Understanding Stupidity #7. -Dealing With Slogans, Not A Person

The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It’s hard to believe that this quote was written eighty years ago because it certainly fits our current times. The study of stupidity has a LONG history. Even Socrates had a thing or two to day about it 2400 years ago. I will get into that much deeper in some future posts. For now, let’s just concentrate on Bonhoeffer’s words

Let me try to put the quote above in my own words. When we do stupid things, it is not because our intellect has suddenly failed us, it is because of the lack of independence to question things that we are just told to believe. Some people just naturally are overcome by the power of others. They succumb to the rhetoric they have been fed, even if it is to their own detriment.

Being overpowered by rhetoric is something I simply can’t understand, but maybe that has something to do with mass stupidity. I love the last sentence of this quote. When you talk to a person overcome with stupidity, it is almost like the person has disappeared and all that is left are slogan and catchwords they have been brainwashed with. They are under the spell of whoever has power over them.

Of course, this is not the first time a mass of people have been trapped in a cult like environment. Jim Jones is the first example I can think of. See the block below to learn more about him. At the time of that religious organization’s mass suicide, I could not fathom that anyone would be so indoctrinated by such a flawed person, to willingly end their lives. I see many similarities to Jones and Trump personally and their cults. Both have a foundation of religion. Evangelicals are known to be a primary group in the Trump cult, as they were in the Jones cult.

Maybe this similarity has something to do with the “believe what you are told/don’t question anything” that is prominent in many versions of religion. Perhaps it has something to do with the type of character that these two groups tend to attract. Maybe that is a chicken/egg thing that I will leave that for a future post.

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