Understanding Stupidity #5 – Overcoming Stupidity

Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.

‘But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.’

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Let’s concentrate on the following words (in red) for this post:

Only an act of (internal) liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity.

Internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it

What these words mean to me is that once a person gets stupid thoughts in his mind the only way to purge it is by force, reason just doesn’t work. It is only after he is forced to come to terms with the matter at hand, will he eventually become free of it. In other words, we must beat him over the head with a virtual 2 x 4 to get him to realize the lock that stupidity has over him.

Bonhoeffer used the term inner independence, to me, that means to think for themselves instead of just going along with what those who have an inexplicable power over them to do. I don’t know exactly when the quote above was written, but it was likely before the Nazis took over full control of the country. After that point, the “external liberation” became almost impossible to overcome until the world defeated it. Anyone who didn’t kowtow to the Nazis line suddenly disappeared as an example to other who might resist their power.


Finally, let’s look at how these words apply to our country presently. I would guess that like the Nazis in Bonhoeffer’s time about 10% of our population are adamant in destroying our democracy, and to take control of what they see as rescuing our distressed nation. They have chosen Trump as the figurehead of this new world. The only way to get an “internal liberation” of those who are blindly going along, is to stifle their power grab of those they adore. The first and best way to make that happen is to defeat that power in the voting booth. We have to convince the other 90% who are mostly sitting on the fence that apathy is not an option.

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