Stupid

I was intrigued by this fascinating article by Sacha Golob in a recent issue of Aeon Magazine on the subject of being stupid.

“Stupidity is a very specific cognitive failing. Crudely put, it occurs when you don’t have the right conceptual tools for the job. The result is an inability to make sense of what is happening and a resulting tendency to force phenomena into crude, distorting pigeonholes.”

The example is given of the British high command, led by Field Marshal Earl Haig, during the First World War. Their mindset was formed from the cavalry battles of their youth, which actually hampered them in understanding what to do in the new situation of static trench warfare.

So we can be really smart people, yet act in a really stupid way if we do not have the right conceptual framework to work within. Now, we can see that humanity is behaving extremely stupidly in relationship to biodiversity and climate change, because basically it is operating from a conceptual framework that it is power and economics that really matter, to the detriment of both ourselves and our relationship with the natural world. So we have endless COPs that wring their hands, set a few targets, and then go back into the same comfortable mindset. Meanwhile, of course the problems get worse. The problem is the mindset itself!

Proponents of the need for a New Renaissance have often identified the need for a paradigm shift. In the terms of this article we ‘just’ need to stop being collectively stupid – another way of saying the same thing.

The article suggests that “stupidity is primarily a property of groups or traditions, not individuals,” I’m not so sure – we all exhibit this phenomenon, so I suspect that most of us are stupid at times, individually as well as collectively.

I myself have recently become aware of a spectacular personal example. I was interacting with someone via social media, and thought I understood where they were coming from, becoming extremely confused when their interactions did not follow any pattern I could recognise, and which certainly did not coincide with my mental image of that person. It was only after much heartache that I realised that they were coming from an entirely different place, so that my responses themselves were totally imappropriate. I was being stupid.

How about you?

Featured image shows Field Marshal (Earl) Haig in Chantilly, France, December 1915, walking past French soldiers.
National Library of Scotland, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

3 thoughts on “Stupid

  1. Yep I agree we can all be stupid at times! Just recently I had a nasty disagreement with a nephew and now I can see it was because I was stupid! I thought I was having a logical discussion but didn’t realize until after that one cannot bring logic into a faith based discussion, it just doesn’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

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