Rabelaisian rant for the day

by Kim on July 13, 2010

“… We would rather swim in the comfortable lukewarm bath of stupidity. It’s the democratic solution, if we are to believe Walter Pitkin, who puts the proportion of stupid people at 80 per cent of the population and, unhappily, goes on to point out that the 20 per cent who aren’t stupid stupidly underestimate the threat posed by the stupid majority. And here, perhaps, lies the root, and the irony, at the heart of so much of the nit-picking, niggling, you’ll-have-someone’s-eye-out-with-that legislation which in turn lies at the core of our current infantilisation….

“… those ones, all of them howling for new laws, for cracking down and stamping out and not putting up with, for sending harsh messages and putting a stop to and imposing standards on and curbing the selfish minority and why should decent people? and saving people from themselves …

“And the problem is that while their entire outlook upon the world (Jesus loves them; Jesus, too, regards the world with suspicion, intolerance and contempt) is based upon the founding notion that, if not all, at least 80 per cent of us are stupid, they fail to spot the fact that at least 80 per cent of them are stupid too. And therefore 80 per cent of their laws (proposed or enacted) are stupid, and their regulations and their plans and their consultancy documents and their best-practice scenarios and their compliance requirements and their key competencies.

“Eighty per cent of everything is stupid…*

“Which would be fine for toddlers, who haven’t been around that long and can’t be expected to talk sense; fine, too, for adolescents, who, for reasons of hormones and identity, inhabit a schizotypical universe of delusions, hallucinations and mad ineluctable yearnings. But it is not fine for grown-ups, and once we get our eye in, it’s a bit like coming out of one of those prolonged dissociative states and realising that we have been living a whole life we knew nothing of, and, what is worse, living it among mad people.”

Michael Bywater, Big Babies Or: Why Can’t We Just Grow Up? (London: Granta Books, 2006), pp. 145-46.

[* A gross under-estimate, in my view.]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }


Pam 07.14.10 at 4:16 am

Are these percentages somehow related to 80/20 ratio of people who volunteer for jobs on church council, etc? It is often easier to “go along with the crowd”, much harder (but infinitely more enriching) to stand up and be counted.
btw, Bywater is right about teenagers, but they are great fun to be with and I love the way my son picks me up and carries me around the kitchen when I cook something he likes!! :)


Rick O'Donnell 07.15.10 at 3:56 am

Which is why I despise the “safety police”—those lovelies who design our cars so that the doors lock automatically, for instance, and who insist upon warning labels on styrofoam coffee cups that intone “CAUTION: CONTENTS MAY BE HOT AND CAN CAUSE BURNS TO HANDS AND LIPS”.
Please, let stupid pay its own way. Otherwise, as has oft been noted, our shallow gene pool shall simply spread thinner and wider until it simply evaporates in the bright sunshine. A bit depressing to think of, eh?

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