Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian and pastor in Germany, knew stupidity – he lived through the early rise of Nazism in Germany and died at its hand just weeks before the war ended. Here’s what he had to say:
“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”
I have come across people like this over time – not just during this election. I’ve come across these types of people in every single election I have been a part of. Their faith is in their leaders and the slogan they spout. It is a blind faith, beyond the reach of intellect and reason.
Go to rallies, you’ll find them there – spouting out the slogans, almost with a blank look on their face. Their intellect has shut off and in it’s place is something else. I don’t have the word for it, but it’s a mindlessness. They look at you, but cannot see you. They listen, but cannot hear.
How best to handle people like this – walk away and pray for them. Arguing and debating people like this is a waste of time – it only cements them further in their mindlessness. There is no logic, no reason, no intellect that will change their minds because their minds are not engaged.
This all may sound harsh, but it’s what I experienced. It’s why I don’t do rallies of any type anymore – seeing mindlessness is scary. Seeing mindlessness turn into an angry mob is dangerous – for the mob as well as for anything or anyone in its path.
And now, with this election, I’m starting to see people rationalize their support for candidates that not so long ago were unthinkable to them as options. Are we rationalizing away our intellectual abilities? Are we trying to rationalize something that is irrational? Are we trying to rationalize away the choice that is set before us (as if there were only two options)? Are we rationalizing away how we can be so critical of a candidate (for good reasons) and then turn around and offer twisted reasons to support this same person?
I would encourage you to think back to your critiques of candidates from just a few months ago. Are those critiques still valid? Were they valid to begin with? What’s changed?