How smart do you think you really are? If I asked you if you had common sense, what would your answer be? Some of you might think that you’re pretty intelligent. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are even some of you who think that you have above average intelligence. If you have ever thought this to yourself, then I’m going to prove to you that this is probably not accurate.

PREFACE

Studies show that people tend to overestimate their own intelligence. It’s called Illusory superiority and it’s very common. In fact it’s so common that I regularly get e-mail (or tweets) from people who actually think that I’m a genius. I assure you gentle folks, as kind as your words are, I am far from worthy of being called a genius. I am barely average intelligence. I just do better at lateral cognition than many people I seem to know. Does that make me above average intelligence? Far from it. I’m not feigning humility here. I’m being deadly serious.

We are actually not as smart as we tend to think are largely because we have a very inaccurate idea of what intelligence actually is — especially since cognitive scientists are still struggling to define it. This post seeks to prove that for all the high praise we heap upon ourselves, we’re probably a lot dumber than we think we are. Don’t take this personally. It’s a slice of humble pie I swallow everyday. In fact, I have ten good examples of incredibly dumb things many of us are guilty of doing on a daily basis that we are probably oblivious to:

10. EDUCATING OURSELVES INTO INSURMOUNTABLE DEBT

What exactly is the point of being educated and broke? I know that getting a degree from a prestigious ivy league university could go a long way to getting you that dream job, but is it really worth the gamble? What is the probability that you don’t get that dream job? Do you genuinely think that dropping that kind of dough on education you can get elsewhere for a tiny fraction of the cost is really worth it? I can assure you kind reader, that is a matter of luck.

What you thought you knew

How many of you have a degree from an elite University, but no job to pay off the monumental debt that it has left you with? At some point before or after (hopefully before) you embarked on your study, you must have realized that the staggering cost of ivy league education vastly outweighs the statistical probability of success. This is hard for most people to compute because one of the things most people still struggle to understand is probability. This is how ivy league colleges continue to enslave their alumni for most of their professional adult lives.

While several studies prove that college grads are guaranteed to make more money with their degree, what those studies never tell you, is how difficult it is to actually become employed once you graduate, if you don’t already have some connections, know somebody, or as luck would have it, you just happen to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. If you’re not, you are essentially screwed. I’m not even going to mention the current economic status and the global unemployment figures. But wait, there’s more! I’m just getting started!

Why it’s stupid

When you travel to countries like Canada, one is not hard pressed to find Taxi drivers with advanced degrees in physics, or people with medical degrees working at McDonald’s. Canada’s matriculation system is fiercely patriotic. Having a medical degree from Calcutta doesn’t mean you automatically get to be a doctor in Toronto. Meanwhile, having a medical degree from Yale would probably get you a medical position almost anywhere in the world—if you are willing to work for only pennies on the dollar of your ridiculously expensive education.

That is where most college grads start working.

Even if the monumental weight of ivy league tertiary education was somehow worth it, most of the fields that actually teach useful skills are so over saturated that you are essentially in a rat race to enter the rat race. You and a million other people who have the same degree are fighting to get a promotion (or make partner) to pay off the same incredible debt. Every day that you spend under employed post graduation is a day that your now gargantuan education debt is enthusiastically compounded. You are keeping the ivy leagues in business indefinitely.

But what’s worse, is that there are loads of students doing pointless degrees at Ivy League Universities that cannot possibly get them a job to pay off the ivy league debt. For example: Why would you do a degree in History at Harvard without following it up with a degree in law? What kind of job could you possibly get that could have helped you pay off a Harvard degree in a subject that has no practical value outside of academia, but costs more than the second mortgage on your parents house that was used to pay for it? Does that make sense to you?

Why would you spend four years doing a catchall degree like a BA when everybody has one of those? In the working world, a substantial number of tertiary educated professionals are in a field that is completely unrelated to their degree. It was as if they spent their student loan paying for a college experience, but not the college education. With no discernible talents, such a degree is as cost effective as buying a Space Shuttle just to travel to the supermarket.

How to correct it

You probably shouldn’t seek education at an Ivy League college unless you are ridiculously talented.  They will ignore your application unless you can convince them that you’re specially worthy of their debt. Then again, studies show that talented people make more money irrespective of where they are educated. However, by being selective for those types of people, the ivy league uses their exceptional post graduate earnings to prop up themselves, thereby fooling you, the average person, that this is the money you would make if you attend.

This is clearly a misrepresentation—a flat out lie. Why? Because even if you were as talented as folks like Mark Zuckerberg, you probably wouldn’t need the ivy league education anyway. Zuckerberg, like many of the other extremely talented billionaires never even completed his education, opting to drop out and start his own business (Facebook). If you are that talented, then you probably don’t need to get into college at all. It wouldn’t be a necessary expense.

If you are going to drop that kind of money at a super expensive university, you better also have plans to start your own business or ensure that you have connections in the work world to get you into a high paying job that can help you knock off that student loan debt. Students graduating with practical engineering, science and technology skills are doing the best at cancelling their student loans because they are being snatched up by Silicon valley in droves.

Students who graduate with expensive degrees that endow them with actual in demand skills (like surgeons, accountants, engineers, architects, scientists, software developers, etc.) will also do quite well because we live in an age of rapidly abounding scientific and technological evolution. Doing anything less (as the large majority of people currently are) would be stupid.

The colleges however, don’t mind.

09. CORRECTING SOMEONE WHO IS OBVIOUSLY A FOOL.

Can you tell me why Wolf Blitzer felt it necessary to corner Donald Trump about his birther comments? Why would anyone choose to argue with a fool? Doesn’t the act of correcting a fool assume that he isn’t a fool, ergo invalidating the whole point of correcting the fool in the first place? We have all heard the expression that we should “not to argue with a fool as they will bring you down to their level and beat you“. But there is far worse to be concerned about.

What you thought you knew

Arguing with a fool presumes the fool will play by the rules of logic. So if someone said for example that they believe in dragons, but not dinosaurs (yes, that’s a real belief from some creationist circles), you essentially have two options: 1) Elucidate the fact that dragons were early man’s misappropriation of what dinosaur bones probably were before paleontology was a science or; 2) Walk away. If you were foolish enough to choose option 1, you may face the obvious backlash of “how do we know that science isn’t wrong and the dragon idea isn’t right?

Why it’s stupid

If you think the few brain cells you have left are worth pursuing this kind of conversation, bear in mind that the very premise of the question is devoid of logical thought. You must remember that a grammatically correct sentence does not automatically imply a logically sound argument (or question, for that matter). Contrary to the popular adage, there are such things as stupid questions. You probably don’t realize it yet, but a question that queries a logically sound argument by proposing an equally unsound proposition isn’t a question worth pursuing at all.

…not without correcting the flaw in its underlying premise.

However, the whole point of not doing that is not so much that it requires assuming that the fool will follow as much as it assumes that the fool is willing to accept. What many people fail to realize is that not every act of stupidity requires a response. Some fall below the threshold of sensibility. The adage that one fool makes many applies here. For a fool is often one who is quite wise themselves, but deliberately opts for foolishness with a view to confound the wise.

How to correct it

Apropos, it is fair to say that some fools are foolish explicitly for the sake of folly while some folly is implicitly for the sake of fools. Either way, a fool and his folly are inexorably bound to find their mutual ways to each other (unlike a fool and his money). Thus any attempt to come between a fool and his folly, is tantamount to ice skating uphill in the middle of an avalanche.

Doing that is stupid — really stupid.

08. FEARING EMBARRASSMENT MORE THAN HARM

I was once told by someone that they loved to sleep naked. So out of curiosity, I asked them; “What if there was an earthquake?” Their response? They would rather die in the collapsing building than run outside naked. The response is clearly the stuff of inexperienced ignorance as your body’s natural fight or flight response would cause you to flee a collapsing building even if naked. However, it proves that a fundamental flaw exists between the ID and the Ego.

What you thought you knew

Running naked from a collapsing building is a bit of an extreme example. Thus a more mundane example is holding in the inevitable plume of flatulence while in an elevator, despite the fact that doing so does more harm than simply letting the methane compound fly. The obvious discomfort to others who may enter the elevator after you have freed yourself of wind is always secondary to the body’s need to get rid of dangerous waste gases. Yet the vast majority of us would rather hold it in until we have safely disembarked to a discreet location.

Why it’s stupid

Etiquette aside, holding in flatulence (or urine, or feces) is quite dangerous — even if you are in the middle of a presentation. Urinary tract infections and colon polyps are no laughing matter. Quietly excusing yourself not only guarantees that you will be able to present another time, but it also saves you the further embarrassment of soiling yourself when your body gives you the finger in your final, but futile attempt to restrain its waste disposal. ID ultimately wins.

This type of behaviour where we assiduously try to avoid embarrassment even at risk of personal endangerment is a testament to an evolutionary disconnect between good manners and well being. It’s stupid because this type of behaviour runs contradictory to evolutionary viability. Our society is so ridiculously over amped on politeness that if you were to walk into a public area where people are seated and boldly ask someone to give up their seat with a tone of authority, in most cases they will promptly do so just to avoid  any possible embarrassment.

I’m not kidding. You can try it yourself.

This is how people become easily bullied by obnoxious individuals who have no authority over them. They would rather walk away than face the potential embarrassment of dealing with such a personality. Because of this fundamental flaw in our politically correct social psychology, you can easily take advantage of someone by just speaking to them in an authoritative tone.

How stupid is that?

How to correct it

Before you become engrossed in the thought of being embarrassed, try to remind yourself that you’re not as significant as you think you are. Humans are essentially over glorified animals who have become high on the stink of their narcissistic perception at being the most intelligent creature they know of in the universe — so far. This is a reality only because a giant meteor had killed off the dinosaurs. There are still billions of meteors floating around out there.

So get over yourself.

With that said, good manners are a cultural approximation that have no value outside of your immediate demography. They are therefore ultimately irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Whether your survive to tell the tale naked or survive your body’s need to purge, your survival guarantees the immortality of your DNA — provided you’re not too embarrassed to ask someone of the opposite sex to help you pass it along. So carry on: burp and fart away.

Your progeny will be glad you did.

07. THINKING WE NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY

I used to have a few friends once who constantly complained about not having enough money for this or that — yet when it came to buying things they don’t need, they would spare no expense. This one guy I knew would rather blow thousands of dollars on mods for his fairly new Honda Civic before paying off his car loan. This one girl I knew would rather blow thousands of dollars on hair care products and shoes before paying off her college tuition. Sounds familiar? I am quite sure you have met this individual. They’re always asking for money.

What you thought you knew

They span the gamut from the people who have three or four smart phones with two or more networks that complain about a minor increase in food prices to those who drop half their salary on the latest clothes and then subscribe to food stamps. People who do these things don’t have a money problem. What they have is a priority problem. They just confuse the two.

So long as you know where your next payment is coming from, have a roof over your head, clothes on your back, are able bodied and are in good health, then no, you don’t have a money problem. We often find ourselves lamenting that we need to budget our finances. But if the day ever comes that you don’t need to think about money, you’ll find that you want to think about something else. Being bored is worse than being broke. Ask anyone who is rich.

Why it’s stupid

I am always told by these people that I need to “live a little“. That’s interesting because they take the bus while I commute in the air conditioned comfort of my car. They always have the opinion that I’m “rich” when all that I’ve done is manage what little money I have to get what I want. Because these individuals refuse to manage money (either because they hate math or because self auditing takes the “joy out of shopping“), they are always broke shortly after they get paid, which consequently sees them coming to me, cap in hand, begging for another loan.

Some people will always be broke. That’s a fact. No matter how much money they make, they will always be broke 3 days after getting paid. Whether they are paid $3 an hour or $3,000 an hour, they are the people who live from hand to mouth and care little for long term investment or sustainable income management. I do not pity such fools—especially if they are educated.

People who prefer to buy a new car while still living in a rented house will always be enslaved to the bank. They believe that they should live life in the moment, to get all the goodness now while they can still enjoy it, even if it means racking up a monumental debt that will eventually outlive them. If you are such a person, then every bank on this planet has a loan designed especially for you. While you could always forgo that pre-approved credit card in the mail that has a credit limit higher than your net worth, you would rather live in debt than in envy—right? Just ensure to enjoy your homelessness when it comes. It is, after all, inevitable.

It is people like you who will keep the banks funded, while people like me reap the rewards of paying off my loan early (the only way the bank loses). But since people like me are in the minority, the bank always wins. The bank wins when people like you take on loans you can’t handle and rack up credit card debt you can’t pay back. Don’t think they haven’t thought this through. Even if you go through a very good debt consolidation agency, the bank always wins.

It’s the ultimate Xanatos Gambit.

How to correct it

If you know somebody like this, do not under any circumstance lend them money. You will not be getting it back. Tough love usually works in correcting their wildly misappropriated world view about money. If you are such a person, then the best way to correct this behaviour is simply to live below your means. However, convincing you of something like that is like trying to tell you that you don’t need that new weave or that new tech gadget isn’t really worth it.

I might as well be talking to myself, right?

06. AGGRESSIVELY DEBATING AN OPINION

 

I can understand why two people with disparate views on something as trivial as film entertainment would debate something like the “Top 20 films of all time“. The point of such a debate is the fun of sharing opinions. But why would you debate someone’s opinion on something like racism or religion? Even worse, why would anyone try to debate someone who clearly can’t differentiate between opinion and fact? (Hint: one is provable, the other is not).

What you thought you knew

Debate is supposed to be based on the rules of logic. The reason for this is to empirically demonstrate which  point has more merit than another. This is supposed to bring the debate to a foreseeable end since the matter being debated can be factualized. However, if what is being debated is effectively identical to trying to decide whose favourite colour is better, then that is a waste of time—but people do it anyway! Sadly, I too have found myself guilty of this.

Why it’s stupid

As it turns out, the functional necessity of debate is to expose all of the salient points surrounding an issue. However, if one of the debaters is arguing based on their opinion, that’s not an argument that could possibly lead to a conclusion of the debate. Why? Because opinion is based on emotional prejudice, not fact. There is no valid counter argument for emotional prejudice, because there was never a logical argument to incite the prejudice in the first place.

This means that all arguments against a given opinion have the mathematical effectiveness of multiplying one billion and zero. For example: if someone says “I believe in God because he is present in my life“, the counter argument that “God doesn’t exist because he is a figment of your imagination” is a pointless (albeit, rational) counter argument, because the preceding premise is not based on the assumption that god’s existence is debatable (or that the attempt was to be rational). The original claim is not based on fact and so using fact to counter argue doesn’t have any effect. For this reason, you will likely fail to argue someone out of a chosen delusion.

Notice I used the word “chosen“.

Most people who are atheists were not argued out of their religious upbringing. Atheists are mostly either former Christians whose religion failed them or people who have decided that god is not a candidate for existence because that can neither be proven nor disproven. This is the ultimate end of all religious debates, because the argument is really about their opinion.

How to correct it

Similarly, no one can be argued out of their Democratic or Republican leaning. Their political philosophy is not based on fact, but rather on what they have chosen to believe. Once someone has chosen to believe in something, rationality becomes irrelevant. That’s when the debate becomes about “winning” as opposed to being educated—and nobody likes to lose. When an argument goes from “discovering truth” to “winning“, the discussion becomes moot.

Speaking of opinions, another common form of stupidity is:

05. EXHIBITING CONFIRMATION BIAS

What you thought you knew

Did you ever find that you had an opinion about something and everywhere you looked, you kept finding evidence to support that opinion? Let’s say that in the back of your mind, you always viewed black people as lazy. Everywhere you look, you will find evidence of black people living on food stamps, showing up for work late, or lacking conviction in their work ethic. This is despite the fact that other races have  demonstrated exactly the same problems.

Why it’s stupid

This type of behaviour is called a “Confirmation Bias”. It’s the same way how after fancying a new type of car that you suddenly start to see that car everywhere you look. That too is confirmation bias. What is happening is that your brain actively filters out all of the noise in your environment and feeds your mind with only the information that you’ve now decided is “interesting“. To be fair, your brain does all the time as our environment is quite noisy. The only way your mind focuses on anything is to filter out environmental noise for a specific thing.

So how is this stupid? Because we can also focus on the wrong thing.

When someone with an emotional prejudice has formed an opinion, they tend to argue around the evidence that validates that opinion while being blind to all of the other evidence that doesn’t support their opinion. So someone who is racist will subconsciously ignore all of the hardworking black folks who don’t fit their description or all of the decent white folks who obviously aren’t racist. Confirmation bias perpetuates tunnel vision which is bad for objectivity.

Similarly, someone who is sexist will only see females in the work place who are petty and incompetent, ignoring all others. Likewise, some atheists often decline to acknowledge any truth associated with religion (even if it remains true irrespective of religion) and some theists will never believe in scientific evidence that satisfactorily validates the theory of evolution.

How to fix it

So how do you argue against someone with a confirmation bias? You don’t and shouldn’t. That toowould be stupid for all the reasons outlined in point 6 above — although not as stupid as:

04. HAVING VERBAL ALTERCATIONS

Why do people have loud quarrels where everyone is trying to talk louder than everyone else? What exactly do they accomplish by shouting at each other? If everyone wants to have something to say but nobody wants to listen, then what’s the point of even having the “conversation” at all? Wouldn’t the value of the discussion (and let’s face it: It’s more like a pissing contest) really boil down to whoever has the loudest voice? So why do we do bother?

What you thought you knew

Let’s face facts here: quarrels never have and never will settle anything. Being loud, obnoxious and shouting at another person about something you two (or more) mutually disagree doesn’t produce an agreement. It actually makes it worse. The reason why we do it is because as human beings, we are wired to win. It’s our evolutionary instinct to not give up our ground when threatened (irrespective of who is wrong or right). It’s in our nature to fight.

…especially when we feel threatened.

At the risk of sounding like Jesus, let me first say that walking away is not the easiest thing to do — but it is the smartest thing to do. Why? Because when you have a conflict with someone else (irrespective of the nature of that conflict), you have to avoid becoming emotionally compromised. Emotion supersedes logic. Logic is the only way to resolve a matter. Once emotion takes over one side of the discussion, any logical parameters become moot and the discussion devolves into a game of who can hurt the other the most. It’s how it always ends.

Why it’s stupid

This kind of thing is stupid because we live in an age where settling a dispute by fisticuffs is by and large illegal, largely because such behaviour is primitive and unproductive. However, because we are consciously aware of the fact that bringing physical violence into the equation automatically invalidates our position, we instead choose to verbally attack, escalating the loudness of our voice in a subconscious attempt to drown out what our opponent is saying.

This is despite the fact that if you’re wrong, being loud only means that you’re wrong in a louder tone of voice. If you are right however, you come off as a bully, which doesn’t lend a third party any sympathy to your cause. If you are right and your opponent has a louder voice, you still lose the argument, no matter how logical your position. Why? Because the moment voices are raised, the rules of the discussion will change from using logic to using brute force.

Do you see how pointless that is?

How to fix it

It’s usually very difficult to know the moment a shouting match has started. It tends to creep up on you without you realizing that you’ve entered into one. It can do that because you have already been emotionally compromised from earlier in the conversation. Walking away in this case is hard because it feels like losing—and as I have said before, nobody likes to lose.

However, what exactly will you gain from blasting your opponent while they blast back in a heated fit of verbal frenzy? Once you lose your cool, whether you’re right or wrong, you lose the argument. I don’t mean lose the argument from a right or wrong standpoint. I mean you lose control of the argument. If you lose control of the argument, why even bother to have it?

Wouldn’t that be stupid?

03. GIVING IN TO IMPULSIVE HYPE

What you thought you knew

How many of you who owned an iPad 2 that you barely used, immediately ran out and bought the iPad 3 shortly after it came out (if not on opening day), which you continue to barely use? How many of you have ever been convinced to purchase something by smooth talking sales people on television that you later see in the supermarket at a reduced cost? Have you ever gone to the clothes store to get a specific item, but ended up walking away with many more?

If you’ve made any of these mistakes, or at least, mistakes like them, then you probably have a low impulse resistance. You are the type of person who would run out to see a movie that everybody raves about, but have no idea if it is your type of film. You’re probably one who would invest heavily in something without first having done some research on it. You’re probably one of the gadget fans called “early adopters”, who always desire the latest swag.

The interesting thing about this type of stupidity is that you know that what you’re doing is stupid, but you just can’t resist the urge to indulge, even if it will set you back a lot of pennies. The first thing you need to understand is that the job of a marketer is to appeal to your basest, most powerful emotional desires. That’s why movie trailers always feature clips from the best action pieces, even if it is the fourth sequel in the franchise. That’s why technology companies release new gadgets every 12 months, even if the new upgrade is hardly worth it.

Why it’s stupid

This kind of depressing behaviour is stupid because it robs it’s hapless victims of money that they don’t need to spend. For example: consider all of the folks out there who have both an iPhone and an iPad. Why both? This is the hallmark of a great technology marketing company: It has managed to convince its customers to buy the same device twice, the smaller one of which costs many hundreds more unlocked. My hat goes off to Apple for this impressive feat.

Well done. Very well done. 

This is why Apple Inc. is now the wealthiest privately owned company in the world. Samsung is dead set on following suit. They are following Apple’s marketing strategy by playing upon the irresistible urge to own the latest and the greatest, even though they are selling the same product in different shapes and sizes with a few minor tweaks masquerading as an “upgrade“.

How to fix it

Before you give in to your next impulse, ask yourself this question: “Do I need it?” If you find you have trouble answering that question honestly, then you should probably consider that what you’re spending money on is novelty and not an upgrade. We all loved to receive gifts from our parents as children. As an adult with a paying job, this kind of compulsion has simply gotten out of hand. Now that you have your own money, Christmas comes whenever you like.

How pathetic are we, that we would run out and buy the same device over and over again just so that we can get high off that new box smell? If you don’t see how utterly ridiculous that is, then it is likely that you are also suffering from yet a another rather annoying kind of stupid:

02. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

Have you ever wondered why people who are obviously struggling to defend the indefensible don’t just quit? Why would you continue to believe something that is already on the surface very difficult to believe? If God is good, then why does he allow evil to exist? If feminism empowers women, doesn’t that mean that men are no longer obligated to treat them as the fairer sex? If PeTA is against unethical treatment of animals, why are PeTA members allowed to keep pets? How could anyone subscribe to two conflicting ideas at exactly the  same time?

Through Cognitive Dissonance.

Cognitive Dissonance is a very common oddity that enables the human mind to embrace two contradicting ideas. It is what spawns the cop out explanations that are used to answer questions that expose the conflict inherent in things like religion, politics and social opinion. It is why a nonsense explanation like “Just because my husband helps gay teens to be straight, it doesn’t mean he’s gay” is sufficient enough for someone like Michelle Bachmann. It’s why many in America’s political right embrace both their guns and religion, reducing one to suit the other.

What you thought you knew

If you ever find yourself on the defensive about an idea that on the surface of it doesn’t make any sense (like a virgin giving birth to the saviour of the world) then you’re exhibiting cognitive dissonance. If you ever find yourself having to reach for an answer to a paradoxical question (e.g. “If God is all powerful, how could we possibly have choice?“) then you’re exhibiting cognitive dissonance. If you have ever found yourself utilizing a response that doesn’t answer a direct question (e.g. “absence of proof is not proof of absence“)  then you were cognitively dissonant.

Cognitive dissonance is conclusive proof that belief and logic are mutually independent. That’s precisely why a woman being beaten by her lover will still believe he loves her. It is why someone will stay in a dead end job simply because it “pays the bills“. It is why so many women supported ultra-conservative politicians like Rick Santorum whose beliefs rival that of men from the 15thcentury, why some black folks try to defend the misogyny in rap music and why some people seek to defend their homophobia by capriciously hiding behind their religion.

Why it’s stupid

Cognitive dissonance is stupid because it shows that people are willing to deceive themselves out of that which is obvious in favour of things which are obviously not. There is no more explicit declaration of “I prefer to believe a lie” than a blatant exhibition of cognitive dissonance. It’s perhaps the highest form of intellectual dishonesty, a comprehensive manifestation of self delusion that comes complete with its own pat on the shoulder to soothe one’s troubled mind. Now you know how dishonest people can sleep at night: They are cognitively dissonant.

How to fix it

Usually, it requires a very alert observing ego to detect yourself being cognitively dissonant. You often do it without even thinking about it. If you have a bias towards an idea, then you are likely to employ the use of cognitive dissonance. You can tell that you have a bias if you often refute any evidence contrary to what you believe without ever giving in to consideration.

Cognitive dissonance can’t be fixed without opting to have an open mind or a willingness to be brutally honest with oneself. Without excessively training one’s mind to be intellectually agnostic, or to always be ready to question one’s own motivations, cognitive dissonance creeps in without notice. It cannot be beaten without a desire to be dispassionately objective.

01. OVERVALUING HONESTY

What you thought you knew

Have you ever told the truth, only to find that the receiver crucified you for it? Did you really think humans invented lying by accident? Whoever came up with the notion that “Honesty is the best policy” had obviously never met King Henry VIII, the Nazi’s, or the IRS. If you were one of King Henry’s wives and you told the truth about being barren, you would literally lose your head. If you were Jewish and admitted it to the Nazi’s in 1941, you’d have been killed. If you were very rich, telling the IRS about money in an offshore account could get you arrested.

Why it’s stupid

Is honesty the best policy? FalseSurvival is the best policy. Honesty is overrated as the truth is a moving target. How could I possibly say this? Well it’s simple really. If you were a gay man living in Iran, coming out of the closet would be a certain death sentence. If Mary Shelly had not written under a pseudonym, her classic story “Frankenstein” would never have been published. If the network went down, stalling your bosses for time until you fixed it would make you a hero, as opposed to an unemployed douche who exposed his own incompetence.

How to fix it

So the next time you think about admitting to your wife that you and her best friend were once lovers before you two got married, think again. The next time you think of admitting to smoking marijuana on a job interview, think again. The next time you think of telling a black person what you really think about his race, think again. This is the reason why the US hasn’t already gone to war with China; why women tell their men that size doesn’t matter and consequently why men tell their women that they’re not fat—all because honesty is overrated.

It’s one of the many good deeds that never goes unpunished. Ever.

Honesty is, for all intents and purposes, brutal when not handled with the skill of a diplomat. Honesty is only valuable when the outcome is ultimately favourable. If you cheated on your wife, being honest about it might save you from a brutal divorce—or free you from a loveless marriage. If you made a mistake in the assembly of a space shuttle, honesty could save the lives of seven, or cost you your job. Honesty is never as straight forward as children are told.

…unless of course, you’re still a child.

CONCLUSIVELY

Have you ever heard of the term “Common Sense“? I’m sure you have. After going over this list, I’m pretty sure you will agree with me that there is no such thing. Common sense is an oxymoron. For if sensibility were common, we wouldn’t have invented a phrase for it. Never the less, I urge you therefore readers, the next time you find yourself with the compelling urge to call someone stupid, kindly recall the many stupid things you often do that are on this list.

It always serves to give us perspective.

The World According to Xenocrates

Virgorously defending the right to common sense.

On idiot at a time.