Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Treatise on 'Dumb'

If there's one thing working in retail will do, it's expose you to a high level of 'dumb'. I've found myself growing incredulous at some of the demands, reactions, comments, and overall positions of people.

In regards to Dumb, I'm not talking about people that hold differing opinions from one another. I'm not going to be a grammar nazi and complain about people that screw up "your" and "you're" or "there", "they're" and "their", because, honestly, we all make those mistakes. Granted, I get (probably far too) irked with mistakes like that, but that's because I don't often make those mistakes. Most anyone that has tried to teach someone something at which they were not very good knows the level of "irk" of which I am speaking - it can be very difficult to put oneself in the position of someone with less knowledge on a subject. Why do you think that some teachers just outright suck? Some people just aren't as good at expressing knowledge.

I'm talking about the onion-like layers of Dumb that we encounter on a daily basis; the type that makes you scratch your head. It's the Dumb that generates frustration rather than humour; draws your wrath rather than draws a smile.

The staff member, for example, that asks each other staff member at the beginning of the week to contact him if they need a shift taken who ultimately turns down three offered shifts during the same week.

Or the person, possibly, who believes that all "carbs" are Bad and will thus eat a Big Mac sans bun, believing it to be the healthy alternative. For the record, this person also smokes.

Ultimately, there tend to be similarities that exist between all of these people1.

The first and most glaring tends to be the gross extrapolation of a small piece of knowledge. Even very very smart people fall into this trap - the people that know a small amount about a subject but believe that knowledge transforms them into an expert. Overall, this will lead to some sort of a dumb statement and an unwillingness to back down from said position. These people are the ones, say, that loved Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and, therefore, will cling to their belief that everything Guy Ritchie has done since is pure cinematic gold. Overall, these people fancy themselves pundits on the subjects they hold dear, but will probably just wind up standing alone by the end of the party.

Selective knowledge is another ailment of the Dumb. This is when someone only selects the part(s) of the subject matter for consumption, usually the parts that validate their views or negate an opposite view; "Carbs Bad" is an example of this phenomenon. This is especially prevalent in politics - ask a "liberal" what particular platforms appeal to them, and chances are "Increased taxes and government spending" will not be high on that list2. It is, of course, visible in many other places - we gloss over plot holes in movies we like, ignore gaps in the lineups of our favourite sports teams, and assume that all carbs are bad and eliminating carbs will immediately improve health and wellness.

Another type of Dumb is the mean type of Dumb. This comes in all shapes and sizes and can kind of sneak up on you. These people are the worst Dumb offenders - not only do they abuse what knowledge they possess, they manage to make your life harder while they're doing it. They'll usually have something they consider to be worthy of being a "credential" that makes them experts3, and this will empower them to battle you all the way through your interaction with them.

'Dumb', for all intents and purposes, exists everywhere and within everyone. The exacerbating problem is that no one Thinks - Thinks before they speak, Thinks before they act, Thinks before they judge. There needs to be a way to combat this frustrating trend, and, like everything, it will start with individual people. Everyone should make a concerted effort to include his or her brain in their daily dealings and interactions, and somehow, perhaps the Dumb plague will slowly begin to dissipate.

1 - Now, when I say "these" people, I mean everyone, present company most definitely included. Everybody's Dumb from time to time, it's just frustrating when the same people are regularly dumb

2 - There's usually something about legalizing various things, despite the fact that many Conservatives are in favour of those things too

3 - Pierre Maguire, anyone?

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