Friday, April 13, 2007

A Silly Idea About Morons

Some of the blog authors I read strongly prefer words like "moron", "idiot", "cretin", and so forth when referring to people who behave reprehensibly.

That particular prejudice strikes me as curious because there is no clear link, so far as I know, between a person's intelligence and whether they will act like a jerk.

One blogger recently described some vandals who spray painted protest slogans on a university wall as "morons". He didn't know who did it, so he really didn't know how smart they were. It seems his sole reason for calling the vandals "morons" was his knowledge they had callously damaged university property. But why "morons"?

It seems to me he's making a rather silly assumption: jerks are dumber than the rest of us. If so, he hasn't met a few of the jerks I've met. Like most people, I have the experience to know jerks come in all shapes and sizes, all ethnic backgrounds, and all ideologies. Some are even smart.

When certain bloggers pretend that jerks are dumber than the rest of us, it makes me wonder if they think the converse is true too? Do they believe those who are dumber than the rest of us are necessarily jerks?

If so, that's yet another silly idea.

The way I see it (most of the time), the single most important virtue a person can possess is kindness. After kindness, maybe love or compassion or wisdom. Somewhere down the list, following integrity, honesty, courage, spirit, and perhaps a few other virtues comes brains.

I know that when I was much younger, I ranked brains a whole lot higher than I do today.

That was the folly and narrowness of youth. I scarcely knew back then what love or compassion or wisdom were. I had only the vaguest understandings of integrity, honesty, courage and spirit. And I don't recall ever having thought kindness was important. But brains -- I valued brains almost fanatically.

Since fanaticism about anything always narrows us, maybe that's why I didn't know much about the other virtues.

The vandals the blogger spoke about who spray painted the university wall were surely lacking in wisdom, along with some other virtues. but it just ain't necessarily so they were morons. So, let's call them what they are -- jerks -- and refrain from implying that all vandals are morons.


Kay said...

I admit, to my chagrin, that I've been one of those individuals who have used the word "moron" in an incorrect way, as a catch-all term for meaning "rude" or something similar. "Idiotic" would fall into that category as well.

I'm working on being aware of incorrect word usage (on my part). I don't want to be a word Nazi, but I want to say what I mean, and mean what I say.

Paul said...

Hi Kay!

You put it better than I did when you said, "I don't want to be a word Nazi, but I want to say what I mean, and mean what I say."

Thank you!

Greta Christina said...

Interesting point. In a way, I can see why people use the word "moron" or "idiot" that way (and I'm sure I've done it myself). I think it's a failure to distinguish between the person and the idea or action. It's like, "That person has done or said something that I think is really stupid, therefore that person is really stupid."

But I do think we all need to be more careful about distinguishing between people and ideas -- between Christians and Christianity, for instance, or Republicans and Republicanism. Especially here on the Interweb, where tone and shades of meaning are easily lost.