How to tell if you’re an idiot

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Out In Jersey magazine's Editor Emeritus Toby Grace
Out In Jersey magazine's Editor Emeritus Toby Grace
Presented as a public service by Toby Grace 

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who see a problem and try to find a solution, and those who have a solution and try to make the problem fit it. Those of the second type are idiots. You may be one. No offense is intended here. It probably isn’t your fault, having more to do with upbringing and genetics and so on. Still, it’s important that you know the truth. Really, it’s a matter of national security.

As an idiot, you are still fully entitled to decide matters such as what to have for lunch and which dress or necktie to wear today. They will probably be bad decisions, but on the cosmic scale they won’t matter. However, when it comes to something important, such as who to vote for in any election above dog catcher, you owe it to yourself and, more important, to the rest of mankind to be able to say, “wait, I’m an idiot. I can’t decide such things.”

To begin with, disabuse yourself of the notion that being an idiot has anything to do with intelligence or education. In the present context, the term “idiot” simply means a person who is unable to recognize and assimilate facts that conflict with pre-determined opinions. To take two widely disparate examples I offer Tom Cruise and Abdul Aziz bin Baz. Tom Cruise is very good at his profession — clearly an articulate and intelligent person. He is not only a great actor but also a very successful businessman. Regardless of all that, he believes passionately in Scientology — a pseudo religion concocted out of whole cloth by a science fiction writer. Of all the absurd peregrinations of baseless belief in the history of humanity, Scientology must absolutely be on the short list of the most ridiculous. And yet, Cruise’s talent and intelligence pose no obstacle to his embrace of this farrago of tin hats and “alien” influences.

The Imam Abdul Aziz bin Baz is a different case entirely. In 1979, at the age of 70, this highly regarded Islamic scholar was head of the Ulema. it is the board of religious scholars and clergy that wields theocratic authority in Saudi Arabia. Obviously you don’t get to that kind of position by being stupid or uneducated. This man had a reputation for scholarship that was well known throughout the Islamic world, and we can safely assume that what he didn’t know about Islam in all it’s permutations, simply wasn’t worth knowing. Regardless of that, he firmly believed that science was a sham and the Sun revolves around the Earth. Mind you, this is an important man, in the 20th Century — a man of influence in a country that is one of our strategic allies.

These are but two examples from a legion, the recounting of which would fill volumes. The point is that neither intelligence nor education is a bar to idiocy. Psychological study after study has shown that facts do not matter at all when they conflict with cherished beliefs. When we add to this those who are indeed mentally challenged and poorly educated, we have a vast reservoir of people who really should not be making important decisions. At a rough estimate, I’d say 30 to 40 percent of the population — a number that correlates remarkably well with President Trump’s base of support. Of course I draw no conclusions from that — wouldn’t dream of it.

So, how can you tell if you are one of this benighted numbers? Here’s a quick quiz:
  1. Do you believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old?
  2. Do you believe global warming is a myth?
  3. Do you believe a free press is “the enemy of the people?”
  4. Do you believe the solution to too many guns is more guns?
  5. Do you believe the “prayer handkerchiefs” or vials of “holy water” offered by televangelists will actually put you in touch with God?
  6. Do you believe the U.S. was founded as a specifically Christian nation?
  7. Do you believe, even secretly, that “white” people are superior to all others?
  8. Do you believe being gay is catching?
  9. Do you believe your particular set of religious dogmas are the ultimate laws of the universe?
  10. (Bonus question for Catholics) Do you believe the House of the Dormition of the Virgin in Loreto, Italy was actually flown across the Mediterranean in 1291 from the Holy Land by angels to save it from the Turks? (Note: Popes have said yes).

If you answered yes to any of these questions with the possible exception of #6, you are an idiot, and should voluntarily refrain from important affairs such as the process of national politics. Regarding #6, a yes might not mean you are an idiot. It might simply mean you are bone ignorant of U.S. history and have been filling the gap from right wing and evangelical web sites. You still shouldn’t vote. You are not equipped for the responsibility. And no… on second thought you ARE an idiot.

This is not a new problem. Sir Winston Churchill once remarked, “The greatest argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.” Going farther back, during the debates in Parliament over the Reform Acts of 1832. Sir Robert Peel commented “I cannot concur… in opinion that £10 householders are a class qualified to draw profound conclusions on the intricate questions of commerce and legislation, or exempt from the bias of party violence, or deaf to the delusions and exaggerations by which they will be assailed.”

Delusions and exaggerations certainly assail us in today’s political arena — most of them generated by President Trump and his apologists — people who have made such memorable statements as “truth isn’t truth,” (Giuliani) and “what you see isn’t what’s happening,” (Trump). Sir Robert Peel went on to acknowledge that the ordinary citizen is usually quite competent to decide local issues such as repairing the roads or building a new school house, but has no qualifications whatever to decide matters of international relations or economic policy. It follows that this same ordinary citizen also lacks the qualifications to select persons who do understand such issues. The problem here, as evidenced by the rock solid support of Trump by his fundamentalist base, is that those same ordinary people are absolutely convinced they DO have the qualifications.

This is a population that, by and large, has little or no idea where the rest of the world even is and couldn’t, for example, find England on a road map of the British Isles. If you think I exaggerate, attend a Trump rally and ask a few questions of random attendees. Keep it simple. Ask questions like “what language do they speak in China? Where, exactly, is North Korea? “Where is the EU located?” You will discover that these people are indeed idiots and should not be encouraged to vote.

Add to this lumpen proletariat the afore-mentioned intelligent/ educated idiots — people who endorse such notions as the coal industry can be re-born (it can’t be — neither can roof thatching, carriage building or hoop skirts). They believe insulting the leaders of allied nations is the best way to handle foreign relations. So you have a significant part of the citizenry who are idiots, and who should voluntarily refrain from voting. If anyone has a question as to whether they fall into this category, get in touch with me. A five-minute conversation is all it will take.

Out In Jersey magazine's Editor Emeritus Toby Grace
Out In Jersey magazine’s Editor Emeritus Toby Grace

Toby Grace is the Editor Emeritus and one of the founders of Out In Jersey magazine.