Abject Stupidity

adjective: abject

  1. (of something bad) experienced or present to the maximum degree.
  2. (of a person or their behavior) completely without pride or dignity; self-abasing.

noun: stupidity; plural noun: stupidities

  1. behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgment.
  1. the quality of being stupid or unintelligent.

    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.

    -Albert Einstein

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

    -George Carlin

    If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out?

                                                                                         -Will Rogers

    We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.

    -Stephen Hawking

Acts of stupidity are not uncommon in a typical lifetime. Eventually, abjectly stupid actions are also committed. The abjectly stupid requires the meeting of a much higher bar than stupidity’s  general garden variety. I have supplied dictionary definitions of both  abject and stupid for clarification.  Most people (I need to believe) are not stupid, or abjectly stupid but all people have committed acts to both degrees and everything in between.

I lack enough toes and fingers to inventory my own items of idiocy from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again. My much younger self, while under the influence of some very influential substances one evening, descended into a full-blown state of panic regarding the  whereabouts of my wallet and driver’s license which I would need if (and likely when) I would be pulled over by the police. Being stopped for a DUI could only be worsened by two things: 1) tragedy 2) a secondary offense of driving without  a license. Fortunately the first layer of stupid kept any of the future and possible other layers from being revealed because the first layer of stupid came with the realization conjured from the hearty laughter of friends that the missing pocket leather was, during my entire verbal freak-out, sitting soundly in the palm of the hand I was waving around. I was relieved of my car keys and thusly saved from the many layers of stupid that could have tragically followed.

Human history is replete with examples of our immense capacity for the stupid. Sometimes what is labeled as stupid is merely a lack of judgement. For example, in 1962 Decca Records executives in London had to decide which of two recently auditioned bands would receive a record deal. They ultimately signed  a London outfit called Brian and the Tremeloes, who after Brian left, became simply The Tremeloes. Their London origin made all kinds of booking and travel sense from an expense point of view. The Tremeloes did go on to chart a few singles and a version of the band still performs in the UK to this day. The deficit of this decision only becomes evident when one  realizes that the band they passed on, from Liverpool, was called The Beatles.

January 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox trading George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees for $25,000. Red Sox owner Harry Frazee wished to finance a new play. The play flopped as did the fortunes of the Red Sox for the next 86 years, although since 2004 they have done a fair job of winning baseball games and championships.  But 86 years is a long wait, and some would say financing a play nobody ever heard from again by trading a player whose name would become synonymous with the game itself would represent  a classic lack of judgement. But abjectly stupid? Likely not. Although the play, My Lady Friends was not a hit, its musical adaptation No, No Nanette  became a property that continued to pay off for its investors a few years later as well as for the better part of the rest of the 20th century.

More recently the administration of a former president was warned that an individual named Osama Bin Laden, the head of a terrorist organization known as Al Qaeda, was planning to use commercial airliners as weapons against civilian populations. This warning was given very little serious attention. This was not just an example of bad judgement. In light of the 911 age we now live in it might be categorized as stupid. Whether or not it gets the enhanced designation of abjectly, I will leave to the many less stupid than myself.

Related to that was an even more disturbing decision made by collaborative bodies like the United States Senate and governments of other nations who deliberated on and cooperated in the invasion of a country which had nothing to do with the Sept. 11. 2001 attacks. The rush to judgement by what has been called the “world’s greatest deliberative body” was something less than deliberative, more than rushed and reflective of equal amounts of political fear and panic from both sides of the aisle.  The decision from other countries to join in this outrage came after the Secretary of State of the United States, Colin Powell, a man with an otherwise distinguished military record, came to the United Nations to make the case for war against Iraq citing their possession of a significant armory of “weapons of mass destruction”,  and using drawings as evidence of such a stockpile. It seemed to bother no one who signed up for this charade of war that there was no photographic evidence of such hazardous possession as was presented by Adlai Stevenson to this same body forty years earlier during the Cuban Missile Crisis when actual missiles were being stockpiled 90 miles from the shores of the United States.

Today, there is a segment of our society which truly believes that the best way to calm the scourge of gun deaths blazing across our continent is to encourage more gun ownership of as many designations as possible to as many people as possible with nary a condition to go with it.   An internet celebrity says a child pedophile ring is being run in the basement of a Washington DC pizza shop by powerful political figures and a person shows up with a rifle to “self-investigate” while firing a round into the roof. Another political figure disappears from his office for a week claiming to be hiking a wilderness trail when all the time he was actually engaging in an affair during his dereliction of official duties and now he too  wants to be the big cheese. Despite this, a fair amount of abjectly stupid votes will undoubtedly be cast for him come primary time.

After forcing the czars of the tobacco industry to come clean about their lack of standards and despicable practices, progress finally became evident in the public health arena regarding the use of tobacco. Thousands of pages of good science  contributed to a dialogue that resulted in better health for future generations. Yet it seems that as the phenomena of “vaping” introduces the advent of a new and possibly more harmful  habit, another generation of imbibers seem more than willing to sacrifice their health to the whimsical propaganda and profits of an  industry ready to disregard the warnings of science.

The leader of the “free world”  has allegedly queried about using a nuclear bomb to stop a hurricane. He has also stated that sustainable sources of energy like wind cause cancer and that industries like coal which pollutes the air we breathe and the water we drink and bathe in, should be stripped of as many regulations as possible. As weather becomes more and more unpredictable and harsh, forest fires rage, glaciers melt, and water levels rise in populated areas,  serious scientists tell us that there might be as little as 12 years of good life left on this, the only planet at this point in time where we as a species can survive. Yet too many among us believe we should trust the people at the root of many of these life-threatening events and not the serious people who have dedicated their lives to improving and expanding both the length and quality of our existence.

Passing on The Beatles and Babe Ruth may have been stupid, but the fate and health of generations were not held hostage to such actions. If we, as a people and as a species continue this behavior, we may reach a point where if the relics of our existence are revealed to other civilizations the pyramids, computer technology, organ transplant, 3-D printing, the electric guitar and the Waring blender, etc. etc. etc., will be completely disregarded and we will be labeled instead as the abjectly stupid organism that tried to nuke a hurricane.


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