I was riding on a city bus yesterday when I overheard a kid in the seat behind me brag to his friend proudly, “The only book I read is Facebook.” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life, but I’m not surprised people think it’s cool to be stupid. Since the invention of television, children have grown up watching shows that portray stupid people as heroes. If you expose children under the age of 10 to stupid role models, they’ll take their icons’ behavior for granted and mimic them. Their brains will soak it up and build neural pathways around it. So it will shape their behavior in ways they don’t understand even if they try everything consciously possible to dis-incorporate the stupidity they’ve witnessed from their perception of reality:
If you told a child they couldn’t watch stupid television programming during the most impressionable age-range of their life because it will warp their minds as surely as watching hardcore pornography and violence, that wise little kid will ask you, “Then why do adults spend so much time and money going out of their way to create stupid television programming and try to stream it onto every screen in the world?” The shortest answer is that adults are stupid and thus unreliable.
Don’t believe the hype. It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s stupid to be stupid. It’s uncool to be stupid, and there’s a very practical reason why. The world is a mind-bogglingly complicated place to live, and it’s unforgiving. You get one shot to build a successful life, and it only takes one stupid mistake to ruin everything. The quality of your life depends on how well you understand the world and how well you solve the waves of problems that wash past you every day. The only tool you have to solve those problems and make the most of your life is your brain. Being stupid is being mentally crippled. Being smart is being mentally healthy and strong. So whatever benefit there is to looking cool by being stupid, it’s far outweighed by the fact that it will ruin the rest of your life in more ways than you could ever comprehend.
I don’t need to pull out philosophical reasons to convince you it’s uncool to be stupid. This isn’t a concept you have to take on faith or work up the strength to live by. This is a warning. Stupidity is what makes life suck. The dumber you are, the less you’ll be able to cope with life, the more you’ll fail and the harder your life will be. The smarter you are, the more effortlessly you’ll waltz through more difficult problems for bigger rewards. Living a confused, helpless life isn’t cool. Living a brilliant, fulfilling life is cool.
But it’s not all about you. The world is a small place, and everyone’s problems rub off on the people around them. Your stupidity makes everyone’s life around you harder. Even when smart people do something stupid, it makes everyone’s lives around them harder. When you’re old enough you’re going to be put in some kind of position of authority over people younger than you. Then your stupidity will have the force of God in those young people’s lives. Stupidity affects everyone, and it’s like litter. When everyone litters a little bit it all adds up to a trashy country. When everyone celebrates littering, the whole country goes to hell in a handbasket. Then we leave a trashy country for the next generation to clean up when they could have been building a better world (on top of the better world we could have created instead of creating mountains of trash.
It’s not cool to be stupid. It’s tragic to be stupid. You’re worth more than that. Your neighbors deserve more from you, and humanity needs more from you. Don’t be stupid, and don’t let your friends be stupid. Stupid hurts everyone, especially stupid people.