(NaturalNews) Day in and day out the inhabitants of lonely planet earth kill, maim, conspire, steal, abuse, violate, destroy, poison, fight and, well, hurt each other's feelings. It is a wonder that we - a socially constrained pack of wild animals - survive. We may not survive in the long run. Some cold-minded scientists suggest the earth's population will be extinct in 1000 years and claim to have evidence to support it. All this is due to what my wife recently called the cycle of stupid.
This most vicious of all cycles actually has deep philosophical roots and causes most of the angst on the earth today. It happens when intelligent, sentient beings (people) act like they couldn't be denser if someone hit them over the head with a stupid stick.
How the cycle of stupid works
Caught in the throes of the cycle, people willingly invite into their lives things they hate, then proceed to get offended. All the while, these otherwise intelligent people have perfect proof of their own innocence and can easily justify wrongdoing to others, who are the obvious problem. It's maddening! It would be even more maddening if I never participated (I fit into the "basic cycle of stupid" below).
I have conveniently identified three levels of the cycle. The more advanced your level, the stupider you become, until at last there is no hope for you other than the hope that you will be destroyed by people less stupid than you.
The basic cycle of stupid (for couples, parents, families, co-workers and normal people who get hit with regular fits of stupidity)
• Screaming children are scolded by screaming parents. The screaming children react to the screaming parents by screaming some more, which inspires the screaming parents to scream louder, which inspires the children to scream, cry and hit each other.
• A spouse catches her spouse cheating, which motivates her to begin cheating.
• A mid-level manager catches poop from his boss because his boss caught poop from his boss, so the mid-level manager throws poop on his employees who go home and throw poop on their families, who then kick the family dog, who proceeds to poop on the rug.
Break for analysis: Each of the above individuals (except the dog) could have stopped the cycle of stupid at any time, in theory, by pausing for a moment and asking some questions. What is going on here, really? Do I really want to participate in this stupid cycle? What is the right thing to do, as a person? Are these people upon whom I am about to poop really less than I am? Would I want to be pooped on like I am about to poop on others? Does my being pooped on really justify what I am about to do? How must this other person be feeling? How must this other person see me right now? And so on.
Rarely do we do this, however, thus the power of the stupid stick. It is so much easier to blame others and mistreat them, using their bad behavior as justification. In return, we are blamed and soon everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the cycle. Even though your life would much easier; even though you'd have more inner peace; even though you would enjoy astounding personal maturity and remain above the fray, you don't make that effort very often. Why not? Alas, as we will see in a moment, this is what the best minds on earth have been trying to figure out for thousands of years!
Let's move on to the advanced levels, where stupidity begins to get scary.
The advanced cycle of stupid (for corporate and political leaders whose stupidity advances into conspiracy)
• A politician obviously lies to voters, telling them all that he will do for them, the money and entitlements that will flow their way if they only vote for him. He wins and promptly does nothing he promised. Voters, blinded by their own greed for someone to pass on entitlements to them, chose to believe the lie and hold out hope that they will get something for nothing.
• A food conglomerate conspires with congress and the FDA, uses pseudoscience and knowingly introduces into the food supply a friendly sounding and convenient yet poisonous food that destroys the health of consumers and makes the conglomerate billions of dollars. Millions of not-totally-ignorant consumers willingly ingest this toxin because they are too lazy, cheap and self-indulgent to give up an ounce of convenience or go out of their way to find safer food to eat.
Break for analysis: At the advanced level, the cycle begins to tilt, with the majority of the wrongdoing perpetrated by those in power. These are they who, for their own gain, depend on the malaise of the masses to pull off their shenanigans. However, these folks could be stopped if only the masses were willing to wake up! The masses, however, are more comfortable living in the stupid shadow of stupid leaders than breaking free and figuring things out for themselves.
The sinister cycle of stupid (for world dominators whose stupidity metastasizes into unbridled evil)
• A treacherous government leader uses lies, propaganda, murder and genocide to obtain power so that he can fulfill his god-complex, while the unsuspecting masses sleep. By the time the masses wake up, so much power is taken, so much damage done, that only open war will put an end to bloodshed.
• Conglomerates of powerful families, banks, governments and behemoth corporations conspire to introduce measures that will thin populations, cause disease, collapse economies, initiate war and terror and wreak havoc among the population of the planet to gratify their own perverse sense of power and pleasure.
Break for analysis: These problems are so clandestine and terrifying that the sleeping masses have no idea they are happening. Among the few who do know, most do not have the cajones to take a stand.
What is the cycle of stupid?
In academic circles, the cycle of stupid is known as self-deception. Self-deception is such a tricky issue that philosophers since the time of ancient Greece have been trying to figure it out. There have been many bold attempts, but the problem with figuring out self-deception is that the one doing the figuring may be actively deceiving himself. In other words, the stupid stick is so powerful that even the smartest people in the world get clubbed into moronic oblivion. Who can figure out stupid while immersed in stupid?
Then, along came a humble Jewish philosopher named Martin Buber (1878-1965) who showed up the Greeks by suggesting that the cycle of stupid is not a matter of intelligence, but a matter of morals. Ah...now we can understand why smart people are capable of doing the stupidest things to ruin themselves and others. We can also explain why being smart doesn't necessarily mean that you are good.
Buber said something amazing. We all stand in relation to each other as I-Thou or I-It. In other words, we are capable of seeing each other in respectful ways, honoring other people (I-Thou). Or, we may see each other in disrespectful ways, as objects (I-It). This one distinction opened the door to understanding, at last, the cycle of stupid.
The way out
Even if you are on the "winning" side of the cycle of stupid, you are still stupid. If you are invested in seeing your fellow humans as less than - as objects for your gratification one way or another - you are stupid. Why? Because you are missing the obvious truth, that the people you abuse are people just like you and deserve your respect if for no other reason than their personhood (at the level of the basic cycle of stupid. Beyond that, all bets are off, in my book).
To exit this destructive cycle and begin acting like you have a brain in your head and feelings in your body, you and I need to begin to see others and ourselves differently. You (and I) need to take others' point of view - as people - into consideration. This doesn't come so easily when the other person is acting stupidly, granted. Nevertheless, it is necessary to stop the cycle.
If I am not willing to stop the cycle in my family, who am I to blame? My wife? (Yes, honey, I am allowed to be stupid, but you must be ever-smart and good in spite of me.) If you are not willing to stop the cycle among the people in your life, who then?
Unfortunately, because stupid behavior so thoroughly encourages more stupid behavior, the cycle is incredibly difficult to stop. Yet, stop it we must. The obvious way to stop the cycle is also the most difficult, which is to recognize it. We tend to get so caught up in it that we no longer see the truth of what we are doing (self-deception). In fact, we often think the stupidest of behavior is the smartest, or at least the only option available.
A challenge to you: Notice how often you get caught in the cycle of stupid in the next few days. When you notice yourself arguing, criticizing, blaming or otherwise acting stupidly, pause for a moment and ask yourself if you really want to be doing so. There is your chance to say no to stupid! I'll be joining you.
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