How idiots make it to the top

I lived in Middle Eastern countries for many years. Those were incredibly beautiful years and I have come back with a lasting love for the entire region and its people. One day, I sat in a coffee shop and was approached by a stranger. He turned out to be a German citizen who permanently lived in the Middle East. Soon, there was a lively conversation.

After some time, I noticed that he tried to goad me towards some religious concepts. I regard religion as something deeply personal and I am generally not willing to discuss concepts, especially in a region of the world where people so deeply care about those things. But the more I resisted, he insisted. I tried to reason with him, but this incensed him even more.

I did not want to escalate things towards something unpleasant, so I had to cut loose from this conversation, and I did. There was no way to have a mature discussion with him as he was immune to anything that did not agree with his precepts. I learned a lesson. Some people cannot be argued with so I should not. From that day I resolved to only walk away any time when I stumble into this kind of person.

Last week we looked at how idiots compare to others in society. It’s time to see what impact the idiot has and how this comes to bear in a complex, sophisticated, civil society.

Both the Bandit as well as the Idiot damage the society they thrive in or only feed from. They can hence be described as some sort of parasite because they do not bring any discernible benefit to the host. But there are different kinds of parasitic relationships and while the Bandit is interested in the host surviving, the Idiot is a necrotroph. It kills the host.

One would argue that Bandits occupy the leadership level of any society and they are not interested in seeing it fail. Hence, they would prevent the Idiots from climbing the career ladder. But Bandits also continuously underestimate the destructive power of Idiots.

Bandits are afraid of one thing. Other Bandits. They know how they achieved whatever power they hold and are paranoid about some other Bandit doing to them what they did to their predecessor. So, Bandits do rather like the Idiots beneath them, as they make them much less afraid of their own position, power, and status.

This means that Idiots have an easy way of advancing in the wake of Bandits. When that happens for some time, you find lots of Idiots in positions of power. They pile up until they are numerous enough so that they can do serious harm. Today, you can see that in action in politics and in the corporate world in pretty much any mature democracy.

Does this mean that democracies are bad and should be shunned in favor of some other, more autocratic model? No, as autocracies offer numerous paths for Idiots as well. They are just better at concealing it from anyone – most of the time.

Look at the way countries like China and Russia disintegrate when they come under serious strain. Idiots have hollowed out the system for a long time and while in a democracy, transparency and accountability stunt the growth of idiotic structures, in an autocracy there are no limits to growth for them. It’s only Bandits and Idiots.

So, if there is no way to prevent this, how do we deal with it? Are we doomed?

If doomed means that we are destined to die, then no. Our societies will suffer immensely due to the actions of the Bandit-enabled Idiots. But as Idiots make life a lot harder for everyone, they are also the ones who suffer most from the consequences.

It’s easy to look at the activists on Campuses today or those gluing themselves onto roads as entitled brats. And they are. If you look at the September 11 terrorists, they were all from well-to-do families. They grew up in great comfort, they were able to travel and enjoy all the trappings of a sophisticated life. We often think that it is poverty and misery that trigger such feelings when in fact, latent rage is a feeling that needs nurture.

If you are struggling with physical survival, your mind is preoccupied with things such as how to pay bills or how to get food onto the table. Your day is full of essential survival stuff, and you have no energy or time to ponder superfluous stuff. At least when you look at it from the barebones perspective of life.

The same holds when you are on someone else’s dime. Welfare recipients, eternal students living off their parent’s wealth, eternal victims that can access funds they never had to work for all have much time at their hands.

And with all this time and the idleness that comes with it comes a certain mental rot. People are lazy by nature so as they are not willing and/or able to develop ideas of their own, they jump on ready-made bandwagons. Those bandwagons are causes, which have been dreamt up by Bandits that seek to exploit societal weakness.

They use the idiots as they are useful to them at the moment. But those causes then develop a life of their own and while the Bandit cuts the ropes when he considers it the right time to focus on a new scam, the Idiots keep the old vehicle alive and push it as far as they possibly can.

The Idiot is not troubled by facts, by reason, or by common sense. Not even by self-preservation as we have seen.

There is a saying: strong men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make bad times, and bad times make strong men.

Let’s put what we know about the Helpless, the Wise, the Bandits, and the Idiots to the test of this saying.

The strong men are wise. The Wise in cooperation with the Helpless build good times. The Bandits and Idiots exist but the Idiots are weak as times are hard and they can’t cope with that, and the Bandits lay low as there is not much fat in the system for them to exploit. They go stealthy.

Once good times are here, the Bandits start to creep ever more into positions of power. There are still the Wise and the Helpless and as the Bandits have a potent urge of self-preservation, they milk what they can, but the organism can deal with the damage they do. It gets used to pruning.

But this makes the Bandits even more cocky and reckless. In time, their schemes become more daring and much more aggressive. They want more, plus there are ever more Bandits that are going to enter the system. The Wise are the first to leave the rungs of power as the game becomes very dirty and those smart enough have better options.

In time, even the corporate world becomes totally swamped by the Bandits and as they are afraid of other Bandits, they start to bring Idiots into the system in their wake. It’s their safety mechanism. They constantly underestimate the damage those Idiots will do. They do not intend to kill the host, but they are oblivious to the danger. So is anyone else.

By this time the Wise are all gone and frustrated, the Helpless are rarified and play along as they are desperate. And the Bandits are so swamped by Idiots that breakdown starts to occur.

The weak men have now made hard times. We are at this precipice. And it will take time until times are bad enough for the good men – the Wise and the Helpless – to re-emerge and pick up the pieces.

The bad times are a time of pruning for the Idiots. They can’t deal with it, so many will go away. Many will cut back on their ambitions as society grows frustrated with their endless antics.

Because there is one thing that an Idiot can never do. Recognize when it’s enough and it makes sense to stop. For them, every concession by society is just one step on the way to the fulfillment of 100% of their objectives. As those objectives are vague, this point never comes. Also, there are always even bigger Idiots just around the corner to prevent any compromise from sticking.

The Idiots will hence overshoot the point where they can prevent breakdown. They will vastly overshoot.

This is the moment when the rest of society pulls the Idiot’s support structure away and suddenly, he finds himself in the situation of struggle for survival. Something they are not used to, so their causes go away or they go away. It’s the big pruning. The hardest proponents and activists will take dramatic ends. The various radical communist organizations In Western Europe during the Cold War attest to that.

But most of the Idiots will give in. There are shades of idiocy.

Idiots are a host-killing parasite. The most radical are like Ebola. They would kill their host so fast that they could not spread. The most dangerous are the nice Idiots. They say all the right words to lull us into complacency all while doing their destructive work. I prefer the radicals. At least it is clear what they are and where the journey goes.

But let’s come back to who the Idiots are. I suggest we all take a deep look in the mirror because I suppose that many times, we are also Idiots. All 4 types of humans coexist in us and depending on the situation we find ourselves in, one or the other takes precedence. And let’s be frank – being an Idiot is easy and soothing. You can just go along with whatever strikes you and spare yourself the acrimony of having a true opinion.

Maybe it’s best to imagine this as a spectrum, a bit like an adoption curve. Few on one end, few on the other, and the big bulge in the middle. This spectrum exists in all of us. A bit like those Carl Jung personality tests where one looks if he is introverted or extroverted among other qualities. There are always some of both – but one dominates.

In rare cases, the domination is so extreme that the other side cannot be detected anymore.

This means that most Idiots are not Idiots all the time. Being an Idiot seems to be situation-dependent. Sure, there are universal Idiots but again they seem to be rather rare.

The question is again, can a partial Idiot be reformed? Can they be brought to see a more reasonable position? In some cases, this might be so.

I have several friends who are educated, otherwise smart people, and when a certain topic comes up, they transform into pure Idiots. They are friends so I tried many times to make them see another point. Success was limited, mostly non-existent.

When I read Kirschner’s books about 40 years ago, I also learned another striking truth. Yes, people are different and there are quality differences between them. But this is nothing genetic. It’s a decision that every one of us makes consciously and as we decide to be Idiots, we can decide to be anything else at any moment as well. We would only have to do the things that those in another group do. Not only talk about it.

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “Smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences, stupid people already have the answers”.

If you ever try to discuss an Idiot, you will see what he meant. That issue had existed since the dawn of time. But only in societies where a class of people have time and money to waste, does this ever become a problem. Classical Greece seems to have been such a place and indeed so was any sophisticated culture.

We have found inscriptions from the old Persian Empire to Pharaonic Egypt, the Roman Empire, and indeed cultures from every corner of the world where the actions of the Idiots were commented on by the Wise of their times.

Einstein appears to have said that only the cosmos and human stupidity are infinite. He was never sure about the cosmos.

In part 3 we will look at more examples of Idiots and how to stay on the sane lane in this race to the bottom.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.