Tag Archives: intellect

The Obsession of Avoiding Stupidity

Do you remember how it feels when they find out that you’re actually stupid?

I do.

I remember the day they discovered that I didn’t know where Honolulu was. When they found out that I didn’t know the freezing temperature of water. When they snickered in the corner because I thought that a bacon cheeseburger just had bacon on it for the meat, and no hamburger.

Clear memories, etched deep into my brain, because that’s what I was insecure about as a teen. I wasn’t insecure about my looks or my popularity or all those other things girls in books were insecure about, but I was insecure about my intellect. I even wrote myself a list of “Rules for Learning Things Without Looking Stupid.”

(Tip #1: If you don’t know something, don’t ask. Look it up on Google later. Tip #2: If you don’t get the joke, pretend you just think the joke is stupid.)

Now, thankfully that insecurity is in the past. I fully see the mean-spiritedness of acting like a joke is stupid so that I don’t look stupid.


In this social media era, nearly everyone, to some degree, presents the person they want to be online instead of the person they are. Right? I mean, this isn’t new. People talk about this phenomenon all the time. But for me, the temptation isn’t to be fake-perfect-housekeeper or fake-adventurer or fake-comedian, the temptation is to be fake-intellectual.

So maybe that’s why the fakers online that I see through the most are the fake-intellectuals.

Definition of Fake Intellectual: Someone whose primary motivation behind their social media post is showing the world how smart they are, or that they are smarter than a large segment of the population.

And they’re everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Like I said, even I am not exempt from the ranks. But it really bothers me.

Think about it. All those memes mocking republicans, mocking democrats, mocking people who say dumb stuff online. “You can’t fix stupid,” many of them say.

I guess that proves you’re in the smarter half of the population, doesn’t it?

Every time there’s a video of someone being very stupid in a semi-believable way, it goes viral. Usually those videos are just someone trolling, and yet the people who share it believe its true. It makes them feel smart by comparison.

Those quizzes you took that said you were a “genius,” or had “100% common sense,” or were a “grammar wizard.” Why did you take them? Why did you share the results on your wall?

You get to feel smart with the click of a “share” button. But even going beyond that, into blog posts people write, into long status updates where people give their well-thought-out opinion on a current issue…often, the writers take the people who disagree with them and shove them into the box labeled “stupidity.”

So why is it that we all have this fear of being stupid, and this great desire to prove that we’re not? Why are we trying so hard to be perceived as a member of the smarter half of the population?

I don’t know. But I have a theory:

Being smart is the only hierarchical system we have left.

Today, it is no longer acceptable to believe that you are better than someone else because of your gender, age, race, social class, or any of a myriad of things that people have used in the past to organize themselves into hierarchies. But you are allowed, on some unspoken level, to believe that you’re better than someone else because you’re smarter than they are.


In my Population Geography class, it’s kind of understood that women having 2.1 children on average is “good,” and women having 5 or so children on average is “bad.” However, this raises a sticky situation for a PC classroom. When women do have 5 children on average, what are you going to blame it on?

On Tuesday, my professor brought up the sticky subject of religion. Does religion affect fertility? To answer the question, he showed a video, in which someone split the world up into majority Christian countries, majority Muslim countries, and majority Eastern Religion countries, showing that all three groups have declining population.

This was somehow supposed to prove that religion doesn’t affect birthrate at all. It struck me as very weird and unscientific for a class that is driven by data.

My professor then played a humorous video for us. It contrasted a well-educated couple in NYC with an overweight bumbling couple somewhere in Appalachia.  The “smart” couple kept putting off having children because the economy wasn’t right or the wife wanted to focus on her career. The “dumb” couple had lots of kids and drank beer and their sons were football stars and slept around and that family tree exploded.

So it was funny, I guess, but the implications of it left an odd taste in my mouth.

If 2.1 children-per-woman is “good” and 5 children-per-women is “bad,” we can’t blame it on religion. That would indicate that one religious preference is “bad” and one is “good.”

However, we can blame it on stupidity. Smart is “good” and stupid is “bad.” We all know that.

I’m not standing up in defense of stupidity. But real stupidity is building a false pedestal of intellect by marginalizing another group of people as idiotic for not believing like me.

Stupidity is thinking, “if only those people had access to my information, they would believe like I do.”

Stupidity is saying, “Someone needs to tell those dumb liberals that climate change is a natural cycle.” “Someone needs to tell those moronic conservatives that planned parenthood is necessary for poor women to get access to contraception.” “Surely if the stupids had my superior info they ought to believe like I do.”

You can’t fix stupid by yelling at people who disagree with you. You can only begin to fix stupid by looking inside and seeing it.

I am stupid.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.