Clever People

Clever teacher.

I was not sarcastic as a child. I was too innocent to understand the art of insinuation. When I was in second standard, one day, as usual, the children in my class wanted to go out and play instead of learning Math. Our Mathematics teacher was ingenious. She was a clever lady. She found a way to put an end to this nuisance by saying that the kids who prefer games to her class should line up in front of the classroom. I sprung up from my chair and cheerfully walked out of the classroom. After waiting for a while for the other kids to follow, I walked down the stairs.

Walking down the stairs, I ended up staring at my 1st standard class teacher who stood far away. I was still not over my deep crush over her. I used to be deeply depressed in those days. I had believed that she had left the school, and the job. I wondered whether, as usual, my suffering was unnecessary. There was of course, a reason why I fell for her. The law of causality tells us that nothing happens without a reason. In a parents teachers meeting, she had hugged me saying that I was such a quiet child. With a smug smile on my face, I thought how naive I was to believe that she was unaware of my existence.

I will come back to the incident: I stood there staring at her, losing all presence of mind. There is little of the incident that remains in my mind today. But, I felt that there was a piece of fog in front of my eyes. And there was the warm feeling that it all reminded me of an incident that I could hardly recall. Soon, a boy came to take me back to the classroom. What followed was unspeakable. All I remember today is someone sneering: “He had gone all the way down to the ground floor”.  Then, I was put through hell. It was worse than any experience that I have ever gone through-before or after. They were all so mean, and bullied this straight forward, simple minded child so much.

How could she propose such a sweet deal with a cunning, calculating purpose in her dark heart to completely trap this six-year-old? But, I was the only boy who wanted to “line up” in front of the classroom. The wise kids in my class knew that this was a trap. And they were all wise. All this was totally beyond me! In hindsight, it looks like it was not really a smart thing to take her words literally. But then, I know it only in hindsight.

There were many such clever people in school. Like the boy who dropped an ink bottle on the floor, only to tell the class teacher that it was me who did it. And the stupid boys who made my little brother and me bowl, only to wind up the game after our bowling session was over.

I believe that stupid philosophies are a construct of such clever people. Anti-Capitalism is one. But, this is true not just of politics and economics. People have such stupid views on everything beneath the sun, from sex to climate science. I do not think that these views are innocent mistakes. 

Consider the claim that humility is a virtue. I have never seen anyone adducing a meaningful proof in its favour. I have asked people, and when pressed, they would turn defensive and say: “Humility is a virtue. Period.”

But, this is how the dictionary defines the word:


A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.

I am willing to believe that having this particular belief, or that particular belief is a virtue if it is true. It is a virtue to believe that there is a Santa Claus, but only if there is a Santa Claus. It is a virtue to believe that people are angels, but only if people are angels because if they are not, life will be your most punitive teacher. It is clear to me that “having a modest or low view of one’s importance” is a virtue only if you are not very important. But, people “love” humility only when they see it in people who are better than them in some way.

Why oh why?

I do not think that there can be good arguments in defense of humility. But, almost everyone believes that humility is a virtue. My ex-colleague Miss Michelle used to say that I should read a poem, “Mambazham” (Mango). From what I remember, the story tells us that when it bears many tender mango fruits, the branches of a mango tree bends . There is a lesson I should learn from that poem, she told me. So, this is the philosophy of clever people who believe in such nice, weak-hearted philosophies—to think of themselves as nice, selfless people. They believe in it only because there is something in it for them. I know.

Is it possible that this is an innocent error? It is possible that I am projecting all kinds of evil on people who disagree with me.

This is perhaps Plausible: Perhaps, I am overestimating people. Perhaps, I am granting them far more respect than they deserve. They are all duds. They are simply not clear-headed people. They do not stop to ask: “But, is this true?” They believe what everyone else believes in, even if it is nonsense. They are not moral philosophers. They do not think too much.  They might be idiots, but they are all fundamentally nice, well-meaning people.

So far, so good. But, there are many reasons why I do not find this a plausible explanation. The kids in my class were also pretty effing stupid. Children can have reasonably complex thoughts, but the cognitive development of a six-year-old is very low. They are not conceptual thinkers. But, still there was not another six-year-old who wanted to play with me. Psychologically normal people have very good intuitions in such matters. They are such good intuitive misanthropes. You do not have to be Albert Einstein to see that my Mathematics teacher was being sarcastic. You do not have to have a stratospheric IQ to know many such obvious facts about the world.

It might be true that the average guy believes in nonsense if almost everyone else believes in it. But, it does tell me why almost everyone believes in such nonsense. If I brush past the prettiest girl in my class, it is possible that it was an innocent mistake. But, if I do it every single day— and if this innocent mistake happens to almost every single boy in my class? I would then bet that this cannot be an innocent error.

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