September 2018

Line in the Sand: Are people just not smart?

Author: Barry Kaufman & Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Opinion 1: Barry Kaufman

Over the years, Courtney and I have tackled a litany of topics, from the tragic (school shootings) to the asinine (should we kill all of the cats?). We don’t always agree—and if I’m being honest, we don’t always disagree either, but a format is a format. We at least respect one another. But this month’s topic puts me in the rare position of having to defend you, the reader, from Courtney’s poison pen.

This month, Courtney and are debating the topic of whether or not people are stupid. Courtney seems to think they are. And since you, dear reader, are people, she is, by extension, saying that you are stupid. This I cannot allow.

Yes, certain people do stupid things—some so wildly stupid you begin to wonder what drugs were involved and whether they brought enough for everyone. The latest example of this being the young woman who has single-handedly brought the eyes of the world to Bluffton for trying to Caucasian her way out of a speeding ticket in hilarious fashion. Yes, this young woman did a stupid thing. Several, if you want to include getting severely drunk and driving through Old Town at 60 mph (and you should).

But to look at us all through the lens of that one mind-bogglingly stupid act (or series of acts) is to discount the vast majority of people who manage to not drive drunk, not blow through Old Town as if they’re trying to get the flux capacitor up to speed, and not brag about their white people credentials to a police officer hoping it will get them out of a ticket.

Look at it this way. There are dumb people everywhere, and there always have been.

On a recent trip to Scotland I was touring Stirling Castle, in awe of the ancient ingenuity it took to schlep all these rocks up a giant Scottish hill without the benefit of modern-day construction equipment (such as forklifts, backhoes, Gatorade, cigarettes and pants that fail to cover the entire butt crack). It took centuries, but the Scots did it anyway, secure in the knowledge that one day it would be of great service to the country’s National Trust who would use this spot to rake in tourist money from Americans wanting to hear all about who was beheaded here.

This castle is a testament to man’s ingenuity and brilliance. It’s also a site of one of the most hilariously stupid acts in history. One day in 1507, a crowd of people including King James IV came out to watch Father John Damian attempt to fly from the battlements and all the way to London, solely on the strength of some chicken feathers he’d glued to himself. In epic fashion, he leaped into the sky and made it at least several hundred feet, almost all of which were straight down. After they scraped what was left of him off the rocks below, Father Damian explained his attempt had only failed because he had used the wrong kind of feathers.

I am making up none of this.

The point is, there have always been dumb acts. But they are done by a species that, as a whole, has done remarkable things. If people are so dumb, who built the pyramids? Who put a man on the moon? Who came up with democracy or brain transplants or the spork? People, that’s who. People like you and me. Well maybe not me, but there’s still hope for you.

It’s easy to look at individual acts like those undertaken by Father Damian or the unnamed clean, thoroughbred white girl and think that they are symptoms of an inherent stupidity within the human race.

Me, I like to think that people are overall pretty smart when given the chance. We may not make it back to the moon anytime soon, and our prime pyramid-building days are probably behind us, but that doesn’t mean what we’re accomplishing now is any less remarkable.

There will always be large groups of human beings dedicated to grueling acts of brilliance that will echo throughout history. There will always be people dragging the rocks up the hill just to build the castle they’ll never see, secure in the knowledge that they are building a better future. But yeah, there will always be people ready to glue some feathers to themselves and jump off that castle. Their stupidity does nothing to diminish the brilliance of the people that put that castle there in the first place.

If you’re out there building that castle, more power to you. You’re brilliant, and don’t let the Courtneys of the world tell you otherwise.

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Opinion 2: Courtney Hampson

Last month, I was in Costa Rica for a week-long surf camp vacation. Costa Rica’s landscape is stunning. The weather was perfect. We stayed in a small hotel, with just six other guests. A private chef prepared all of our meals (and snacks, and cocktails), and each morning, we trekked to the beach with our coaches and enjoyed three hours of intense surfing. Intense because there was little break between the walls of waves, and three hours of any cardio is breathtaking—literally.

My coach was Diego, a 20-something native Costa Rican with a great sense of humor and the patience of Job. On our second day in the water, Diego was trying to transition me from “Wow! I am standing” to “I’m standing, now let’s see if I can stay up and ride the wave all the way to the beach.” His instruction was simple: three steps to get up, set your feet, and use your hips to guide your board in. One. Two Three. I’m up. I’m down. Over and over again, until finally, as Diego hung from the back of my board, he yelled over the surf, “Listen to me with your ears.”

And, I cracked up. Because it was with those six words that I realized Diego thinks I am an idiot. I understood his instructions. They made perfect sense when he said them, when I practiced, and when I realized what I was doing wrong. But I wasn’t doing what he was saying, so he thought I wasn’t listening. (When really, I just kept forgetting to look straight ahead. Oh, and there were waves everywhere. And the water was moving much faster than I thought it would.)

We are all idiots at some point. So, when Barry and I decided to debate whether or not people are, indeed, idiots, I had plenty o’ examples in my arsenal.

On a recent trip to Canada, my parents’ tour guide told them the story of a woman who thought it would be really cool to get a picture of a black bear licking her. So, she covered her hand in honey, and the bear ripped her hand off at the wrist. (Her boyfriend captured it all on camera.) She, my friends, is an idiot. Let’s face it. Her boyfriend isn’t winning any prizes in the wisdom department either.

But what about you? Are you an idiot? You’re in a restaurant and the server brings your drink. There is a straw in it. You drink out of the straw that he/she just plucked out of an open container of other straws, covered in everyone’s germs, and then placed in your glass. Yeah, you’re kind of an idiot.

What about when you are sitting in the airport waiting for your flight and the gate attendant announces that they are going to begin boarding in just a few minutes for folks who need extra time and assistance, and inevitably 150 people stand up and crowd the gate. Idiots. (These are the same people who stand and rush the aisle as soon as the plane lands, despite the flight attendant’s request that anyone without a connecting flight allow those who have a tight connection to disembark first. Idiots.)

Or when a professional golfer hits a ball into the crowd, and the entire crowd rushes to surround the ball because they have to be standing two feet from the golfer when he takes his next shot. Um, did you miss the fact that he almost just took your head off with that very ball? Back up. Idiots.

As a South Carolina Gamecock football season ticketholder, I always enjoy the parade of sundresses and cowboy boots that march into the stadium. Especially when it is November, and 40 degrees, and these college girls are freezing, just so they can look cute. (Does SEC stand for Scantil-E-Clad?) Save your girl bits. Put on a sweater. Idiots.

The person who ignores the merge lane and speeds all the way up the left lane only to cut you off as their lane ends. Do you do this? You may be an idiot.

Is your picture on your résumé?

Have you ever started an email with, “I know you’re on vacation but…”

I could go on and on. I’d like to believe that people are smarter than this. But, we’re not. Sometimes we do stupid things and we act like idiots. (The dictionary definition of idiot as “a stupid person.”)

We stay in bad relationships longer than we should. We let work ruin friendships. We don’t bite our tongue. We do the same things and expect a different result.

But it isn’t our job to fix other people’s idiocy, nor is it theirs to comment on ours. Or mine to comment on yours. Alas, in the eloquent—if not epic—words of Bruce Lee, “Do not correct a fool, or he will hate you; correct a wise man and he will appreciate you.”

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