stoopid is as stoopid does

I’ve read, many times over the last few months, about the stupidity of human beings. Definitely this idea that people are inherently stupid, or worse, malignant is gaining momentum. But is it true?

Reflecting on my own life, I can’t honestly recall meeting that many stupid people. Certainly people who live with deep trauma; many people who have far fewer options and less support than me; possibly people who have made different choices than I’ve made.


In fact, for most of my life, I’d say I’ve been surrounded by quite amazing humans and continue to find this to be true. I’ve been curious lately, about why this is so. Whether it’s true that I know a disproportionately high number of wonderful people or whether, in actual fact, we all have the wonder of humanity right in front of it but have forgotten how to recognise it.

We’re also taught to believe that some people, and this construct exists particularly in the sphere of childhood development, are gifted. I’m sure we can all bring to mind children we’ve met who seem quite amazing and no doubt could easily list several adults who fit the genius mould.

But what if the actual truth is that no one is stupid, no one is more gifted that another and all humans are born equally amazing? Imagine how that might change one’s perception of the world and all it’s wonders.

First, to stupidity.

It can’t be a coincidence that almost everyone I know is quite amazing. Surely I’m no more likely than anyone else to meet people who’s gifts are clear. So what is it about human nature that pit’s one against the other? I think that’s what we’re really talking about. For one to declare somene stupid, or idiotic, or misinformed, that must mean that the one doing the declaring is less stupid, less idiotic, better informed. Or should we just say ‘better’? How much competition is human nature and how much of it is simply narrative that’s helpful to sell products, sell ideas, sell people?

Imagining other people to be stupid, naturally helps us to feel better about ourselves – this notion that in order to feel good, to BE good, that other’s have to be NOT GOOD, is the essence of capitalism and competition. Which I would argue is not human nature at all but a construct that enables some to get ahead while many, by nature of this system, do not.

It feels like we are in the epicentre of something big. Something awesome actually. Whatever framework guides your values, I think we can all agree that we are in a time like no other. And yet the opportunities we have in front of us are being reduced into a series of moralistic arguments that denote us as being either one thing or entirely another. Stupid. Or not Stupid.

To giftedness.

Most of us have marvelled at the way a newborn seems to know it’s mother, or hold your gaze, or grasp your hand in their tiny one. It’s easy to see the wonder in that expression of humanness. Those of us who’ve had children will recall staring at our progeny, enraptured, declaring, “I made that!” Possibly by the time we’re scraping poo off walls, the rapture is lessened, weighed down with the reality of trying to craft a small one in our image. The more I KNOW my children – and I mean really see them – the more I’m certain that this shiny brilliance of the newborn days does remain. It’s only our perception that changes.

I wonder if some of the sheen of the early years of humanhood could be preserved if, instead of seeing every stage of development as a reason to compare our children, and thus ourselves, to others, we saw it all as marvellous, unique, a gift. If, instead of worrying that our child only says two words in a row, instead of constructing fully comprehensible sentences like their playmate, that we could share the joy with our child when they say anything at all. Or don’t say anything! Extrapolate that to adulthood and our society has decided that some people are simply worth more than others.

Walking to the shop with my 6 year old today and, apart from having some wonderful conversations about heat absorption and why squirrels are weird, I relished in the ‘herness’ of this child that I did in fact create, but who is not mine, and certainly not mine to mould. She carries with her, wherever she goes, her own gifts, her own genius. She wears dirty clothes for days in a row. She rarely bathes and she certainly does not care what others think of her. She also likes to buy her siblings presents when we go shopping and takes care to bring them home things that she knows they like. She doesn’t do this because I’ve told her to, or even shown her in example (my inherited spendthrift kicks in when in a supermarket!). She does this because it’s HER. She also doesn’t get the bathing aversion from me…

I wonder if making a shift that allows us to assume that everyone is doing the best they can, might open up a world with less judgement and far less anger and resentment. People aren’t out to make things hard for others – we all have our own lived experiences and set of circumstances that inform our actions and decisions. I can’t know for certain, that, under the same circumstances, I wouldn’t make exactly the same decision as another.

I often indulge in imagining a world where we all see eachother as unique and wonderful, with our own gifts to offer and our own stories to tell. I wonder if, when we feel heard and acknowledged, we’d have the collective energy to hear eachothers voices and instead of seeing ‘stupid’ people, ‘thoughtless’ people, ‘selfish’ people, we’d see people. Amazing people each with their own reasons for doing what they do, a perspective that is not yours or mine but uniquely theirs. I hope that one day, this won’t be ‘indulgent’ but the world we live in.

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