May 13, 2020

We Need an Effective Vaccine for Human Stupidity

stupid man

It is easy for me to say that I am confident I won't live to see the end of organized religion. It is somewhat harder to say that I'm confident organized religion will never die but only somewhat. I don't think it will ever die for one simple reason: there are far too many stupid people. Try as we might, there is only so much that can be done to reign in human stupidity. Most of the time, we are our own worst enemies and the primary cause of our own suffering. I don't see that changing, and that leads me to feel pessimistic about the demise of religion.

When I lived in Oregon, the state prohibited almost all fireworks. The exceptions were snakes, sparklers, and smoke bombs. Those were allowed; everything else was banned unless one had the sort of permit that would be required to put on a public fireworks show. There were two problems with this. First, there was very little public buy-in. People are stupid, and they wanted their fireworks. They didn't care how wasteful, dangerous, or annoying they are because their own entertainment was all that mattered. At least two neighboring states had legal fireworks, and they were easy to bring in. Second, enforcement was almost impossible. The police did not have the personnel to do fireworks-related enforcement. The enforcement they did was limited to scenarios where they discovered fireworks while investigating something else.

While some governors are moving too quickly to reopen their states amidst the coronavirus pandemic, they aren't nearly as much of a problem as the stupid people in their states. Many of these people have been refusing to do social distancing, wear masks, or stay at home all along. They never bought in, and they were smart enough to realize that there's no way to enforce any of this. Most of us have heard about some stores requiring customers to wear masks as a condition of entering; however, this is a relatively new thing that few of us have encountered ourselves. And that has been about it as far as routine enforcement goes. The limited enforcement we've seen has been when special circumstances required it.

As I watched several of my neighbors gather this afternoon, I couldn't help notice that none were wearing masks or doing social distancing. Young children were running around grabbing each other, and several adults were standing no more than 2 feet from either other while they conversed. Pandemic? What pandemic? There was no evidence that anything was amiss. And while I acknowledge that I live in a well-known epicenter of stupidity, I think it is clear that pockets of this sort of thing can be found everywhere.

My mom worked at a hospital when I lived in Oregon and had stories every year throughout the week leading up to the 4th of July about people who had blown off their finger, hands, and sometimes worse with illegal fireworks. I had a hard time believing it was as common as it was, but I remember that the local newspaper carried some of the worse ones. She wasn't making it up. What she always found to be the most baffling scenario was when the parents bought the illegal fireworks for their young children, did not bother to supervise them, and then seemed surprised when they were seriously injured. I remember my dad pointing out that idiots like this were why our health insurance premiums were so damn high.

We all pay a price for human stupidity. This is true even in the best of circumstances, and these are far from the best of circumstances.