Bonhoeffer on Stupidity (Gupta)

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 prejudgement 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. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 43)

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Bonhoeffer on Stupidity (Gupta)

  1. […] Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “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 prejudgement 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.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 43. Quoted by Nijay K. Gupta here: Bonhoeffer on Stupidity. […]

  2. While not an ardent Bonhoeffer fan, I found Bonhoeffer’s observations on stupidity most insightful (as opposed to shear maliciousness). I was reading comments on Facebook that justified something that was done out of shear stupidity by someone and which caused harm to an infant. I could not believe the ‘thoughts’ of some as to why it was just an ‘accident’ (one of the lesser definitions of accident is, “an unfortunate event resulting especially from carelessness or ignorance” — in other words, out of stupidity). The story involved someone spraying water from a hose on an infant without checking the water temperature. While the incident occurred in a hot climate, air temperature is of secondary consequence as compared to the effect of radiant energy from sun light. A garden hose left in the sun will heat the water in the hose to scalding temperatures in a relatively short time. Whether it is in a hot region or not, the same is true — contained water will get very hot if exposed to the sun. You would not believe some of the imaginatively stupid comments to justify the incident that caused 2º burns over a significant segment of the infants body. In the end, it was ‘just an accident’ and you shouldn’t judge (another misinterpretation and misuse of Matthew 7:1?. I had to insert Bonhoffer’s comments with the hope that they will help a few in logical thinking. Would you believe that there are adults who have never experienced hot water from a garden hose? I wonder if they have ever experienced a hot car that had been left in the sun.

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