Letter: Stupidity as the enemy

Wednesday, June 07, 2017
Stupidity as the enemy

As an American, Muslim and journalist, I’m astonished and saddened – especially as our Muslim community is observing Ramadan – to read more than 20 mostly deeply racist online comments in the Monitor (three others – even more vile – have been deleted) that accompany an article about plans of Concord’s Muslims to establish a mosque.

I decided, as I read them, that my words alone would be an inadequate response. I quote instead from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. Bonhoeffer, who helped found Germany’s Confessing Church in order to oppose the rise of Naziism, was executed by the Nazis on April 9, 1945: “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical –and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

Bonhoeffer was right to fear the dangerous enemy of stupidity.

We, too, as we witness uninformed and ad hominem assaults on the Good, on knowledge and the intellect, on vulnerable minorities and people of color, on evolution, climate change and on the media, should share that fear.

Robert Azzi