What’s the big deal, right? We disagree with someone’s opinion: “They’re stupid.” A perspective doesn’t make sense to us: “That’s just stupid.” Or something is simply contrary to what we believe to be ‘the right thing’: “How stupid.”
We’re all guilty of it in some way or another, but it’s no big deal. After all “stupid” isn’t a curse word. If something isn’t right, it’s wrong. And if something is wrong, it’s obviously stupid because smart people are never wrong, right?
No. The fact is, it’s not okay to call someone stupid.
Yet recently I’ve noticed that we’re flippantly throwing that word about a lot more than usual, especially at things that have nothing to do with intelligence.
We’re calling people “stupid” because they believe in, see, and pursue something different.
Ironically, those who are quick to call out “stupid” are the same ones who call for political correctness on all matters concerning religion, disability, sexuality, race, and physical appearance. Apparently “stupid” is something you choose, ergo something you can help or change, ergo calling something “stupid” is simply a way to express disagreement towards that choice.
Now I’m not the PC police, but after being recently categorised as “stupid” by people that I consider some of the most socially conscious, openminded, and smart, I began to notice how reckless (or at least nonchalant) we are with our judgments. I wasn’t being called stupid because of my intelligence, common sense, or ability to think clearly; I’m “stupid” because I believe in something different.
Education isn’t a qualification to call out “stupid”
Just to get an idea of where I’m coming from, I’ve spent the last 7 years studying belief systems and books that are entirely different from my own. As a result, I’ve become a sort of devil’s advocate, accepting that everyone’s beliefs are valid within the context of their own complex systems and environment. Don’t get me wrong, I do have strong stances, and I’m unrelentingly stubborn. Nevertheless, as long as your stance is not “I believe it just because,” you can bet that I’m going to try to understand where you’re coming from.
Therefore this trend to call on the s-bomb in regards to “inferior” lifestyle choices or “uneducated” political stances is one that I’m struggling to accept. Why do we feel the need to identify ourselves as “better than somebody else” because we have this and that qualification?
True, education does make a difference in terms of our ability to express ourselves. However, education isn’t a seal of approval, which suddenly makes us more qualified to talk about the world and come to “smart” conclusions. Education is just another environment that offers another lens through which to view the world. Education influences beliefs; it doesn’t necessarily make them “right” or “smart.”
What’s more dangerous: “stupid people” or judging people “stupid”?
Every time we call out “stupid,” we’re making a judgment about something’s worth. So when we start calling people “stupid” because they simply believe in something different, we’re calling into question their ability to contribute anything of “intelligent” value. As a result, we stop listening and trying to understand (Brexit anyone?). And when we stop listening, communication breaks down and factions emerge.
We live in a beautiful, multicoloured, complex world, full of lessons to be learnt and opinions to be discussed. Let’s not nurture division. Let’s embrace the different. Let’s take a moment to listen.
And finally, let’s think before we call something “stupid.”
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