ALS Topic 14 -
Trump says Americans (and everyone else) are stupid. Is he right?
Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime
Seminar, 4 August 2018
questions below are not supposed to suggest biased answers. You
really can adopt any point of view your can suggest evidence for. Do
be prepared for others suggesting counter-evidence! Note: clearly
not all of these questions can be properly covered in a meetup, but
they give us a conscious choice about what to talk about while
making the background context clearer. It is up to the people who
come on the day to choose what aspects they would like to deal with.
1. Well, are Americans stupid? Australians?
All the rest ...?
2. Believe it or not, stupidity is
interesting. It plays a huge part in human affairs, and has been
researched (sometimes amusingly). I ran a meetup and wrote a paper
about it in Brisbane (
- includes many links). So what can be done about it?
We've all done stupid things. What are some common 'systems
failures' in life that get us to act stupidly?
4. Some people
seem to be chronically stupid (at least in other people's view),
regardless of education, formal intelligence etc. What is going on
with characters like this.
5. At least in Anglo cultures,
there's a common view among the general public that universities are
holding pens for clever twits. Is this fair? Why would such a view
come about, and what (if anything) can be done about it?
Our lives are now lived within layers of bureaucracy - not just
governments, but corporations and the effects of impenetrable laws,
online and offline. Since SNAFU ('situation normal, all fucked up' -
from World War II) is the standard human condition, we are
guaranteed to be tripped up at some level by stupid bureaucratic
decisions. How can a society minimize and mitigate this kind of
risk? How well is Australia managing this stuff?
stupid choices, decisions and behaviour are almost inevitable as
teenagers grow into (sadder and wiser?) adults. What is the best way
to nudge teenagers and young adults to learn creatively from stupid
mistakes, as opposed to driving them further into a cycle of
8. All cultures have great strengths, which
is why they persist. All cultures also have deep flaws which widen
under strain, especially during rapid change (i.e. now!). It
sometimes seems that allowing cultural flaws to persist is an act of
mass stupidity. It can also seem that strong legal systems might
actually preserve such civilizational flaws. Can you think of
examples a) from America, and b) from Australia? What can be done
about this dilemma?
9. Mistakes are not always from acts of
stupidity, but often are. Where there is a blame culture, stupid
mistakes typically snowball. In a no-blame culture, issues are
sorted out at the simplest level and future errors avoided.
Hospitals notoriously have blame cultures. Daily airport management
(well, my experience of it as a despatch officer in 1972) was that a
no-blame culture was critical to keeping planes in the air. This
issue also seems to affect national cultures. From your life
experience, can you offer examples?
10. Whole classes of
people are often claimed to be stupid: racial groups, ethnic groups,
the poor, the managerial class, capitalists, socialists, communists
etc. How much truth is there in such stereotypes?
11. Is it a
good life strategy to always avoid stupid people, or can they
actually be used to advantage? (For example, how many businesses and
politicians depend upon human stupidity?).
a deeply stupid country", Dana Milbank, Washington Post @
'Dark Money' on Goodreads @
"Trump is right about who’s to blame for bad relations with
Russia" David Goldman @
"After Putin meeting, Trump voters mostly stand by their
man". Matt Flegenheimer @
1. articles at
legacy site: http://thormay.net
Americans (and everyone else) are stupid. Is he right? (c) Thor May 2018 return to