J. M. Pressley
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Antisociality

It's taken me some time to recognize, much less come to grips with, my innate hatred of people. I don't mean specific people; that would be at the very least a neurosis. I don't mean a specific group of people, either; that would be biased, and I'm nothing if not an equal opportunity hater of people. This is a purer, much less complex hatred I've come to deal with, and it's "people" in the abstract, nothing more defined than the blurs of faces and shoes that one encounters on a bus prior to getting off.

I don't want to be misunderstood on that point. There's far too much senseless hatred being perpetrated out there, ironically, mostly by the very people I propose that I hate. And unlike those others, I'm both self-reflective and passive when it comes to this hatred. This is not any sort of call to arms; I'm not suggesting anyone be dragged into the streets and beaten. The world, I dare say, won't change one whit for anything that I'm about to point out, and that's perfectly fine.

Where did this hatred begin? I can't point out a calendar date or look at my watch and say, "Gee, ten minutes ago it just hit me! I hate people!" or anything like that. It comes, however, as most things do—with age and experience. Much as I hate generalities, here goes. My observation is that children tend to view people in general as inherently good until proven otherwise. This is despite constant news reports to the contrary, and it is truly an amazing thing. At some point, along with the hormones and growth spurts, kids develop this passionate conviction that the great majority of people on this planet are, in fact, evil. I trace this to the growing awareness of the aforementioned news reports during this time, and because teenagers and cruelty (either given or received) often operate in a certain kind of symbiosis. Either view is formed with moral blinders on and misses the mark: there are good and evil people in the world in varying degrees. Besides which, "good" and "evil" are so subjective nowadays that I'm sure even churches have to sign legal waivers to use the terms.

The point is that I've now reached that age, in my thirties, where I've at least experienced enough people in this world to make my third broad assumption—people are neither inherently good nor evil. They're inherently stupid.

Why, might the skeptic ask, am I so confident, so untroubled in making such an assumption? Well, this might be reductionism to the extreme, but in accordance with Occam's Razor, it seems the most appropriate explanation for a great deal of what goes on in the world. And because stupidity is people-driven (again, people in the abstract sense), I rather hate them for it. It's all very simple.

The stupidity takes many forms—in a perverse way, stupidity is its own form of cunning ingenuity. I've seen much of it; indeed, I've even committed some, as have all of us in fleeting moments of what can be nicely called lapses of judgment. There is the mundane, mostly harmless, mostly annoying variety. This category encompasses waiters/waitresses with short-term memory impairments, most bureaucrats, and at least 60% of other drivers on the road, among others. One can easily recall any number of these incidents, and they tend to blur together into oblivion because of their constant presence. I tend to forgive these most, only because, well, what else is there to do? It's kind of like asking the clouds to apologize for raining: it's going to happen regardless, like some immutable law of physics.

On the next level, we have people whose stupidity can harm, either themselves or others. These are the people for whom there are explicit signs at Yellowstone that say, "Please stay in your cars and do not feed the bears." For one of the best overviews of this type of rampant stupidity, I recommend the original Faces of Death video. Sure, it's gory. That's pretty much the point. Or, I heartily recommend the Darwin Awards, a website which is somewhat less gory but replete with unintendedly stupid acts (such as the experienced skydiver whose last jump was made with one small oversight: he'd forgotten his parachute).

The Stage Three of stupidity exists in people who are intentionally cruel or negligent in their leave of reason. Somehow, lawyers and politicians keep finding their way into this category; perhaps it is their innate ability to impact so many people with their efforts, and rarely are the perpetrators at ground zero when the mushroom cloud erupts (figuratively and literally, in this metaphor). Trickle-down economics is a splendid example of this type of stupidity, in which people that already have a lot of money decide they should have some more, based on the assumption that the more bread you have, the more crumbs you will generate for those lower on the food chain. At best, these people are honestly kidding themselves. At worst, we have self-righteous stupidity at its finest. Not that this stupidity is limited to the elite of society; far from it. The less-than-elite of society simply have to band together and create power in numbers to offset the power of the elite individual in such situations. Think of the efficacy (although lacking in any kind of rationality) of mob violence, for example. Or outraged, hardworking citizens lathered up enough to organize restrictive immigration referendums to keep out of this country the people who are doing most of the jobs that those citizens don't want to do themselves.

For the most part, however, stupidity exists simply because most people do not have the foresight to sense how their decisions and actions can impact things down the road. And there's little hope for a cure. Careless, short-term self-interest is the root of much stupidity, and the problem is that it will likely only exacerbate in the future. After all, many studies prove that—on average—the more educated the parents, the smaller the family will be. Which means that stupidity is outpacing genius on a regular and long-range basis. Or, as the old adage goes, "Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless."

At any rate, it looks like my hatred of people will continue unabated, perhaps even grow, as there will be no shortage of stupidity to fuel it. Perhaps we can only hope to contain it, since it's pretty well demonstrated that we can't eliminate it (or we can eliminate it only when life as we know it comes to an end because stupidity is people-driven, as pointed out above). Perhaps my antisocial reaction to stupidity is a stupid thing in itself, but hey, just because I'm resigned to stupidity doesn't mean I have to be enthused about it. Heck, that would be tantamount to approving of it.

How stupid would that be?


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