Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blessed are the Idiots

John Holcroft

One of the pleasures of running a popular blog is in reading the many interesting emails my readers send me, out of the blue, asking questions, suggesting new topics, sharing their ideas, correcting my typos, and sometimes even sending in something that I can publish. And one of the least pleasant aspects of running a popular blog is in reading emails sent in by idiots. The world is full of idiots. While most of them seem to be of the quiet, unobtrusive kind, who might quietly sit in a corner eating a pot of glue, there are also quite a few belligerent, vicious, willfully ignorant idiots who spontaneously go on attack and start defecating in my in-box. Usually I ignore them.

But this is Christmas season, and Christmas is supposed to be all about peace on earth and good will toward idiots. (It also turns out to be all about idiots storming department stores and fighting each other over discounted Chinese imports, but let's ignore that for the moment.) Now, it is a sad fact of life in America that idiocy is generally ignored. It is significantly under-diagnosed, and most idiots go through life not even knowing that they are idiots and that this is why they are being ignored. There are cultures, in other parts of the world, where idiots are slapped around and told to shut up any time they say or do something stupid. I am not a fan of these cultures; I am all for the humane treatment of idiots. But when idiots are led to believe that they are normal and the problem is simply ignored, it tends to get worse, and, over time, idiocy becomes the norm. It is then allowed to spread into schools and universities, the media, the executive and the legislature, the hospitals and the corporate boardrooms. And once it becomes the norm, it becomes required, until the only people who are hired and promoted are idiots. And shortly after that happens what you get is a completely idiotic country.

And so I decided to make an exception and, for once, not ignore an idiot who defecated in my in-box last week. If any of you aspire to running a popular blog, let this be a warning to you: this is not an unusual event. You will develop a thick skin rather quickly, or you will give up in disgust. This particular idiot opened with the following:

Dear Orlov,

You are so full of shit. For 7 years you have been talking about collapse and how it is all over, blah blah blah. I always knew you were a snake oil salesman just like your buddy Ruppert. So what happened? You had a kid. Now you can't be talking about that all the time and you have to actually find work to take care of it. Join the rest of us. Now you know why nobody has time for collapse and all the gloom and doom you were babbling about. But, you don't give up, eh? You came up with another scheme to milk people out of their hard earned dollars. Here is a tip, get a fucking real job and support yourself. It's mind boggling that people bought any of your bullshit, books and now this project. You were a joke then and you are a joke now. Stay in Russia you fucking idiot. I'm going to make sure to call you out on all this. You are a fraud and always have been. Engineer? No, you are a con man. A moronic one at that.

Go Fuck Yourself.

I thought that this would be it. But the flood of pleasantries continued, including this one: “Last remark, I am going to bury you on every media site possible.” I googled him, and the poor fellow just has a Twitter account, with hundreds of tweets quite consistent with what you see above. His one moment in the limelight, until now, was when he tried to tell Max Keiser that people should hoard paper money, and Max actually responded by telling him that he is “cra cra.” He has two Twitter followers, who, I suspect, are his mother and his parole officer. Oh, and here is his Twitter avatar.
Says it all, doesn't it? This is what undiagnosed, uncontrolled, ignored idiocy looks like. So sad.

But this being Christmas season, and Christmas being all about peace on earth and good will toward idiots, I decided not to ignore him. And so here is my public response:

Dear idiot,

I've been writing about collapse for seven years, and have produced a substantial body of work on the subject. It has received recognition and critical acclaim around the world. (A Chinese edition of my latest book is in the works at the moment.) I stand by everything I have written. I don't have anything significant to add on the subject at the moment, but, as events unfold, I will certainly comment on them. So, for instance, when the US dollar collapses, or when US troops start abandoning their bases around the world, or when Walmart goes out of business due to lack of cheap imports to sell to the broke American consumer, or whenever any of the other inevitable consequences of collapse play out, I will definitely have something to say beyond “told you so!” But the timing of collapse is notoriously unpredictable, and I am happy to bide my time and write on other topics in the meantime.

Since writing about collapse is a nonremunerative activity, I also work. My family is provided for, and I have the luxury to work on projects I consider significant and interesting. Right now I am starting a company to make Project Unspell a reality. It will keep me very busy for a few years at least. I am very glad that so many people have decided to help me by contributing money, but I am putting plenty of my own money into it too. The success of the crowd-funding campaign is mostly important for boosting investor confidence for the next phase. The goals of Project Unspell are consistent with my vision of the future. For now we have mobile computing and the Internet, making this project possible. Looking toward the future, I intend to make it possible for any English-speaking adult to sit down with any English-speaking child and, in a few lessons, make that child able to read and write. I also intend to use this time of relative stability to print a large number of unspelled books, on acid-free paper, for that child to read, by candlelight, even after the electric grid is no more. None of this is impossible, or even particularly difficult, and I am going to make it happen.

So long, and please get some professional help!

There, you see? Idiocy countered rather than ignored, peace and clarity restored. If only it was always this easy! Alas, it is not, because, you see, idiocy is a spectrum disorder. While many of the emails I received do not rise to the level of full stark raving idiocy as with the stool sample I presented above, they still contain an idiotic element or two. For instance, one fellow wrote to me to say that Project Unspell won't work for the same reason that introducing the metric system in the US didn't work. Yes, the fact that there are still three countries in the world that are holding out against the metric system is idiotic in its own right. (In case you don't know, they are Liberia, Burma and ’Merca.) But so is drawing an equal sign between mandating a different system of weights and measures and introducing an alternative, entirely optional writing system. Another fellow wrote to say that he doesn't see a problem with English spelling, because his sister taught him to read and write in only a couple of weeks. English has some 60,000 words, about 40% of which are spelled irregularly. So here we have a different kind of idiot: an idiot savant, who can memorize 1,700 vocabulary words a day, every day, for two weeks, no problem. But the rest of us do have a problem.

In fact, it could be said that all of us have a problem, because our world is awash with idiocy. Let him who is without idiocy cast the first stone. Idiocy is rampant, which is why the zombie meme is so popular. Zombies, you see, are idiots. Consider this: why do zombies want to eat brains? We accept this fact unquestioningly: zombies want to eat brains because... that's what zombies want to do. But why? Once you realize that zombies are idiots, the reason for this becomes clear: zombies are are working with the idiotic theory that eating the brains of non-idiots will make them smarter. Of course, real-life zombies don't eat brains—they eat burgers with fries and drink diet soda, and they don't shamble around graveyards at night either—they work jobs, go shopping, and zombify themselves by watching countless hours of television. And they are everywhere!

There are so many of them that a lot of people are expecting a zombie apocalypse to break out at any moment. Some people are even preparing for it: stocking up on shotgun shells and canned food, so that they can hole up in their fortified compound, secure the perimeter, and wait for the zombies to kill each other off and starve to death. Another plan, favored by my friends who live aboard sailboats, is to cast off at the first signs of zombie apocalypse and to lurk below the horizon or anchor in some desolate cove until the zombies kill each other off and starve to death. But I believe that it is sheer fantasy to think that the end result of zombie apocalypse is a world cleansed of zombies to which the surviving non-zombies will be able to return and build a new, zombie-free Jerusalem. For one thing, the line between zombies and non-zombies is notoriously hard to draw; you may not consider yourself particularly zombified, but I am sure that even you can point to a few zombie-like relations and acquaintances.

And so, in this season of peace on earth and good will toward zombies/idiots, let us do the only thing we can: let us bless the idiots. Let us add a line to the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the idiots, for... they shall be plentiful.” Because they surely will be.


Unknown said...

Amen, brother, amen.

William said...

Yes, our dear idiot has it all wrong. Project Unspell is by no means a scam, it's a boondoggle, as defined in Reinventing Collapse. Not only that, it is a particularly creative and interesting boondoggle, and one to which I was more than happy to contribute.

PS I tried to comment earlier but was, as far as I can tell, outsmarted by the captcha thing. If I accidentally submitted my first comment ten times, I am sorry. I am the glue eating kind of idiot. Please delete this additional message if you decide to publish this comment.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the holidays, the time of the year where the hoards of working dead decent on the strip malls for the credit fuelled destruction derby that is Christmas shopping. Hold on to your hats and brains

AA said...

This post of yours struck a chord with me as it's something I've been thinking about for several years. Which is that there seems to be a far higher proportion of idiots in the USA -- or at least a higher tolerance for them. What was disturbing about the 2006 film, "Idiocracy" was not that it was describing a society of idiots five centuries in the future but that it was describing a scenario all too recognisable today. There have been writers who have looked at the phenomenon -- Hofstadter's "Anti-Intellectualism in America," published half a century ago, comes to mind.

RickG said...

Oh, thank you, thank you for the belly laugh!

onething said...

I'm in my fifties, and I just don't feel centigrade and I'm perfectly happy with the absurdities of the English system, and yet I must admit - why does it freeze at 32? How silly is that? Looking at it abstractly, without feelings, it would be so sensible to switch to metric. Not to mention friendly and cooperative toward the rest of the world.

forrest said...

The origin of the term "boondoggle" (as people typically understand it) was in opponents' efforts to discredit a WPA educational program where the teacher had been encouraging people to make "Boonedoggles" == 'small useful gadgets that can be made cheap from available materials,' the sort of thing, he said, that Daniel Boone used to make to make his simple cabinhold tasks a little easier. [You can see where this could really annoy somebody in the business of selling people expensive gadgets to make household tasks more impressive... Anyhow, the opposition had the newspapers to run a successful campaign against this sort of thing, hence the way people think about anything actually useful to poor people, to this day!]

mm said...

Isn't it fascinating to watch repressed emotion burp out communication like that? Poor guy. I don't think he's an idiot though. He still at the beginning of what I remember Dmitry saying would take about two years: becoming another person. I wish him luck.

Unknown said...

I expect to have some disposable income by the end of the year, and I expect to give some of it to Unspell. I am so glad a skilled linguist has taken on this essential task, because I tried to do it when I was bored in statistics and failed, of course. I'm a little worried about homophones, though. English spelling is so horrific mostly because it is a thief, and because it is a thief used mostly by idiots it has collected a lot of words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same. In spoken conversation you can always ask your partner whether they meant 'bail' or 'bale,' if you couldn't catch it from the context. In written English, you not only lack most of the good contextual cues (tone of voice, use of eyebrows) but you also can't stop the author and get things cleared up. Wikipedia says there are 88 triplet homophones in English, and at least one word you can spell 7 ways, with 7 different meanings. I am not sure how big a problem this will be, so I'm asking your opinion, Orlov. Definitely not no problem at all, because I'm pretty well read, and I trip over a homonym once in a while. Spelling, for all that it is a big pain, is also a clue. How big a pain do you think it will be to turn hundreds of homophones, distinguishable in writing, into homonyms, indistinguishable?

Dmitry Orlov said...


As I explain at unspell.it, homophones are not a problem. Homophonic heterographs are actually rare. The more usual case is homophonic homographs, words with multiple, sometimes opposite meanings. Nobody ever notices them, because the brain disambiguates them automatically and unconsciously.

The bigest chalenge with Unspell is creating a powerful visual aesthetic. If it isn't beutiful, it won't work. I played around with song lyrics and poems when comi.g up with it.

My donkey said...

I agree with AA that the 2006 movie "Idiocracy" seemed like a fairly accurate portrayal of today's stupidity extrapolated into an even stupider future society. One reviewer suggested that the movie did not receive the usual promotion and was released to few theatres because it portrayed corporations negatively, a no-no which made 20th Century Fox uncomfortable. A much "safer" movie about idiots was 1994's commercially successful "Dumb and Dumber"; its sequel is schedulted to arrive next year under the name "Dumb and Dumber To".

I also have a hunch that the prevalence of idiocy is increasing. While virtually 100 percent of climate scientists believe the world is warming (and more than 97% of them think humans are causing it), only 63% of Americans polled in the spring of 2013 believed that global warming was happening, a decrease of 7 percent from the previous fall because the US had just experienced a relatively cold winter. On the other hand, several recent polls indicate that 80-90+% of Americans believe in an invisible being who is present everywhere simultaneously and knows everything about everything.

With results like that it's hard to deny that idiocy is alive and thriving!

George Carlin referred to such folks as "dumb-ass motherfuckers"

k-dog said...

Some idiots are worse than others. What really makes an idiot anyway? It's somewhat the subject of personal opinion but I'll claim it is someone who can take information in and spit it out without any mental process going on in the interim. Garbage in, garbage out. Conversely a non-idiot is someone who thinks about information after taking it in before he/she spits it back out.

Does the information make sense? Are there connections to other information that's also been sponged in? Could it be more useful if it were tweaked or looked at in a different way?

You get the basic idea. The key point is that the information is processed and questioned in some way that is not totally off the wall or strictly mechanical.

Idiots are everywhere and the American Zeitgeist of apathy tolerates them. But the big problem is that in America idiots are not simply tolerated but rewarded and put into dangerous positions of power. Perhaps all the apathy, powerlessness, and boredom of modern American life causes us to do this for amusement. Perhaps we have a sick desire for schadenfreude and want to see idiots make fools of themselves knowing we could do better. Whatever it is it's crazy madness and we would be a lot better off not praising and rewarding idiocy as we do.

Your idiot was harmless but the big problem is we have way too many that are not harmless. I hope he is anyway.

And I say he is harmeless in spite of him insulting a fellow engineer. The world would be a lot better off if having to pass first year college level math and physics were a requirement for public office instead of being able to grin, smile, and lie being the major qualifications. That and being able to think and not just follow failed traditional brain dead recipies that are doomed to cause eventual collapse.

Which leads me to finally conclude. We have a lot of IDIOTS. Maybe that’s the real reason they are tolerated. They might be in the majority!

unity said...

Just remember that half the population has a two-digit IQ.

Unknown said...

Dear Dmitry,

You're a trailblazer in the field of societal collapse, and we're lucky to have the benefit of your insights and trenchant analysis. I'm not sure I would describe your unfortunate correspondent as an "idiot." I think he's something much worse than that, a Raging Narcissistic Asshole (it's in his RNA, in other words). He's bothered by a couple of things. First, he's vexed both by your originality and initiative. As an RNA, he needs to find a reason you have these qualities and he doesn't, and he has settled on the excuse that you have achieved these traits by cheating, in essence by shirking the responsibilities that he so manfully takes on. This is his first excuse for mediocrity. The second is that he does not like challenges to Business As Usual because it disturbs his complacent world view that no one can ever do anything about anything. I recall a useful phrase from studying history at Berkeley in a bygone era: the Normative Tendency of the Factual. Our Unuseful Idiot lives in a country where the dominant ethos is one of submission to the status quo. Of all modern democracies, we're probably the most passive and self-destructive. Compare Ukraine. Or Egypt, for that matter. It galls your Idiot that a foreigner (in his view) is pointing all these obvious things out. So he attacks the messenger. NARs are absolutely ubiquitous in our society because America mass produces them with our culture of materialistic obsessions pursued by passive automatons. Keep on keepin' on, brother, and best wishes for you and your family during the Holidays.

Unknown said...

But to complete the Beatitude:

Blessed are the idiots, for they shall never know what hit them.

Anonymous said...

Brother, that was the funniest read for me all week. My stomach is sore from laughing so hard. Thanks and have a great holiday season. nyquil762

Bb said...

Hi Dmitry,

Am a great fan of your blog and books.

Can you please comment on how Australia might fare in a post peak world in relative terms?

It has a population of 20 million, a continent full of natural resources (including lots of coal and natural gas) and is self sufficient in food.

Would greatly value your opinion.

(A doctor thinking of emigrating to Australia from the UK)

My donkey said...

"I don't have anything significant to add on the subject at the moment."

That admission is as refreshing as it is rare! And it therefore calls for a great big Thank You!

I mean it sincerely; it seems that bloggers in general don't know when to stop, so when they reach the limit of their braincase (which usually happens soon because they didn't have much to say to start with) they return to the beginning... repeatedly... and the cycle gets shorter each time.

Why is it that most people, when doing *anything*, intuitively know when to quit, but most bloggers just keep blog-blog-blogging along?