By Gerard Menuhin. Reproduced with kind permission.
Occasionally, I notice comically windy online manifestations, in which a certain species do their humble best to attack me, thereby only betraying their origins and demonstrating their own inferiority.
For instance, dubious claims on Facebook like “These violins belonged to Jews murdered in the Holocaust” (picture of Jew sawing away at a violin), or the pathetically named internet site “honestlyconcerned” which of course immediately translates as “dishonestly concerned” when you recognize its progenitor, or paid trolls who confuse personal opinions with facts in their hate-driven attempts to ‘refute’ historical truth. Etc., etc.
There’s a German expression which qualifies such displays of desperation: Was kümmert es die Eiche, wenn die Sau an ihr reibt?/The oak isn’t bothered when a pig rubs itself against it.
But I’m grateful to these substandard creatures, as they remind me of a subject I’ve been meaning to cover anyway: stupidity.
Stupidity is not knowing little, nor is it not wanting to know more, stupidity is thinking one knows enough.
One shouldn’t make fun of a stupid person for saying or writing something stupid, any more than one should make fun of a monkey scratching for fleas. Neither of them can help it. However, whereas a monkey’s social skills may be inborn, humans are rendered stupid over time, and they possess the means to substitute at least a measure of cognizance for a proportion of their stupidity. This involves the terrifying experiment of using one’s brain and thinking for oneself.
Perhaps the saddest example of a truly stupid human is not the caricature of the open-mouthed, staring-eyed cretin, but the expensively educated, yet cretinously ignorant university graduate. In 1900 there were just 11 universities in the UK. Between 1960 and 1969, 23 more universities were created. Between 1992 and 2004, thanks to the ‘Further and Higher Education Act 1992’ and to Tony Blair, about 67 ‘new universities’ were magically created by waving a wand over polytechnics. Polytechnics were institutes of technology which proffered vocational degrees and, as such, were indispensable. It must be the reduction in the demand for engineers, not to speak of kitchens and bathrooms, walls, roofs, etc. that has made polytechnics redundant and universities so popular. Or, put another way, when was the last time you called a sociologist to mend a leak? The popularity and efficiency of foreign workmen in Britain may be explained by the lack of the trained native alternative.
The contrived justification for this extraordinary transformation was probably that there must be more universities to cope with the increase in population. But education is not about numbers, it’s about reasoning. Universities used to be centres of higher learning. Only those with exceptional intellectual credentials were admitted to them. With the proliferation of ‘new universities’, came the preordained discovery of all kinds of new and (of course) politically correct subjects and courses that did not exist only 30 years ago, and hardly merit serious consideration, let alone formal recognition, today. They enable almost any Johnny-come-lately to scrape into a so-called university and emerge with a degree. Now, he can benefit financially from his expertise in psychology, for instance, by determining before a court that a pedophile and murderer may be freed after therapy.
No wonder the graduates from these centres of lower education have decided that they know as much as they need to know, which may mean that they know enough to make a living, but in terms of reasoning, they’re glued to the spot. Struck by dullness as a tree may be struck by lightning, they’ve stopped informing themselves, except perhaps about ephemera which they learn from their smartphones. The conclusion must be that this constant and continuous effort to implant and enforce stupidity in our society, from generation to generation, is willed and successful and, above all, useful in driving the world further into chaos.
Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.” (Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy).
Russell also said: ‘We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.’
And ‘The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.’ (The Triumph of Stupidity).
This cocksureness accounts for the strongly-held opinions of stupid people on the internet and the equally strongly-voiced comments from equally stupid people following them, on subjects about which they not only have no doubts, but often no knowledge either. They’re just blurting out the prejudices with which they’ve been indoctrinated during their brief exposure to ‘education’.
Doubt is the starting point of every inquiry. One may not doubt the assertion that the earth is round, yet it would be presumptuous, in the absence of experiential certainty, to disdain all who disagree with this generally-accepted claim.
Among the facts held to be as unassailable as the roundness of the earth are certain assertions about the Second World War. In effect, the veracity of these assertions would be as irrelevant as the earth’s shape in the daily lives of most earthlings, if their dependability were not unceasingly trumpeted in every medium. Presumably, no one would contradict the hypothesis that it would quickly become insufferable if a spoken or printed reminder of the earth’s roundness accompanied every order for coffee. Yet, almost exactly these conditions apply when it comes to the repetition of the afore-mentioned assertions.
Which is not the same as denying them. God forbid! What is undeniable is that their ubiquitous and mind-numbing echolalia* have become intolerably boring. No one denies that Aunt Bess was a martyr to wind, but we were all relieved when she was gathered, as it put an end to the predictable recital of her digestive turbulence and its physical confirmation. Wind can take many forms, some of them unacceptable in polite society.
The same applies to boredom. Monotonous propaganda is repugnant; so is the defamation of those who reject such propaganda. If you suffer from gas, for heaven’s sake stop gassing on about it. Your digestion is your own affair. Be discreet. Even among people too stupid to think for themselves (TStTfT), there are few who still maintain the internal flatulence required to keep these assertions alive. There just isn’t enough wind to fly this kite anymore. Believe me.
*meaningless repetition of another person’s spoken words as a symptom of psychiatric disorder, or repetition of speech by a child learning to talk.