I’m not prejudiced against anyone or anything… except Stupid People. Race, color, customs, country of descent/origin, religious beliefs, sexuality… all of that simply combines into beginning to describe who a person is. My usual reaction to any such differences from my own perspective is curiosity.
I want to know how and why people think, say and do what they think, say and do. In understanding them better, I come closer to understanding my world as a whole. If I can understand better where they are coming from, then I’m less likely to be misunderstood or inadvertently cause a problem. Everyone has their own personal bias to any words they choose (I’ll talk about my theory on language another day) so what may seem like simple, ordinary conversation may highly offend without ever intending to do so. It’s selfish really: if I understand others better, I can better understand how others understand me, then I will understand me better too and my progress continues…
Then there are Stupid People; people who have no interest in learning about others or themselves and, in fact, rarely know anything of their own thoughts at all. Ignorance is not the same thing. Ignorance is simply knowledge a person has not been exposed to yet. In US society, the word ‘ignorant’ is evolving to include people who are willfully stupid. These concepts are not the same at all! I should note that not all stupid people exist solely in that category and all of us, from time to time, can subject our selves and lives to some truly incredible stupidity. That said, what I’m referring to here, in a group all their own, Stupid People, I really believe should not breed and yet they seem to pop out babies like rabbits. Stupid People (or ‘idiots’ I’ll allow) are not people who haven’t experienced life. Stupid is someone who has chosen a limited intelligence, decided that their version of approval from their peers is more important than thinking with the brains they have inside their own skulls. It’s not instinctual, it’s not reaction, it’s generally not trained (although that may be the case for some), it’s a choice by someone old enough and experienced enough to know better. Stupid is often mislabeled as immature. Maturity comes with wisdom, wisdom comes with understanding, understanding comes with knowledge. Stupid people have knowledge and at least basic understanding but simply choose to be stupid in their daily lives. There’s a relatively new word floating around, “sheeple” to describe people who act more like sheep following a flock than people with their own minds. That sums up the vast majority of Stupid People under my definition, but it doesn’t quite cover those that win the Darwin Awards. They actually had those genius thoughts themselves, or decided it was a genius thought. Thankfully those people can’t breed anymore. As anyone who has seen Idiocracy will agree, breeding more of them is a bad idea.
I believe there’s a maturity line (-in-the-sand, so to speak) that changes us fundamentally once we cross it, hopefully for the better. Once known, it cannot be unknown. Once understood, we cannot be oblivious anymore. Of course, I have known several examples of people who would like to choose to go back to that ignorance-is-bliss mentality, but eventually the knowledge revealed will show itself. What really stumps me are when some that see that line just choose not to cross it – afraid of the unknown, I guess? They put their backs to it, cross their arms, pout and simultaneously stomp a foot and yell “NO!” just like a 3-yr-old on the verge of a tantrum. “Uh uh, I’m not going and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” Well, they are right about that. But as long as they remain obstinately ignorant, they keep revolving around the same old problems and wonder why nothing in their life really changes for the better. Willfully stupid. Change is often difficult and can outright suck at times, but change ultimately leads to something better even if you can’t always immediately see the positive – a mentally and emotionally better, stronger, happier you, if you’re willing. People can’t grow if they aren’t willing to try. Willfully choosing ignorance over knowledge and the potential for change is simply beyond my ability to comprehend, and I admit sometimes beyond my ability for patience (I think there must be another line-in-the-sand that also provides endless patience, but I’m not there yet). I do try to balance my impatience with the reality that everyone has just as much potential to be stupid as intelligent. I’m of the mind that more knowledge = more understanding = more wisdom = better sense of self and my world = better able to consciously choose happiness in my everyday life = more happiness overall. Why does anyone ever choose misery?!
So, here’s an example of an situation when a reasonably intelligent adult willfully chose to be miserable:
A friend of mine got a job he didn’t like, working for a supervisor who was a jerk, and often had to work closely with his least favorite co-worker on a shift. For two solid years, almost daily, I got to hear this friend’s complaints about his job – how much he hated the work, his boss, his co-workers, and all the specific instances that were making working there intolerable. The first few months I tried to simply be sympathetic and supportive. My thoughts were: it’s a temporary situation, and things will improve eventually. I tried to stay positive and encouraged him to too. After about six months, I started venturing into advice unasked – can you ask for another shift, another job elsewhere, maybe under a different super or at least with a different co-worker? Is there anything at all you do like so you can focus on that instead? Tried looking for another job altogether? Every suggestion posed was always, always met with a brick wall of excuses: can’t afford to leave, the supervisor is the same over his level, salary so he’s screwed on the additional hours, no he hated everything, and on and on. I was utterly failing at being able to point out any kind of positive, nevermind a silver lining. The fact he was employed at all didn’t help and seemed to be the biggest problem, so how can I help? “Ok,” I tell him, “things are tough right now, try to focus on where you’d like to be. You will get there.” By this time, a year had gone by and I was beginning to lose patience over the whole thing. I mean seriously, the same complaints, most days, certainly every week, for over a year! My patience was straining but we’d been friends for a while so he deserved some patience, I thought. Our conversations soon deteriorated to the occasional “that sucks” at appropriate times in his continuing monologue. The complaints were not only of the same stuff but intensified – the supervisor seemed to have it in for him, gave him the worst tasks, hovered and was never happy with the results; kept getting called in to work the excessive overtime hours for no additional pay; kept getting hitched to his least favorite co-worker; etc. To my mind, my friend spent what little time he had to himself bitching about how much he hated this job when he could’ve been spending his free time at least enjoying life, if not looking for different, and possibly better, employment. So the job got worse and he refused to consider changing the situation, but wanted the situation to “just get better.” Hmm, can you guess what happened next? He was fired. After two whole years of complaining about a job he hated with every breath he had to spare, he loses the job and was surprised by this. No, not surprised, astonished! I’ll admit my initial reaction was relief that he could finally move past this obstacle in his life. Maybe I’d even get my friend back. I tried to be sensitive and tactful, I really did! But well… the gist of my attempts at being supportive can be boiled down to this: “you complained constantly for two years about wanting things to change, refused to make a change yourself, the universe finally answers your daily prayer, and you’re surprised?!” I didn’t use exactly those words or the tone that comes across here, not at first anyway, but I did let him know I thought he shouldn’t have been surprised by the termination. Well of course he took it that I was saying he deserved to be fired, or thought he was lying about the conditions he was working under, or… something. I really don’t know what he thought exactly, but I do know he completely missed the point: ask and you shall receive. We have much more control over our own lives than we sometimes want to believe, but the fact still remains that what we focus on in our lives will bring more of it to us. He focused on all the little details he hated and received more of them. Focused on the jerk for a supervisor who became a bigger jerk. Focused on how much he hated working with that one co-worker and kept getting saddled with him. Focused on how much he hated the work itself and the hours without pay and ended up working 18hr days for the same pay. Focused on how much he desperately wished for a change but didn’t want to make the change himself. The universe finally provided the only out that could be found by that time: remove the obstacle. Our friendship, which had pretty much failed by this point, did not survive the change. A reasonably intelligent and responsible adult who chose to live two years of his life wallowing in the misery of circumstance and was then side-swiped with a termination I’m sure he had a difficult time working through. That’s what I consider willfully stupid. Not a stupid guy, stupid life choice.
Of course life can be overwhelming at times, especially when we seem stuck in a difficult circumstance, but if you can’t see a way out right now, at least give yourself enough respect to try to focus on a positive aspect in your life. This guy had a wonderful, supportive, loving fiancé, friends who cared, a solid roof over his head, a working vehicle, money coming in, and food in his big belly. It may not seem like enough, but it’s something! Even if you can’t see an out right now, something will turn up if you focus on what you want to happen rather than what you don’t want happening. Trust me, things can and will get worse. Misery only begets more misery. I sincerely hope this guy learned something out of that difficult time and came out a happier person in the long run. Sadly, I know a number of people who have gone through similar situations but don’t make the connection when the same or similar situation crops up in their lives again. It’s as if they can’t be happy without something to complain about. It must be even easier if they’ve complained about it before. How’s that for making sense? Stupid.
Now I’m going to share one of my own experiences in being willfully stupid, and there’s some back story so hang in there… when I was a kid with three older siblings, we had assigned chores around the house. At five years old, I wasn’t expected to do something that could potentially harm me, like washing dishes or cooking, so I was exempt from the daily kitchen routine. I was the baby and several years younger than my next closest sibling so there was probably some resentment I didn’t understand. Being so much younger, and with school friends too far away for after-school play, I was often left to play alone. I hated always being alone. I wanted to be included in everything and, more, I wanted them to want to include me. One day my brother agreed he would play cards with me if I would do his assigned dishes after dinner. Well I’d watched it enough times I figured I could handle it, and off I went. When I came back to claim my reward, he took the deck of cards, spit them all over the room, said “52-card pickup” and left me alone again. Of course I said it wasn’t fair, not that it mattered. He got me to do something he didn’t want to do and got out of doing something else he didn’t want to do. My parents were so ticked by this that they figured the best way they could circumvent anything similar happening was by simply adding me to the dishes rotation. I resented being fooled and resented gaining a new responsibility because of it even more. Again, I was five. I held onto that well into adulthood. I hated doing the dishes with a passion. It was a recurring argument with every roommate I ever had, whether family, friend or boyfriend. Whenever I was finally guilted into it, I would stop in the middle of the kitchen, my lip would curl in disgust, my stomach would roil, and my body would physically recoil from the prospect, literally hating this with every fiber of my being. I had a very visceral hate of cleaning up the kitchen no matter how it became dirtied. I would much rather throw everything out and buy new, but of course that was never part of the budget allowance. So, I would grit my teeth, curse constantly, and use every, single, last ounce of willpower to keep myself from accidentally-on-purpose breaking everything breakable. Cleaning the kitchen never took very long, thirty minutes more or less, and the laziness of a half-assed job was never my style, in any case it always seemed like an eternity of torture to me. Then, I would finally be done, looking at a nice clean sink, listening to the rumble of the dishwasher (yes, a dishwasher! Even an automatic dishwasher couldn’t put a dent in my hatred! We had a dishwasher when I was five so that’s probably part of it), and I would feel a brief rush of relief it was done, shake off the disgust, and walk away…until the next time it became an issue. Add to this unreasonable attitude my near equal hate of gross smells and the bugs they attract, and it’s truly a wonder it took me so very long to get over this. Oddly enough, if I destroyed the kitchen because of some crafting project, I had no problem cleaning up after myself so I could keep my tools in good condition. But, if I destroyed the kitchen cooking or baking, I flatly refused on the basis I made the food, someone else can clean it. Unfortunately for others, I love to bake, so random breads, rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, whatever were always showing up…along with a destroyed kitchen I expected someone else to clean. When I lived alone, I threw out a few pans but that couldn’t continue, so I would bribe my friends to clean my dishes or just eat out. When I got dogs, things were a little easier if I let them prewash, at least I didn’t have science projects marinating in the sink, but the visceral hate remained. Something had to give. How did I get over this? I got married. Well, it wasn’t the getting married part that made the change, but it changed my perspective on the problem a bit. I would approach the kitchen with the same physical recoil and involuntary lip curl, but I determined that my relationship with my new husband meant more to me than maintaining my hate of cleaning dirty dishes. So, I grit my teeth again and repeated to myself, “I wish this didn’t bother me so much” over and over until it was done. I remember the first time I volunteered to clean the kitchen without prompting, remember every scrub, scrape and wipe accompanying my mantra, “I wish I didn’t mind so much”, and I remember the pride that followed the relief because not only was it done, I did it solely on my own. I thought, “well, that’s new!” In the end, it took more than one volunteer cleaning, but one day I suddenly realized, “hey, I don’t mind this so much anymore” and that was that. All those years (nearly thirty I’m embarrassed to say), all that hatred, and probably contributions to more than one failed relationship. It all seems so silly now, such a small thing in the grand scheme, but I let it build to unreasonable proportions. Then, I just had to decide I wanted to be over it before I could finally get passed it.
I believe many, if not most, obstacles in our lives are like this one was for me. If we will just decide to get passed it, a solution will come one way or another. It might not be immediate and it won’t always be simple, that may depend on the complexity of the problem and/or how difficult we insist on making things for ourselves, but deciding we need to move is the key. The more time we spend wallowing in whatever is holding us back, the longer we remain in that miserable place. I see it as sort of like pounding on a wall that shouldn’t be there dammit! and ignoring the doorway right next to me. Continuing on with the same tactic with the same result is just plain stupid! I try to keep my prejudice in check, because after all, they say what lights your fuse the quickest is actually a reflection of problem you have in yourself (paraphrasing but you get it, right?). So now, when I find my fists are sore and I’m getting nowhere, I take a step back and re-evaluate the problem. How stupid can I be? Sometimes there really was a doorway or ladder right next to me the whole time. I count it smart when I think to look. Use those brains!