Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | September 27, 2011

Two Stupid Faiths

It’s time to stop putting up with stupidity—our stupidity. Bad enough that we think as poorly as we do; we don’t need to protect our right to continue the habit. Forrest Gump would tell us, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Please be aware that in the last century we exploited, abused, and exterminated each other more than ever before in our history, and that the ultimate victims were our children. 

Oh, well, that kind of stupidity. We have a couple of defenses for that. Out pop our internal Books of Common Knowledge.

Verse 1, the Creed of Futility: “Thus shall it always be.” We can’t expect people to change overnight, if ever. After all, we’re just human, and the jungle isn’t so far behind us. Craziness and evil are chronic, here to stay. The question is how to live in spite of them, how to mitigate them, manage them, even profit from them. Besides, we’re not to blame.

Verse 2, the Creed of Evil People: “Evil, crazy people do evil, crazy things.” It’s their fault. If we knew how to get rid of them, the world would be a better place.

But we don’t know how, do we? We don’t even know if getting rid of them is a good idea. We instinctively fear that it’s a bad idea, and that we aren’t much different than they are; not different enough to be sure that getting rid of them will stop with them and not include us. And we’ve seen how the certainty that ”they” are essentially different from “us” transforms us into monsters.

Those aren’t our only complicities.

“Thus it shall always be” is a prophecy, and we recite it with all the conviction of a prophet’s blind faith. If hope that things could be different is out there somewhere, we keep it shut out by reciting our creed like a mantra.

“What shall be” is in our hands. Maybe the weight of that responsibility makes us panic and deny that we’re capable, deny even that it’s our responsibility. Admitting hope in a better future puts us–not them–on the hook to realize that future. But to avoid the hook, we deny progress and insist on futility. We take our own hope, scrap it, and declare it irrecoverable. That’s a choice. We can make it differently.

But someone is to blame. So, we blame “them,” those crazy, evil people. It’s their fault, but it hasn’t been so long since the jungle for us, either. Their raw displays of awful power still attract us. We stand amazed at their capacity for monstrous acts. Marveling, even with disgust, we watch. When things blow up, we run to see. Threats to blow us up make us run with fear, but then we stop and turn to look again. How can they be so crazy, so evil? We don’t know. We can’t understand. Their minds are lurid, inscrutable. Their actions are horrific, incomprehensible, mesmerizing. We stand dumb, in awe and fear, attracted, stupid. In our ignorance, denying our kinship, in the blindest of faiths and against all evidence, we consign them to the unknowable, the unimaginable, and the unthinkable: our own brand of outer darkness.

Each soul we consign to outer darkness emboldens our creeds of futility and evil people. Avoiding hooks of understanding and responsibility, we hang skewered by our own disempowerment, thinking like victims. Our faith in futility and our faith the power of evil people hold us prisoners, at the mercy of ignorant fear and perverse reverence.

These are faiths. We can replace them. These are people. We can understand them. But first, we need to do the most difficult things: divorce stupidity and understand ourselves.

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Responses

  1. congratulations; some very insightful stuff yet again! I would add accepting responsibility for our own frailties, and for ourselves as beings. Good to see affirmation that I’m doing my part based on “what is written!”

    • Thanks Tom! I agree. Viktor Frankl pointed out that we try to find meaning by asking questions of life, when we should realize that life is asking US the questions, and that we create meaning by our responses.

      “In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

      A lot of modern thinking and a lot of our behavior seems to boil down to trying to avoid responsibility. I can’t endorse that denial.

      I didn’t get your “what is written” reference, though. What did you mean?


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