Letter to the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times

Stupidity is more

dangerous than malice

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”, a possible quote of Stephen Hawking or Daniel J. Boorstin, which goes hand in hand with a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer on stupidity, part of which reads, “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.

Neither protests, nor use of force accomplish anything here, reason falls on deaf ears, facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed in such moments.

The stupid person even becomes critical and when facts are irrefutable, they are pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this, the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is self-satisfied and being easily irritated, becomes more dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reason, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

The Reverend Bonhoeffer wrote this, along with other letters from a Nazi prison, being jailed for sedition against Hitler and the Nazis. He died there a few months before the end of the war.

Our divisions have been around since our founding, but maybe not since pre-Civil War days have the previous president and much of his party brought to the surface and highlighted the deepest divisions the USA has and agitating them, causing a pendulum swing, and the election of this president, with also degrees of the “illusion of knowledge” as well as stupidity.

David Jaronik