Saturday, October 16, 2004

Woodenheads Abound

An excerpt from Barbara Tuchman's An Inquiry into the Persistence of Unwisdom in Government (Esquire magazine, May 1980):

"A problem that strikes one in the study of history, regardless of period, is why man makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom - meaning judgment acting on experience, common sense, available knowledge, and a decent appreciation of probability - is less operative and more frustated than it should be. Why do men in high office so often act contrary to the way that reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process so often seem to be paralyzed? ..."

"Wooden-headedness is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. Wooden-headedness consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived, fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be confused by the facts. ..."

"Wooden-headedness is also the refusal to learn from experience..."

"Still another form is identification of self with the state... No wooden-headedness is so impenetrable as that of a religious zealot. Because he is connected with a private wire to the Almighty, no idea coming in on a lesser channel can reach him, which leaves him ill[-]equipped to guide his country in its own best interests. ..."

"Stupidity is not related to type of regime; monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy produce it equally. Nor is it peculiar to nation or class. ..."

An astute observation worth reflecting, especially at this time when not only that woodenheads are found in high offices but they are also abundance among the populace. I have come to accept that mediocrity ought to prevail in so diverse a democracy, but wooden-headedness is very much beneath mediocrity in regards to not only wisdom but also decency.

Obscenity is the sight of stupid people yelling for woodenheads to govern them for another four years. Now that repels me. Fxs

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