Collective wisdom, collective stupidity | Inquirer Opinion

Collective wisdom, collective stupidity

12:30 AM April 14, 2017

I have come to a serious realization that objectivity is a myth, at best a rarity. I think it was a romantic idea from the very beginning, that a person can look at a fact and see it for what it is. Facts are facts. They can be numbers, they can be things, objects. They should be easy enough to appreciate and accept as they are. In fact, they may be to the human mind, but hardly to the human person.

For a long time, I must have become somewhat lazy, preferring to take the path of least resistance, especially with what we call facts, knowledge, and truth. It had become easy to believe that what I see, hear and learn are facts, knowledge and truth – and anything to the contrary is false. After all, I have had extensive experience (having lived all of seven decades) and, perhaps, an extraordinary exposure to people, events and places that the majority of people don’t have. I always had good grades in subjects I wanted to study, and a quick, instinctive or intuitive grasp of what’s what in life. Also, I had reasonable courage to face hard truths, especially my shortcomings.


I always thought respect was a virtue, something out there that was noble and pure, mostly beyond ordinary humanity but had to be pursued, like sainthood. And I only later realized that respect is intimately related to facts, knowledge and truth, that respect is valuable because it affirms the commonality and interconnectivity of man. It is the acceptance that what is vital to me, what is important to me, is present, vital and important to another person, to all persons. And if any person does not understand the common features, needs and aspirations of mankind, then respect is, indeed, a virtue that is floating out there distended from our humanity.

Because I write, and more importantly, I read, I am always engaged with the unlimited spectrum of human imagination and artistry. Many writers can have such unimaginable creativity, snatching thought images from nowhere and everywhere, that they making life so enthralling and thrilling to those who read them. Many more have such gift with words that I am stunned by how they manipulate language from just being informative to being simply awesome. These writers who have such intelligence and profound insights, these writers who use words like music and dance, they make up for everything else.


In case anybody does not understand what I mean by “everything else”, it is simply all the trash, ignorance, ineptness, clumsiness, and outright stupidity that is also out there, in growing numbers today because technology allows these to reach massive audiences. I do not mean the variety of views and sentiments, I mean stupidity in the name of opinion. In the words of one poem, they are a vexation to the spirit. I do not even mean the mechanical trolls, the smart devices that churn out thousands of robot messages meant to flood our minds with their content of hate or inane propaganda; I mean those who either pay for or dictate the content of stupidity.

There is really nothing strange about all the good and the bad we see, read or hear out there. When I recall about the earlier statements of philosophers and politicians from the beginning of recorded and remembered history, they frequently mentioned both the wisdom and the stupidity of their societies. They mentioned, too, the innocent and gullible, the insidious and malicious. Today is apparently a replay or modernized version of the exchange of ideas and words that have characterized humanity, the collective wisdom richly mixed with collective stupidity.

That is the spectrum of human intelligence, from the emerging to the blossoming. Reason and intelligence may be features of the human race but obviously more a potential than a honed talent. That is why we get to see the worst, or lowest, and the best, the inspirational. Yet, everybody gets to play in the same arena, the wise as well as the stupid. And everybody is a source of learning for those who are eager to know what is wrong and avoid it, to know what is right and emulate it.

In most articles that I write, I may get ten to thirty thousand readers but less who respond one way or the other. The great majority are approving, and I assume they are mostly those who have been reading me before and mostly agree with the content and manner of my thoughts and sentiments. A few express their reactions by giving commentaries. It is from these commentaries that one can sense the range of wisdom or stupidity. Many among these have very weak reading skills. They may ask questions or make comments that obviously show they never understood what they read. Many of these comments prove how partisanship can lower human intelligence and heighten the need to express oneself, even stupidly so.

Ignorance is a shortcoming that curiosity can often erase. The advent of an era of information has been like light to the darkness of ignorance. The Internet can be a powerful tool in bringing that light to billions of people, including children. It can soon be said that ignorance is a curse that only the lazy cannot transcend.

Stupidity, though, is another story. It is difficult to be stupid, and very much more difficult to stay stupid. Stupidity is not only a choice, it is a commitment. That is why it is harder to get rid of stupidity that it is of ignorance. And I mean no moral judgment on the stupid, going only by mainstream definition of what stupidity is according to the English language and dictionaries. Wikipedia, for example, defines stupidity as:a lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit or sense.

At this point in my life, I have come to respect the collective wisdom. I have also learned to accept the collective stupidity with great reluctance, hoping it transcends itself.

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TAGS: facts, knowledge, Wisdom
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