Dumb Stupid Idiot

The result of lifelong verbal abuse.

The impulse for the title came from a seemingly harmless incident in my home. A friend was over helping with some work we are doing. At one point she asked “Where is that stupid brochure.”

To which I responded, “Why is the brochure stupid?”

It made me think of a response I heard many years ago. I cannot remember the question, but the answerer told the young man that he was a “stupid idiot.” Then he went on to soften the blow. The elder gentleman explained that stupid meant “to be in a state of stupor. Idiot referred to the id and meant that the reason he needed to ask the question he did, was because he lived in a small part of his mind. The explanation went on to note that all hope was not lost.

When our friend used the word “stupid” toward an inanimate object, it made me think how these words are bandied about without any thought to what they mean. Much of our modern language is like this, but the 3 words listed in the title of this post are used frequently in the educational setting. At least, I should add, they were used on me.

When used at anyone, these words can be hurtful. Used on a child, they can be downright destructive. So I want to elaborate on their meaning in an attempt to diminish their power.


From the etymology: 1540s, “mentally slow,” from M.Fr. stupide, from L. stupidus “amazed, confounded,” lit. “struck senseless,” from stupere “be stunned, amazed, confounded.

The essence of the meaning is to be struck senseless. I have often observed that many of our citizens look like they were struck across the head with a baseball bat and sent walking among us. There is a sense that the entire American population has been struck senseless.That as a nation, we are confounded, and that no good decision, no decent way of life, can come from such a thing. One of the main reasons I believe we are in such a quandary is because we are educated to compare ourselves to others. And from this no one is exempt. Some people have more money, some have less. Some excel at sports, some at art, some with relationships etc. None of it matters, but we are made to feel from the beginning that if we do not fit into the narrow margin of what is acceptable, we are lost.

The following quotation from one of our great minds, Albert Einstein, may be as important to our mode of thinking, as his relativity theory was to physics. And the statement will hold true far longer than E=MC2.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ― Albert Einstein

Because of all this comparison, our ability to push our civilization forward has been stunted. Even if you knew your skills early on, like I did, there was so much brow beating going on in the name of education, that the energy needed to build self-esteem and empower us to take control of our world, was thwarted.

Dumb: silent, unable to speak.

So, when a child is made to feel dumb, is this what we mean? Is he tongueless. Has he/she lost all sense that he cannot express themselves in a manner that is in stride with the larger group? I feel that this needs serious evaluation. If someone does not think like us, we should be paying attention to exactly how they think. They may give us a clue in how to solve a problem in a way that we are unable to perceive.

If you want to see a good example on what “dumb” really is, we should look at war. War may be the dumbest event ever conceived. It has no good outcome. Additionally, up until the First World War, men use to face-off in teams, who would then run directly at each other, bayonets or axes in hand, mutilating everything they encountered, until they too were mowed down. Now that is stupid.

Above: American Civil War battle scene Below: British in the American Revolution. All instinct of self preservation goes out the window.

The image I posted here is to illustrate just how nuts war can be. Now you can understand why the Church needed the invention of God and Heaven. In order to get men to die on the behalf of rich people, you had to make them feel that there was something good waiting for them after they get disemboweled on the field of battle. 20 vested virgins and a palatial mansion is a good start. But I have to say, dying for that is pretty DUMB.

Idiot: early 14c., “person so mentally deficient as to be incapable of ordinary reasoning;” also in M.E. “simple man, uneducated person, layman” (late 14c.), from O.Fr. idiote “uneducated or ignorant person” (12c.), from L. idiota “ordinary person, layman; outsider,” in L.L. “uneducated or ignorant person,” from Gk. idiotes “layman, person lacking professional skill” (opposed to writer, soldier, skilled workman), lit. “private person (as opposed to one taking part in public affairs),” used patronizingly for “ignorant person,” from idios “one’s own”

My understanding was that idiot related to the id as it was expressed by Freud.

This from Wikipedia: The id comprises the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains the basic drives. The id acts according to the “pleasure principle”, seeking to avoid pain or displeasure aroused by increases in instinctual tension.

The id is unconscious by definition: “It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the dream-work and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations… It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle.”

It would be safe to say that someone operating only from this part of the mind could be called an idiot. Think of the owners of this country. They destroy the environment, sacrifice lives, wage wars, foreclose on homes, poison the food supply, pollute our minds with mass media, extinguish other species all in the name of money. Does this sound like the actions of a full thinking man?

Einstein’s quote needs contemplation. What it suggests is that we are all geniuses. But we need to have an environment that supports our unique undivided selves to search for our particular instinctive drive. Our world needs many things. We need farmers, engineers, architects, artists, musicians, writers, doctors, nurses and chefs. And those who find their way into those occupations, money should not be the determining factor. It should be guided by instinct and a genuine wish to serve the community. It is this search for true individuality that needs to be encouraged. And we need to support that quest by abolishing those 3 ugly words from our discourse.


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