Friday, 25 July 2014

25/07/14 - Idiots

When you’re growing up, you’re convinced that grown-ups are utterly infallible. This makes sense, of course - you have to have absolute trust in your parents, as they’re the ones who bring you food and wipe up your poo and all of that business that you can’t manage by yourself. They impart wisdom, they have answers to all of your questions, they know how to do things. They have skills in activities that it doesn’t even occur to you that you might one day be able to do yourself – cooking, shopping, driving, these are all the actions of grown-ups, and a grown-up is an entirely separate thing to a child. As a kid, you’re just learning about the world, in the certain knowledge that when you grow up you’ll have it all figured out. But the older you get, the more you realise that the world is full of fucking idiots.

I can remember with some degree of clarity the precise moment I realised that not all grown-ups are on a level footing brains-wise. It was when I was around ten or eleven years old, and I was helping my sister with some door-to-door charity collection around the houses near to us in Herne Bay. One old man answered the door in his dressing-gown (which was in itself odd, given that it was about 7pm – what had he been up to all day?), asked which charity we were collecting for, and said ‘No, I don’t dominate to them,’ before slamming the door in our faces.
His obvious mistake stopped me in my tracks. Even at that tender age it was immediately obvious to me that he’d meant to say ‘donate’, but the confidence with which he’d said it suggested that he genuinely thought that ‘dominate’ was the correct word in that situation. My lexicon at that age was not robustly fortified with naughty swears, but my reaction was something along the lines of what I’d now vocalise as ‘fucking hell, that man’s a fucking moron’. I was gobsmacked. He was a grown-up, and yet I – a child – could see that he was wrong. Wrong! This opened up a whole new world of possibilities. If he was wrong about that, who else was wrong, and about what?

The jigsaw continued to thicken. Accompanying my dad when he went to buy a used car, the seller referred to the glove compartment as ‘the glove department’. A slip of the tongue, you might think, but she then said it two more times, clearly of the belief that the little lidded hole in the dash was designated as a department for gloves and should be referred to as such. What a berk.

From that point onwards, observing adults took on a whole new spin; your parents remain untouchable at this point, of course, but every other adult suddenly became somehow less impressive. They were just as clueless as children – sure, they’d acquired the skills to carry out certain tasks, but they were as insecure and unsure of themselves as the little people were… and those who didn’t seem insecure or unsure because they were talking loudly and throwing opinions about? Well, they were the wrongest of all.

This new-found disrespect for the intelligence of grown-ups has done me a lot of favours over the years. Grown-ups are just kids trapped in ageing bodies, their feeble brains desperately trying to cling on to new information without forcing any of the old stuff out. They’re just as scared of the world and keen to be liked as anyone else.
Helpfully, I now have a bitter and contemptuous dislike of quite a lot of people. You know that scene in Se7en where Kevin Spacey’s character describes overhearing a conversation on the subway that’s so fundamentally inane that it makes him vomit in disgust? I experience that frequently. A surprising number of people are fucking idiots.
And do you ever experience that thing where you’re sitting in a meeting listening to somebody drone on and on in a self-important way, and think ‘Jesus, you’re boring. If only your ten year-old self could see you now’? I think a sense of fun is something that’s easily lost among the truly stupid too. Dull people are the thickest, and vice versa.

Don’t let this lead you into a grim and shadowy alley of despair for mankind, however; if you’ve managed to retain a sense of perspective, to be aware that you’re wrong most of the time just like everybody else, you’re probably OK. The really dangerous people are the ones who believe they’re always right. Be very suspicious of confident people, they’re almost certainly about to give you some very bad advice – particularly if they’re in a PC World uniform, driving a Foxtons Mini, or speaking at a Tory conference. Put your trust in the stammering wallflowers, they’re the clever ones.

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