Steve Patterson: Have we become too stupid to live?

NEMiss.News My own research

“We are all born ignorant, but we must work hard to remain stupid.” —Benjamin Franklin 

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



I never underestimate my own capacity for stupidity. Indeed, I’ve done stupid things, said stupid things, and made stupid mistakes. Yes, I’ve been stupid and often during my life I have been in the company of misinformed, stupid people. If we are honest with one another, we will all admit that we have been stupid at times. Perhaps that’s why when stupidity surrounds me, like it’s doing today, I’m quite adept at recognizing the severity of my surroundings.

Stupidity is harder to eliminate than malice

I have come to realize and agree with theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that in today’s environment, common, everyday stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of mankind than malice has ever been. We are compelled to protest against pure evil, against malice, against man’s inhumanity to man wherever we find it. These sins can be exposed, and, if need be, eliminated by the use of outrage and even force. Evil deeds are often punished as crimes; stupidity rarely rises to that level of response.

Evil carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Humanity generally recognizes the differences between right and wrong and usually responds with a sense of anxiety, a sense of condemnation that ultimately becomes a powerful deterrent to evil acts. Society demands and ordains laws that constrain evil acts that harm the public’s general welfare. But, against stupidity we are utterly defenseless. We tend to ignore stupidity, or, worse yet, embrace it and adopt it as our own truth. Outrage does not confront stupidity with the same force it does evil. Stupidity is not viewed as dangerous, as harmful, as deadly.

But, make no mistake, today’s stupidity is dangerous. It is harmful. It is deadly. Indeed, it is killing us.

Stupidity has our nation reeling from three separate crises

If stupidity is, as all the most respected dictionaries define it, “acting in an unintelligent or careless manner—ignoring facts and embracing things that are manifestly untrue —senseless reasoning based on non-critical, unreasoned thinking,” then we have cultivated a bumper crop of stupidity spreading faster than kudzu on a Mississippi ditch bank!

Stupidity is more abundant, more vocal, more arrogantly confident these days than I have ever before witnessed. Any stupid crackpot conspiracy theory or nutty remark quoted often enough becomes gospel to an increasingly large swarth of stupid screwballs these days.

Our own stupidity has thrust us into three simultaneous existential crises, too unimaginable, too unthinkable, and too inconceivable, to be understood except through the prism of stupid people believing stupid lies.

An attempted insurrection

The insurrection crisis that visited our democracy on January 6th of this year was a direct result of stupid jerks perpetuating the “big lie“ that Donald Trump actually won the election. Thousands of folks actually believed the lie and stormed the hallowed halls of the Congress with the stated goals of overthrowing the government and killing the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and any member of Congress or police officer that tried to stop them. So much for the patriotic mantra “law and order”!

A “big lie” was perpetrated on gullible, stupid folks who ignored the obvious truth that Trump not only lost a free and fair election, but also got humiliated by over seven million votes. The “big lie” led to the unimaginable attack on our democracy not seen since the British burned the Capitol in 1814. Over 60 court cases and even more senseless vote recounts could not convince these crazed anarchists not to violently attack our democracy. Folks died because of this senseless stupidity. Make no mistake, if democracy and its peaceful transfer of power is ever lost in America, chaos will rule the entire world! The power of stupidity is dangerous and deadly! It came closer than we might imagine to destroying our great country, all because folks acted in an “unintelligent, careless manner.” Translation: stupid!

An environmental catastrophe

Two weeks ago, a United Nations report, compiled by a panel of the leading and most experienced scientists in the world, issued a report detailing the dire consequences caused by misinformed climate change deniers and warning that global climate change has brought our planet to the brink of catastrophe. In fact, the report calls the crisis “code red for humanity”. Yet, the internet, Fox News, paid spokesmen for energy companies, demagogic politicians and a host of kooky conspiracy theorists bombard the public with bizarre misinformation designed to deny what we all can see with our own eyes.

One has to be stupid not to see the “one hundred year” events that now happen every year- devastating floods, out-of-control wildfires, horrific earthquakes, blistering heatwaves, rampaging hurricanes, and frequent tornadoes and thunderstorms. We are now told by the trained experts that the damage to the planet is irreversible, and all we can do now is hopefully mitigate the damage.

Such a dire prognosis would normally demand immediate public policy action, but not now; not today, with the flood of crackpot theories embraced by a hypnotized public conditioned to more easily believe nonsense than their own “lying“ eyes! And so it goes, stupidity reigns supreme, and our planet is given palliative care and sent to hospice!

An unchecked pandemic

And finally, it’s now official! Data compiled by the New York Times confirms, Mississippi is not only leading the United States, but also the entire world in Covid 19 cases per capita! At this writing, 120 out of every 100,000 Mississippians has Covid. That deplorable number is about three times the national average!

Neshoba County, site of last week’s famous Neshoba County Fair, is the hottest spot for Covid in the world, with one in five people infected. A thirteen-year-old little girl recently died in Smith County from exposure to the virus, likely contracted in school. Recent days have seen a startling 830% increase in children diagnosed with COVID since school started, with at least 30 children now in hospitals, with 8 requiring ICU care.

Mississippi has suffered throughout this pandemic from inept leadership coming out of the Governor’s office. Governor Reeves has offered a confusing hodgepodge of orders from the very beginning of the public health crisis and has provided timid, sissy leadership at best. In fact, he has staked out a Trump-like position of denial of the seriousness of the virus spread. The disastrous results of his head-in-the-sand approach are obvious. Again, we are now the hottest spot for transmissions in the entire WORLD!

The bottom line is really pretty simple.

Vaccinations and mask mandates work. They are our two best defenses against the spread of the virus. So, what’s the logical, responsible message for keeping the public safe? Don’t be stupid, get vaccinated. Don’t be stupid, wear a mask. And for Pete’s sake don’t pay attention to the jackasses who personally profit from spreading nonsense on the internet.

I respect everyone’s freedom to choose. But when my grandson, my loved ones and my fellow Mississippi brothers and sisters are put in harm’s way because of your stupid actions, I’m quick to say, “freedom” be damned! You are not “free” to kill innocent people because of stupidity. Get vaccinated. Wear a mask.

Nature’s ultimate solution to purposeful stupidity

In my view, the insurrection crisis that threatened and continues to threaten our democracy, the climate crisis that threatens our planet, and the Covid pandemic which threatens our lives are each distinct, existential emergencies. They are also each a part of a bigger, broader, and perhaps more pernicious crisis–stupid belief in manifestly false, cleverly disguised lies like “Trump won”, “vaccinations magnetize skin”, and “snowstorms disprove climate change”. These lies impede and paralyze effective response on these and a host of other threatening issues. As long as we believe lies, crazy conspiracy theories, and disinformation campaigns devised to sow chaos, our problems will get worse and eventually will take us to the breaking point, or totally out! Until we engage in more critical thinking, stupidity will indeed kill us.

Some wise old soul once said, “You can’t fix stupid.” I fear stupid is terminal. I know of no cure. I have seen folks beat cancer, but quite honestly, I know of no one who’s ever been completely cured of stupid. That’s why the law of the jungle seems to always offer the practical solution: the stupid ultimately don’t survive. Unless the antelope recognizes the lion as the predator, he ends up in the lion’s belly. My sage ole buddy down in Kemper County always said, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him think.”

Have we become too stupid to live? Well, as I was writing this, the Mississippi State Department of Health had to issue a warning to my fellow citizens not to take horse worm medicine as a preventative for Covid.

I rest my case.