Idiots are all around us. Idiots are the embodiment of the lowest common denominator. They are the kid at the back of the class who refuses to listen. Who loudly shows off their new smartphone, pog, or electric yoyo. and slows the speed of human progress. The idiots are self-regarding consumer slaves, oblivious to the paradox of their uniform individuality, unaware that they are the rich man’s puppets.
‘Does Ashcroft think I’m an idiot?’ he hears you rage into your smartphone. He hears you and he prepares to deploy the twin weapons of hypophora and basic human empathy to respond across space and time.
The difference between idiots and non-idiots is that the idiots are oblivious. The idiot doesn’t realise that it is trapped. The idiot doesn’t realise that its desires are shaped by the most blatant of corporate manipulations into thinking that the new iPhone s12 will bring it happiness. The idiots believe that getting its hands on the latest piece of materialist twattery a few weeks before Jeremy and Frederick is some kind of victory. That this proves that they are better than their friends. In its tiny little mind this gives the idiot’s life value and meaning.
The idiot wastes large portions of its theoretically precious time on irrelevant bullshit. You see them queueing overnight with deckchairs and blankets, just to be the first to get a comfortable new smartphone or a shiny pair of sport shoes.
Shoes and smartphones are not rare. Each product is sold by half a dozen specialist shops on every high street in every town. The corporate capitalist system is so dysfunctional that hyped up products plummet rapidly in price in the first months after release.
The idiots, cretinous as they appear, actually do know these things. And yet they refuse to engage with the capitalist system in a way that works to their own self-interest. The idiots risk hypothermia, waste a night and the energy to get them through the next day, just to be the first in the queue. That is how thoroughly, deeply stupid the idiots are.
Imagine if the idiots could put that kind of enthusiasm and dedication into something meaningful. If they realised that, rather than pursuing the acquisition of stuff so that they have something to gloat about, they chose to disengage, to laugh at the rich man’s propaganda rather than falling for the idea that the new, slightly faster piece of tech is a major breakthrough.
If they realise this, then they cease to be idiots.
Non-idiots realise that true happiness comes from the relationships we form with our friends, our family – the messy, irritating, complicated and infuriating relationships that need to be built or repaired slowly and awkwardly from the bottom up. Taking a few minutes to flick an electronic ball at the head of a cartoon animal doesn’t make you an idiot. But idiots give every impression of seeing this as the deepest possible spiritual fulfilment, as the 21st century equivalent to Sufism’s annihilation of the self.
The idiot is not human. Not fully, at least. The idiot maintains an air of emotional detachment, prioritising its love of stuff over a love of people. The idiot is a person who tries to take back a laptop bought as a birthday present after cheating on its wife. The idiot prefers not to imagine how its actions impact on others. It prefers not to engage with ideas that are linked to the possibility of self-doubt or self-criticism. The idiot, in this context, is not totally dissimilar from the psychopath. Both live their lives superficially, without the great joy or despair that come with connections to other humans. The idiot prefers superficial certainty. Because certainty is cool, yeah? And cool is easy, achievable. The cool status that gets 40 likes is easy for even an idiot to understand.
Choose to aim for something deeper. Choose not to be an idiot. Idiots are annoying fuckers. Idiots are the people who refuse to think, who decide that they have enough ideas and won’t be taking in any more, thank you very much. They come from all sorts of backgrounds. They can be the cretin who dirty-talks over the phone while he’s on the bus. They can be the homeopath who thinks that having less of something makes it stronger. They can be the chicklit author turned twitter queen who spends half her time straw-manning her own causes. It’s not a matter of class, or privilege, or even education. It’s all about the individual’s outlook.
There’s a difference between being an idiot and being ignorant.Ashcroft is an ignorant bastard. There’s a load of things he doesn’t understand – political terminology confuses him, he struggles to remember any sort of facts, and he doesn’t quite get how aeroplanes work. He’s an indulgent fool who keeps making mistakes and screwing himself over. But he’s no idiot, because Ashcroft thinks.
He thinks about the world around him, tries to make sense of the dazzling beauty and the repulsive depravity. He opens himself to new ideas, tries to form a sense of which people know more than him, and want to use their positions of relative power to make changes for the better.
Odds are that you’re ignorant in some ways. Maybe you’re ignorant in most ways. It’s okay to be ignorant, as long as you try to understand the important stuff.
Politics is fucking important. Politics is really fucking important. Politics is the application of power. Politics is when some rich arsehole (who charges the taxpayer to post his underpants home for his wife to wash) decides that people renting a house with a spare room should be forced to move into smaller housing which doesn’t exist. That rich arsehole has a lot more power than the renters, so he gets what he wants. It’s fucked up, but that’s politics. Refusing to engage just makes it easier for the scumbags to get away with their scumbaggery. If you choose to permanently disengage from the political process, then you’re leaving the powerful scumbags in a stronger position.
Not everyone feels brave enough or knowledgable enough to put themselves on the line. And a lot of people are struggling just to survive. But even those people can inform people who may be tempted to side with the oppressors what practical effect their policies are having. It might not seem it, but for a person to open up to friends and acquaintances about how they’re struggling to put food on the table (and how it didn’t used to be this hard) is a political act. Making yourself vulnerable is a really fucking brave political act, in an age when struggling to get by gets you labelled a scrounger. If you’re suffering, don’t keep calm and carry on, that’s what the arseholes and scumbags want. They want you to be pragmatic and stoical while they swing a sledgehammer at your genitals. Keeping quiet makes you complicit in your own oppression.
Decide which cause, causes, person or people you want to put your trust in. If you say that “they’re all as bad as each other”, then you’re a fucking idiot. Some politicians are worse than others. The bloke with the toothbrush moustache was a politician. The American with a rug on his head who sticks his name on everything is a politician. The independent who’s standing for council elections probably doesn’t want to deport the Mexicans and invade Poland.
If you say “they’re all as bad as each other” then you’re choosing not to think. You’re choosing to remain an idiot. You’re choosing not to employ your majestic brain – as far as we know, the greatest calculating device which has ever existed – to properly comprehend the world around you. You’re choosing to view things in black and white rather than glorious, terrifying, vibrant technicolour.
You’re not only part of the problem, you are the problem. It’s only because of idiots that psychopaths are able to get away with running the world. Psychopaths by their nature don’t give a fuck. But you can make them pretend to give a fuck, and put them under pressure so we get some decent human beings, rather than psychopaths, into positions of power.
So choose not to be an idiot. Choose to think – choose to say that enough is enough, and that we deserve better than to be ruled over by arseholes, scumbags and psychopaths. Disengagement is easy. It’s what the powerful want. Think. Have faith that a better world is possible, work out who you trust to lead us in that direction, and tell your friends and family why you trust them. The future of the human race depends on you not being an idiot.