Stupid is as stupid does

2011-11-23 00:00

THEY say that the cleverest people do the stupidest of things, while the naturally unintelligent aren’t necessarily idiotic. Clothing label Diesel ran a Be Stupid advertising campaign last year, interpreting stupid as cool. “Smart may have brains, but stupid has balls”, “Smart sees what there is, stupid sees what there could be” and “If we didn’t have stupid thoughts, we’d have no interesting thoughts at all” blared the Diesel slogans in bright bold print.

The word “stupid” has come to refer to anyone who takes a risk that exceeds the boundaries of rational thought rather than simply referring to a person lacking intelligence. Sometimes these morons end up being worshipped because their “stupidity” uncovers a revelation, becomes a world record or, at the very least, makes them seem “cool” among their friends. Other times they end up with a Darwin Award.

For those who have never heard of the Darwin Awards, they celebrate people who have died doing stupid things. Created by Wendy Northcutt in 1993, the Darwin Award, in the spirit of evolutionary scientist Charles Darwin, commemorates people who sacrifice their own lives in true imbecilic form to protect our gene pool (by removing their stupid genes), thereby improving the human species’ chance of long-term survival.

There are five rules for such a valiant person before he or she can claim an award:

• the nominee must be dead or rendered sterile (to prevent them from spreading his or her genes);

• the nominee’s judgment must be astoundingly stupid, unique and sensational;

•  nominees must bring themselves to their demise.

• They must be capable of reasonable thought (or assumed to be by being old enough to drive and by not having a certifiable mental defect); and

• the incident must be verified.

The 2011 Darwin award winner is still being considered, but here are some examples of just how dumb some people can be.

In 1987, an experienced parachutist, with 800 jumps to his name, was video-taping a private lesson on skydiving and became so engrossed in documenting the lesson that he jumped out the plane without his parachute. Apparently, his sudden realisation of his impending death was captured on camera and the footage shows his hand reaching for the ripcord and then flailing about wildly.

Another genius shot himself while explaining gun safety to his wife. He assumed the weapon was unloaded when he placed it under his chin and pulled the trigger. Ironically, the incident occurred after his wife complained about his 70 guns lying around. He set out to prove to her that they were safe.

A rather dimwitted Iraqi terrorist didn’t put enough postage on a letter bomb, and received a package marked “return to sender”. He opened the package and BOOM! Evidently, he wasn’t an Elvis Presley fan.

And in, what I consider to be, the saddest incident, two animal-rights activists were protesting the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse by attempting to free a captive herd. However, when they opened the gates, all 2 000 of the pigs stampeded through and trampled the protesters to death.

It’s funny how brainless people can be sometimes. It’s also tragic. They’re not stupid (not all of the time anyway), just people not being proactive enough to consider all detrimental consequences of their actions, not paying attention to what they’re doing, consumed by oversized egos or just not expecting things to go wrong.

Sometimes they’re just being brave.

I’m sure Riaad Moosa’s family thought he was a total imbecile when he completed his medical degree and then dropped it all to be a stand-up comedian. And Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Galileo Galilei, and Michael Mol were probably seen as complete dimwits.

People are naturally wired to screw up. Our lives are a series of mistakes and lessons: sometimes they end up fatal, sometimes they transform us into better people.

So maybe Diesel had it right. Stop taking life so seriously and do something stupid every now and then. Just try not to become a Darwin nominee — now that would be stupid.

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