Monday, April 16, 2007

Everybody Is So Damn Smart

April 16, 2007

Maybe it's the Imus in me (that title indeed sounds like something that would have come from him) but it's 3:30 A.M., I'm starting a diet this morning and my stomach is telling me to hold off another day and go raid the refrigerator right now, and I had a revelatory insight over the weekend. It was just this: Everybody thinks that he or she is smarter than everybody else.

I'm not just referring to people who appear on Sunday morning talking-head tv shows, or to people who write comments on this blog. I said "everybody," and I mean everybody. The guy who takes your money at Wal-Mart, your waitress at Starbuck's, your hairdresser, your yard man, everybody in the world. Not that they will necessarily challenge you, or engage you in a discussion, but if you look you can see it in their eyes. They think they know more than you think they do. And if you give them a chance, they will hold forth on any topic you throw out. They're looking for that chance. You're hoping to avoid it.

You want to avoid the discussion because, guess what, you too think you are smarter than they are and you'd feel better not finding out otherwise. Or maybe you think it polite not to show them up. Or maybe you just don't want to hear about it.

I have a friend who hates bigots but wants to start a blog where bigots of every stripe will have a say. He thinks this exposure will show them for what they are: ignorant, mean-spirited, and sometimes ridiculous. He thinks they need a place to ventilate. I wonder that he has not browsed the Internet enough to see that it abounds with such blogs -- some even call themselves "bigot blogs" -- representing outrageous viewpoints on every conceivable subject. I have read a few such rants myself. You might say, in my own modest and subtly brilliant way, I have written more than one.

Here is the difference. I am pretty damn smart too, but I am right, at least some of the time. Come to think of it, so is the guy taking my money at Wal-Mart. And he's smart enough to keep quiet and not post on a blog.


Officious Oaf said...

It’s not that we think we are smarter than others, but rather that we know more than others…about certain things anyway, which is true. All of us, including hair dressers, yard men, hamburger flippers and even oafs, know something that a lot of others don’t know. And it is that “something” that lets us have a bit of personal pride, a distinction. So what we really talking about is a question of ego, not “smarts”.

The problem arises, which I am guessing to be the essence of this particular blog, is when the store clerk, the greasy mechanic or your brother-in-law computer programmer begins expounding with a degree of unabashed certainty on the intricacies of the conflicts in the Middle East or how to raise children, or why God, in spite of a fearsome wrath, is loving and forgiving, and you are expected by the expounder to reel backwards in awe by so much “smarts” being dumped on you…and you don’t and what to do then. You may choose the response of the non-confrontational, and you mutter to yourself, “How can that stupid ass think he –or she- is so smart.”, as you are getting the hell out of there, or you can choose the rebutter’s role and enter into a heated discussion from which nothing good can come, unless accumulating enemies is a good thing. The truth is that the expounder doesn’t think he –or she is- really more intelligent than you are, just more informed, and this is the opportunity to show it…back to personal pride again. That’s what happens when that ego of ours goes wandering around out there with little sense of restraint.

But before we banish all uneducated informers to the land of the ignorant and stupid, word of caution is tossed out. Confusing “smarts” with intellect is an error, for many intelligent people do “unsmart” things, and many not so intelligent people do a lot of “smart” things. Having said that, does that make me “smarter” than you? Of course, not, but some oafs know some things that even the “smart ass” doesn’t.

Bert Bananas said...

One of the simplest (conceptually) but hardest things (practically) to do to help you get your own way is to allow people to believe that you agree with them that they are smarter than you. It simply requires not caring what other people think of you.

Officious Oaf said...

Truer words never spoken Bananas, but that leads us to another issue: by not caring, does that mean that others, like ants, are so far below us it does matter what what think is or that we have an ego that no longer need inflating?

Mary Lois said...

Bananas, I'm having trouble with the concept. It's for people who don't care what other people think of them, but want to manipulate them into doing what they want them to? If I ever get in that position, maybe I'll try it.

Bert Bananas said...

It's a situational thing. When you're with friends, it's not that you worried about what they think, you simply want to be consistent with the image you've created for them of yourself. We all want to manipulate people. I'm just bringing up a method I use in my work. I call it "Another Day of Groveling."

I get what I want in exchange for making someone feel slightly superior. Win-win...