Last year has brought us much surprise. Well, maybe not that much. Brexit and Trump becoming president did not sneak up on us. We could see them coming from miles away. Yet many, myself included, still didn’t believe it would actually happen. That belief was based on hope. Hope that people would see through all the deception, all the misleading facts, all the lies and make the right choice. I think it’s clear I am in the Remain camp. Even though as an immigrant I was not allowed to cast my vote. After all people could not possibly be that stupid. Because that must be it. The only reason anyone would vote for Brexit or Trump, is because they are inherently stupid. Right?
Well, not really. Labeling Leavers and Trumpists as stupid is unfair and not accurate. It hides a more serious problem and is actually an obstacle on the road to true understanding and open discussion. It’s unnecessarily antagonistic. Calling someone stupid is meant to shut down any argument from the opposing side. It is more in place on a playground, in an argument between children, than a rational discussion between adults. Yet during the election we saw American TV show hosts talking to Trump’s supporters at rallies in an effort to emphasize just how blindly stupid they are (granted, all it took was just asking a few questions, using the term was unnecessary) . A number of articles online showed up claiming America is becoming stupider. I think we can all remember Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” remark.
When people use it, it is meant as a sort of an umbrella, with a number of other terms and concepts underneath it. All depends on what you’re thinking about when you call someone stupid. The simplest implication is that someone simply doesn’t know or understand something. But is it because they lack the mental capacity to comprehend what is being said? If yes, then it might mean that that person has IQ below average. It can also be due to low education, or just lack of appropriate education. If you talk to me using specific medical or legal terminology, quoting textbooks, with every third word being in Latin, I wouldn’t be able to understand you. Despite being a well educated individual. That doesn’t really make me stupid, or even dumber than you. Just that I have a different set of knowledge in my intellectual bank.
There is also a possibility that people refuse to understand or rather acknowledge facts. In other words they are ignorant. This is where the real problem lies. Uneducated can be educated, uninformed can be informed. Even those with lower intellectual capacity can have things explained to them in a way they can understand. Though we run the risk of oversimplifying an issue, thus reducing its gravity. However there is little we can do when someone chooses ignorance over reason. And ignorance is not synonymous with stupidity. Even the smartest person in the world can be guilty of it. Reason dictates that we look at all facts and evidence laid before us, we examine them as thoroughly as possible and we arrive to a conclusion based on our analysis with use of logical thinking. It’s not that simple, of course. We don’t live in a purely rational world. Emotions, morality, ideological and religious beliefs, personal experiences and many other external factors affect our judgement. Therefore different people can arrive at different conclusions.
Ignorant people take that process and turn it upside down. They have a conclusion, an opinion and then try to prove/rationalize it. In order to do that they cherry pick their evidence. Choosing only those facts, figures and statements that support their opinion. Now this is not that bad, on its own. We all do that. Choose supportive information over the one that challenges us. However, ignorant people take that to another level. They automatically discredit anything that’s being said in opposition to their own views. Claiming it’s all malicious lies, spread by people who mean them nothing but harm and are themselves inherently evil and stupid. To a Trump supporter anything the ‘Liberal’ media says is…
Same could be said for a liberal’s feelings about the right wing media. Yes, the pro-Trump and pro-Brexit media had its fair share of falsehoods, misinterpretations etc. But that’s not the point.
The point is that these people some might call stupid are not intellectually impaired any more than your average Joe. The point is that people supported Trump or Brexit not because they were stupid. Some of them might have done that out of misguided sense of nationalistic duty. Some might have done it because of all the Fake News, which dominated 2016 more than any other year, and people were too eager to like and share those shocking, new stories. Some might have even done it because of xenophobia or racism. But I’d argue those were in the minority. Some might have had a legitimate, rational reason. Just as much as those who supported Clinton or Sanders. One thing that united all of them was fear of the future and a genuine desire for change. Change which Clinton did not offer. When things are getting worse and world grows darker, when people’s livelihoods are in jeopardy. They look for alternatives. In times of crisis a change, any change, looks pretty appealing. I hate to bring this up, but Hitler was voted into power in a general election because he promised radical changes to people who felt betrayed by the establishment during Germany’s worst economic crisis. I’m NOT comparing Trump to Hitler or current situation to that of the Great Depression era. What I’m saying is that’s how things work.
There is however a group of voters I’d call somewhat stupid or naive in the least. Those who voted pro-Brexit as a protest. So you decided to vote because you were angry and wanted to be heard, but you didn’t actually support Brexit? You thought it wouldn’t matter or actually happen? Maybe you didn’t know what Brexit actually means, but decided to vote anyway, just to piss of those Tory bastards? I’m sorry that’s just dumb.
In the end I want to say that just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Nor is voting for Trump or Brexit caused by one’s diminished faculties. We need to look for the reason behind this supposed stupidity, so we can really understand their motives. This would allow us to identify problems and look for solutions. Rather than just saying: “These people are stupid, nothing we can do about it.”