I like to hang my personality flaws out to dry on this blog. It helps me work past them.
Today’s demonstration of my own failings comes in the form of snap judgements. I’m on my way to Valencia today and I’ve been doing quite a lot of judging within the snug, smug solitude of my head. Middle-lane hogger – snap judgement. Flamboyant gate attendant – snap judgement. Middle-aged bloke with pouty youngster in hot pants – snap judgement. Guy across the aisle reading The Daily Pissface – snap judgement.
None of this is healthy.
Now it’s come to a head with the guy sitting next to me. He’s probably in his late 60s, very English (not in a good way – in a thuggish, xenophobic way), very Cockney, very Alf Garnett. When he speaks to his wife, it’s like Mike Reid is sat next to me. So I’ve decided to ignore him. (For the younger and non-Brit readers, Mike Reid was the gravel-voiced Frank Butcher in EastEnders, but I still remember him for – RUNARAAHHHHND… NAHHH!)
Now we’re airborne with some time to kill, I’m writing some blog posts, and right now I’m writing this one when I’m suddenly aware that Frank Butcher is slyly looking at my laptop screen, reading what I’m writing. I turn and give him a hard stare, which is as close to confrontation as I ever get (middle-class English, we only do passive aggressive) but he doesn’t even notice.
Then I realise the snap judgement that *he* must have made about me. He was already seated when I arrived so he would’ve seen me approach. Then he saw me patiently waiting for the dawdlers in the aisle to clear, sit down, read a book during take-off and then get a laptop out. I probably didn’t come across as the kind of guy who would write “fuck” in the first sentence. So now he’s fascinated.
But I don’t want him reading what I’m writing. I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. So I highlight it and pop the font down a couple of points. But his glasses must be *really* good because he’s still reading. So I drop it down to 5pt – a font so small that I only know what it says because I’ve just typed it. And then finally he looks away. But I don’t think he twigged why I did it.
My snap judgement about this fella is becoming more of a plop judgement when, in conversation with his wife, he refers to the jolly flight attendant as the “ginger poof” in a volume that I know he thinks is quiet enough because he hasn’t noticed he’s been going gradually deaf for 30 years. It isn’t. If the flame-headed chap heard it, he didn’t show it, so I like to think we’ve got lucky, but regardless I’ve totally condemned Frank by now and am wondering if it might be a net benefit to society if the plane exploded.
It’s at this point that the epiphany comes and I notice what I’m doing. A second ago it didn’t seem harsh to condemn this guy to an imaginary fiery death, it seemed like justice. Whoa. That’s a bit mental. So I take a moment to step back and decouple myself from this thought process.
Wow. It looks very different from back here.
Now I have a different perspective. I don’t want this guy to burn in aviation fuel any more, I feel a bit sorry for him. He’s not a bad person, he’s just really, really stupid.
Now at this point some of you may be thinking those two things are more or less equivalent, but they could barely be more different.
Stupidity is one of the last bastions of ridicule. We have decided as a society, quite rightly, that it’s wrong to criticise somebody for being ugly, or fat, or short, or tall, or poor, or anything else that’s beyond the individual’s control. But stupidity – we can still do that. We can post videos of people doing stupid things and have a good laugh at them.
I’m not comfortable with that. Stupidity is a disability. Possibly the most important one.
Nobody chooses to be stupid. Stupidity is thrust upon them. Furthermore, the human psyche is such that we will hide our own stupidity from ourselves, so we all think we’re pretty smart. Half the population has below the median intelligence, remember. How many people *think* they’re below average? Ten per cent maybe? Those numbers don’t add up. It’s such a horrific thought to think that you might be stupid that your brain will do anything to convince yourself that it’s not true. It might even convince you to write blog posts on stupidity as a smokescreen. That would be REALLY dumb. Ha! What kind of idiot would do that?
You may argue that stupid people could become more intelligent by reading more, studying more and so on, and so it’s their choice. You may argue that. And if you did, you’d be wrong. A stupid person is no more able to become intelligent than I am of taking up professional basketball. I write computer code for a living and it feels like I can write a computer program after half a bottle of wine – until I try it. When my brain’s in that state, there’s no way in the world I can write decent code. Not a chance. I can write *code*, but it’ll be shit code, and I’ll look at it in the morning and wonder what chimpanzee took a dump on the keyboard. If I didn’t have a logical brain when sober, I simply couldn’t do it at all. Similarly, I couldn’t be an artist. I could learn the techniques and practise all my life, but I’d still be shit at it. My brain just doesn’t fold that way.
So this bigoted fool sat next to me only acts that way because he can’t think his way out of it. That must be *horrible*. I have a stutter and that does my head in at times, but I wouldn’t swap places with Frank for a billion quid. Poor bloke.
I’m realising all this while I’m still staring at the screen and it’s leaked out of me as a physical shake of the head. I snap out of it and notice there’s been a baby crying for a while in the row behind me on the opposite side. I can hear the mother trying to console the little mite and the thought occurs to me that she’s just seen me do my little slow head-shake, which was actually saying, “I’m so stupid,” but would’ve looked for all the world to her as if it meant, “somebody shut that fucking baby up.” Passive-aggressive, you see, that’s what we do.
There’s nothing I can do, I just have to suck it up and accept that she now thinks I’m a dick. Now *I’m* the victim of a snap judgement and I can’t help thinking that Frankly, maybe that’s karma.