When I was a kid I avoided being seen as stupid.
It was my number one priority, the imperative. I hated the embarrassment of getting anything wrong so I tried not to with every fibre of my being.
Who wants to admit they don’t know who scored Tottenham’s second goal at the Lane on the weekend or wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to watch the screamer from Glen Hoddle.
Who could not know the latest track by the Sex Pistols, even if it was banned by the BBC and there was no way for the average closeted Joe to hear it?
Who wants to admit they hadn’t heard who the class bicycle was supposed to be shagging. Yes, it was all horribly misogynistic in those bygone years.
I developed a few handy tactics to avoid putting my foot in it.
I thought before I spoke.
I listened and made sure I was in the know about everything there was to know.
I acted like everyone else as best I could.
The last thing I did was blurt out errors of fact or judgement for all to hear. Nobody, least of all me, wanted to be a dumbass.
It seems that today there is no embarrassment at being wrong at all.
Any sports, social or knowledge item is a click away on Google. Any visuals missed are on Youtube. If I don’t know the track its cool to Shazam it.
This suggests I can be in the business of getting it right all the time with a little help from my handheld device. Only that is not how it goes down.
These days I am just as likely to be suckered by fake news and errors of knowledge and feel no problem at all in blurting them out to whoever is nearby.
I can be stupid with impunity and absolutely nothing at all happens to me.
What happened to make stupidity a skill worthy of the highest prizes?
Here are three possibilities:
We all live in our own bubbles and nothing gets in. The view is opaque and soundproof. Others can see our posts but not us, hence we can never be stupid because we are invisible and safe in the bubble. It offers extraordinary protection and zero kickback.
The hyper ego
Similar to the bubble, but where everyone can see and hear you. It doesn’t matter though because your ego is so powerful that you are always right even when you are not. The ego is all-powerful and can’t ever let you feel pain or let down in any way.
Who gives a f__k?
It doesn’t matter if you are stupid or not because there is no personal responsibility for anything. If I am wrong so what, it’s my life. I don’t care what others think. If I believe I’m right then I am, sod them.
What happens next?
The reasons for getting things right back in the day were the wrong ones.
I was wanting to be accepted, in with the in-crowd, to be liked. Naturally, this is the ego talking, the kind of thing that besets youth whatever the generation.
What it did though, this protection by the ego, was to instil a useful caution. I was more thoughtful than I would otherwise be, perhaps even learnt to be a little streetwise. This was very important when later in life you find yourself on your own in the wrong neighbourhood of Johannesburg or confronted by the military man at the roadblock, his AK47 pointed into your truck.
What happens to the modern youth who can’t be arsed whether he is right or wrong on anything. So long as the chicks think he is cool, who cares?
Presumably, his streetwise instincts must come from somewhere else. Not learned from smarts.
Presumably the truth, the facts and knowledge lose whatever currency they once had. All the work needed to gather and store them is time wasted. Should the unlikely happen and a fact is needed, it is there in your palm.
In other words, there is no stupidity filter anymore.
It is quite ok to be dumb. Nobody seems to mind anymore. They even expect it.
There is no embarrassment, no loss of face.
This will create problems later on. When we actually need that filter to function it will not be there. We will not know how to tell the nonsense from the truth.
And we get Trump and Boris and Scomo all over again.
If we were so astute, how come we ended up with leaders like Richard Nixon, Ted Heath and Billy McMahon?