Learn to Love Stupid

I used to think the world was someplace that needed fixing. It wasn’t the Four Liberal Horsemen that irked me (War, Environment, Poverty, Inequality). No, it was the lesser riders, the Four Mules – Inefficiency, Stupidity, Sloth, and Hedonism. These were most frustrating because they appeared so easy to fix. If people would just turn off the television and talk to their family, perhaps we’d have a better society. If the person next to me read a book or two instead of listening to raving lunatic news commentators, maybe we’d all get along. If people thought before they spoke, or considered the needs of others, or thought about improving the process, or….
the list went on and on.
It wasn’t until I started to recognize the Four Mules in myself that I began to forgive and forget. Like many people, I have a gym membership that I never use. I am risk averse, even when I know the risk is worth taking. I could be working twice as hard instead of watching television in the evenings. I could even spend more time with my family instead of working so hard. Holding up a mirror did not excuse the other idiots in this world, but it did lend some perspective.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this world is one of averages. As such, it is an average world. It is possible to improve it, through great effort, but it will never be extraordinary. The reason is simple – complexity. For every force moving forward, there is another moving back. Determining which is which is nearly impossible.
Here’s an example. You could work twice as hard and become rich by skipping vacations and working late into the evening. Of course, you would more likely burn out, have a nervous breakdown, or come to the office armed. While vegetating in front of the boob tube might look unproductive, that down time might actually boost your productivity!
Here’s a better example. For every overachiever there is an underachiever. Beating your head against the social wall trying to bring up the poor, stop inequality, or any other socialist ideal will always be undermined by sloth and apathy. And that’s a good thing. People have reached their place in the world through, primarily, the amount of work they’ve decided to put into it. Perhaps they’d like to be richer, more secure, healthier, slimmer, smarter, or faster – but that takes more work than they’re expending now. If they did so, they would not be themselves.
I take this to the systems level. People lament capitalism, but there have been zero other successful large-scale methods of commerce in the entire history of mankind. Sure, it gives us ups and downs, it gives us inequalities, it allows exploitation. But it works! And it exists because it works.
Humans quickly do away with systems that don’t appeal to them. Thus dictatorships are equal to democracies. Whenever either step over the line, whatever that line is for that particular society, it is overthrown. They exist insomuch as they serve the interests of the people within them. So long as there are as many people satisfied as unsatisfied (not in quantity but in influence), the system remains in place. I am not saying that certain dictators are excusable. Rather, I mean to point out that whatever they are asking their subjects to give up is clearly not as important to them as what they get to keep. Until that equilibrium is broken, life goes on.
There are some absolutes that have been and should be preserved. Basic human rights, for example, or dictates against racism, or laws against murder. Societies with these edicts in place are more likely to thrive. Implementing these “basic” rights is to go against the grain of normal, which is why you must be prepared for a protracted fight. It takes decades to change social systems – not because the instigators succeed in changing minds, but because the elderly resistance eventually dies off! Once again, evidence of balance in the world.
So next time your stupid coworker drives you crazy, just bear in mind they maintain the delicate balance of your genius. The good may be the enemy of the better, but it sure beats the alternative.
Does this make you feel better?

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