Challenging intelligence | Inquirer Opinion

Challenging intelligence

12:55 AM April 05, 2019

I hardly write to entertain. That was never my intent when I accepted the invitation of then (now to write in a regular column 18 years ago. Other writers want to do that and have the talent as well. I must admit that I sometimes want to be able to do the same. Writing on matters that are of great importance to me, and in my view, for our people and country, too, often brings me great frustration when I am unable to connect as broadly and deeply as I would like. My consolation is that I accept the continuum of life and how the collective destiny is far greater than the personal intentions of individuals. Evolution with the principle of karma in tow is the greater process for a people and struggling nation.

I was able to move from a visceral sense to a more intellectual grasp of precisely that continuum of life because of my intent desire to understand and intervene in special fields of interest. Some of these fields are for personal growth. Others refer directly to collective states like communities and countries and the major issues that obstruct their progressive development. I am grateful that history, if we wish to read up on it, is at our beck and call with details beyond imagination. There is now amazing technology which allows man to peer into the past with infrared eyes and the tools to measure age. This same technology brings to present day viewing graphic narratives and physical evidence for deeper appreciation.


The stories of great societies complete with the key personalities that affected them so effectively put wise context to our own situations. The past is alive enough to actively influence current societal dynamics. It has strong sway especially on human behavior, giving credence to many sayings about how old habits die hard, or hardly die. History can easily show how current issues, global and local, do not sound so new after all. The same stories and human drama revolving around greed, sex, lust for power, war, disease, poverty, and corruption were there from ancient societies as they are with us now.

Just because they are problems that have plagued humanity for millennia does not mean they affect us any less in their present forms. However, understanding that these problems have been there, have disrupted families, communities, and societies also reveal the effort of the afflicted groups to address and resolve them. If we are interested, if we are intelligent, and if we want to learn the lessons of the past to better solve problems of today, history and historians provide both information and insights. If, if, if – big ifs.


I can understand ignorance. Most the most part, ignorance is not a choice but a consequence of a greater situation than an individual’s will. It is not easy to know about what one does not see experience, does not see or hear about. Communities in isolation naturally produce people who will remain ignorant of the greater world around them.

What I cannot understand is stupidity. Stupidity is another kind of animal. It is not ignorant; it can be well-informed. But stupidity means processing information, facts, truths, in ways that defy the practically deny their value. Instead, a pre-conditioned preference is able to block out the greater reality for a myopic desire or addiction.

History and all that it can teach is absolutely useless to those inflicted with stupidity. And not only history but any fact or truth will be rendered helpless against those who resist intelligence and cling tightly to stupidity. From the past that I have read about to the present that we all can experience, there are people and events that can impact our lives because of the good that they do, or the harm that they cause to us. Stupidity, however, is not driven by the natural difference of good or bad, of benefit or damage. It has its own perverse equation, impossible to decipher by normal standards. Medical science has had to catalog categories of mental or psychological illnesses and give them definitions as best it can.

What is sad is that the stupidity damages society not because of unacceptable behavior from the mentally or emotionally disturbed. The stupidity of exceptions has little impact in a human of billions of people. The horrible consequence is the stupidity of the many, oftentimes the majority. It is the acceptance, the acquiescence, the tolerance, and worst of all, the adulation by greater numbers of the wrong by a few.

The worst despots in history were able to destroy societies and nations, not because of their stupidity, but the stupidity of a mindless audience. Perhaps, Goebbels caused more destruction by indoctrination and propaganda than by Hitler’s orders to attack European neighbors. After all, the only trigger that Hitler might have pulled may have killed only himself.

The age of information brings especially that – information. We must never forget that information does not guarantee wisdom. Information is neutral. It can be the raw material for intelligent as well as idiotic conclusions. Nothing is more dangerous that information in the wrong person who will find a translation or application that will do harm. Unfortunately, the stupidity of many will magnify the damage. And, naturally, the karmic harvest is equally painful for the community or nation.

History has shown me that stupidity is not a desired state of mind. In fact, mainstream stupidity is often committed because great numbers focus only on their personal needs and become disinterested in the collective. People become stupid in very metered dosages. It is in the small compromises to intelligence that someone consequently grows his or her own stupidity. Whether we think we are important or not to a community or society, we cannot afford to allow stupidity to grow in us. Our instinct for intelligence must remain active, especially in the most delicate of circumstances.

Get interested in history. The lessons have long been there but largely unlearned.

Subscribe to our opinion newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.
Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Challenge, Glimpses, History, ignorance, intelligence, montelibano
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Subscribe to our opinion columns

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2022 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.