The Helpless, the Intelligent, the Bandit and the Stupid.

I’ve always been of the opinion that since very first human beings have made their presence known on this planet, they have always shown a very high opinion of themselves. Religion has given its contribution, of course, stating that we were the elected who had been made with the semblance of our creator and the only one endowed with that super power called reason which allows us, sons of the Enlightenment, to make the future we imagine come true. We believe ourselves to be as a sort of demigods. However, if it were so, is this the kind of future we had imagined? There must be a fault in this divine scheme, or more than one as my dear friend Jonathan Swift had cleverly pointed out in his Gulliver Travels, otherwise, our present wouldn’t be so full of contradictions and oddities. I cannot clearly make out where we are going or if the demigods we have elected have in mind to take us to a place different from the one called “disaster”. I am convinced there must be circuit breaker somewhere.

So while I was thus immersed in what the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi called “cosmic pessimism”, my attention was drawn by an essay written by Professor Carlo Cipolla : “The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity” and magically everything became clear. Professor Cipolla aimed at discussing the following facts:

1. the stupid damage the whole society;
2. the stupid in power do more harm than others;
3. the stupid democrats use the elections to keep the percentage of stupid people in power  high;
4. stupid people are more dangerous than bandits because reasonable people can understand the logic of bandits;
5. Reasonable people are vulnerable to stupid because:
* generally they are surprised by their attack;
* *they fail to organize a rational defense because the attack has no rational structure.

Having thus said the Professor formulates the following five laws:
1:Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation. I know, it sounds ungenerous, but it is a matter of fact that too often those who once we judged rational and intelligent turn out to be unashamedly stupid and think about it, how often have we been harassed in one of your activities by stupid individuals who appear suddenly and unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places and at the most improbable moments? It is impossible to fix their percentage, however, any number would be too small.
2:The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person. Education, race, status or gender( sorry, Mr Run😙) have nothing to do with it. In fact, you will see that the fraction of stupidity is exactly the same among blue-collar workers, white-collar employees, students, administrators, professors, men or women.
3: A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
4: Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
5 :A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.

The corollary of the Law is that: A stupid person is more dangerous than a bandit, a statement which leads to the core of Professor Cipolla’s theory. Individuals can actually be divided into four types four basic categories: the helpless, the intelligent, the bandit and the stupid.
The Helpless are those who with his action tends to cause harm to themselves, but also create advantage to someone else.
The Intelligent tend with their action to create an advantage for themselves, but also create an advantage for someone else.
The Bandit , of course, create advantage for themselves, but at the same time damage someone else.
The Stupid are those who cause harm to another person or group of people without at the same time realizing any advantage for themselves or even suffering a loss.

Professor Cipolla also states that intelligent people are generally conscious of being so, the bandits are also aware of their attitude and even the unfortunate people have a strong suspicion that not everything is going right. But stupid people do not know they are stupid, and this is one more reason that makes them extremely dangerous.
If it is so, I start to suspect something and I cannot avoid asking myself a painful question: am I stupid? Even if tests had proven my I Q, I know  these tests would not mean anything.I am often told  I am intelligent, but even this proves nothing. These people may perhaps want to hide me the truth, or, they might be trying to take advantage of my stupidity with a harmless flattery or they could be as stupid as me.
Then another question comes, am I aware of how stupid I am (or was)?  And I can proudly say, yes, I am.😑
And this proves that I’m not completely stupid.😏


33 thoughts on “The Helpless, the Intelligent, the Bandit and the Stupid.

  1. This is fascinating – someone has come up a comprehensive explanation for the state of things! I have often found myself saying that the world is full of stupid people. I know it’s not about IQ really, but even so, if someone has an IQ of 110, then by the law of averages there will be someone else with an IQ of 90… However, I wish the professor were able to suggest something we might actually do about it!

  2. Pingback: The Helpless, the Intelligent, the Bandit and the Stupid. — e-Tinkerbell – Earth Balm Creative

  3. There’s another perverse trend I see in populations . . . a general antipathy toward “smart” people. Part of the spread of stupidity is that we don’t encourage being smart.

    I discuss some of this on one of my posts (note, contains pictures unrelated to the discussion):

    I posit a few reasons of why people react negatively toward intelligence. I point to some statistics but it’s difficult deciding if these are cause or effect (although I tend to associate a lack of critical thinking with stupidity so you know where I fall on that debate). These are primarily for the US but I suspect similar numbers hold across population groups with maybe a few of the metrics swapped for other just as non-sensical beliefs:

    Belief in a god – 75%
    Belief in ghosts – 50%
    Belief in UFO/Aliens in the past and currently visiting Earth – 40%
    Belief in Astrology – >50%
    Belief in Creation view of Human Origins – 42%

    The Law of Attraction, The Secret, the Conscious Universe, Magic, Energy Lines, Auras, Chi, Life Force, Fortune Telling, Speaking to the Dead (channeling past lives), Reincarnation, Eternal Life, Homeopathy, Prayers, Luck . . . the list goes on and on.

    While it’s difficult to define “stupid” (there are many definitions) I can offer my definition of smart (culled from different sources and blended into a definition that also serves as a guide to self-improvement):

    *Smart (intelligent) – a person who is aware of the limits of both his knowledge and abilities and in that awareness, constantly seeks to expand said limits in all manner of disciplines, each prioritized based on the person’s current needs and desires.*

    There’s also an interesting study (or two) positing smart people can easily fool themselves precisely because they are smart enough to arrive at plausible rationalizations for their pet beliefs.

    Basically, the picture that emerges is bleak . . . odds are people are either stupid to begin with or they work hard at appearing so.

    • In Italy those who feel that natural antipathy towards “the smart” happen to be those who rule and decide for us. So you may understand my pessimistic turn in these recent months and I can just justify this state of things that the percentage of stupids must be really high here. I can offer no other explanation.

      • Well, let’s not fall into the trap of Italians being special . . . the reality is that stupidity is widespread but we only experience locally.

        . . . I hope that’s comforting . . .

      • . . . I can see you’re obviously distraught and beyond comforting since that comment employed a heavy dosage of multilayered irony.

        . . . perhaps it just means I don’t do irony very well.

  4. Your closing remarks, about self-awareness, illustrate the dictum Quod erat Demonstrandum perfectly: you cannot be stupid if you are aware of the degree to which you are stupid. (I’m not saying you’re stupid, Stefy, of course, only you are allowed to admit to it!)

    But all this rings chillingly true, especially the bit about underestimating how stupid people with power are and how stupid things can get.

  5. It’s the fundamental flaw of democracy, that intelligent people encourage stupid people to choose their leaders. Which, paradoxically, makes intelligent people seem pretty stupid. This is why all democracies eventually fail, usually turning into dictatorships supported by “the masses”, which is generally speaking a euphemism for “the stupid people”. But since intelligent people think they’re intelligent and stupid people think they’re intelligent, it’s quite hard to identify which of us are the stupid people… 😉

    • There is one way to identify intelligent people . . . they’re usually the ones who recognize the limits of their knowledge and don’t extend much past those limits.

      I wrote a blurb some time ago asking the question as to whether it’s preferable to be very smart or very wise.

      I would choose “wise” and my reasoning went thus:
      “Personally, I value wisdom over knowledge or intelligence. Again, I will stress the three most likely correlate and track pretty closely but, like everything else in life, there is a hierarchy.

      I can defend my position thus (and this is anecdotal). I have met smart individuals who don’t have a wide foundation of knowledge and other smart individuals who are not all that wise (based on decisions they make). I have met knowledgeable people who are not that smart or wise. But, I’ve never met anyone I consider wise who is not smart and knowledgeable.”

      Of course, one of the limiting factors in such discussions is how we define “smart” “intelligent” and “wise”.

  6. All fascinating Jack! Einstein also said “Imagination is more important than intelligence!” (dear man…) But i’d seriously question that statement, as stupid people sometimes imagine all sorts of weird things…One statement I would agree with: “Very intelligent people don’t always have much common sense…” x

  7. Fascinating theory by a Prof. with the most fascinating name. As a part-Calabrese (like you, Stefy) I cannot avoid being attracted by onions 🙂

    Stupid (a-ha, get it??) jokes aside, I find myself agreeing to a certain degree. I believe stupid people are not born that way. As a matter of fact I do believe that any human is indeed intelligent. At the same time, anyone of us is capable of doing intelligent and/or stupid actions.
    Now, as the theory says, if you are able to recognise the stupidity of one of your actions or behaviours, then maybe your are not so stupid after all. We could agree that stupidity is a result of unawareness.
    Unawareness of the consequences of one’s stupid action/behaviour. Maybe stupid people are like so because they did not experience the direct consequences of their actions on themselves or others in the first place.
    Then, we may agree that stupidity can be fought with education. Not necessarily formal education, as live has its own ways of teaching each of us hard lessons. How hard we listen and react to those teachings, its up to us.

    Furthermore, I reckon there is one more typology of people to add to the mix: those who, conscious of the consequences (or part of them) their actions might have, choose to be or behave stupidly in any circumstances. Yes, we agreed that being aware of self-stupidity is a sign of intelligence, but is it really like so in this situation? Or is it even worse?

    However, it should be up to no one to judge any individual as stupid or non-stupid. The actions, those can objectively be judged or labelled either way, but a person is never stupid just because he/she did something stupid (no matter how unrecoverable this people may seem).

    • You know what? I might surprise you, but I don’t think stupidity can be fought with education. 🤔If we do believe to be among the non- stupid, we cannot but defend ourselves. 🙃

      • That’s true, indeed. My point was not on the ‘classic’ meaning of education. Life has its own ways of teaching you lessons, sooner or later. Anyway I believe that, more than education, the right word should be ‘awareness’. Now this is indeed a rare thing!

  8. I don’t like labels or judging people but facts are facts. Some people ARE intellectual, some less so, while others are clever but have little common sense and some ACT plain stupid, even though they may be clever in some ways. Human beings, with all their various traits can be frustrating and, bewildering, but fascinating. That’s why I enjoy writing about them.

  9. Not only do stupid people not think they’re stupid, but smart people often think they themselves are stupid! Especially women.
    There’s another quality that’s useful to those in power and that’s the capacity to lie without feeling ashamed of it. I’ve often noticed in our politicians that, while they all lie, in some cases you can see that they’re self-conscious about it, and that makes them much less convincing.

  10. I believe that a person may be stupid in some respects but still obtain advantages for him or herself. For example the denial of human induced climate change (which flies in the face of all science) is stupid. Yet we have a President of the USA who adopts this position thereby showing a lack of intelligence on this (and other) issues. However he is not stupid as he gained power and the policies he pursues are, one assumes beneficial to him.

  11. Nice paradox your answer to the last question. Every intelligent person can do stupid things sometimes; a stupid can’t do ever smart actions. Yet they are capable of joining to other stupids and in that case become an “historical force”, as Longanesi said:

    Uno stupido è uno stupido / One stupid is one stupid
    Due stupidi sono due stupidi / Two stupids are two stupids
    Diecimila stupidi sono una forza storica / Ten thousand stupids are an historical force

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