What Is An 'Idiot'?
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Politics and Activism

What Is An 'Idiot'?

Exploring the definition of an "idiot" and who gets to define it.

What Is An 'Idiot'?

I have done many questionable things in my life, which have caused many tears to be shed, being both the tears of my friends laughing at me and my own tears of absolute embarrassment. It is literally impossible to avoid embarrassment or the execution of some "questionable actions," and I have learned this finally after almost two decades. But, what has always struck me about my embarrassing moments are the reactions I receive from the people who witness them. The one moment that outlined this concept for me was when I Googled “When is Cinco de Mayo.”

I have been patronized for this event ever since I hit the "search" key, which was in fact on the day of Cinco de Mayo, as I found out seconds later. My friends love to bring this up, as it is so incredibly ridiculous it must be shared with the world. I always laugh along, because I believe I’m still in denial that I actually Googled "when is Cinco de Mayo" on Cinco de Mayo, but there was one comment one of my friends made that completely changed my thoughts about the silly things I do and have done: “Caroline, you’re such an idiot.” I wasn’t offended, and there was no purposeful offense directed towards me either, but I thought about it for that one second after she opened her mouth, "am I really an idiot? But what is an idiot? Should I be hurt by this?" These are pretty big questions surrounding one small word that’s thrown around hourly with little meaning, but I’m curious as to what idiocy really is, and who gets to define it.

According to www.dictionary.com, an "idiot" is “Informal. An utterly foolish or senseless person”. This definition is a little flimsy, as many of us have acted foolishly or senselessly, but only for a very short period of time. Does one act of idiocy define you as an idiot? Or can you be a temporary idiot? The second definition holds more grounds, and opens up an entirely new conversation: “Psychology. (no longer in technical use; considered offensive) a person of the lowest order in a former and discarded classification of mental retardation, having mental age of less than three years old and an intelligence quotient under 25”. Idiocy is a diagnosis? Every brain in the entire world is filled with different nooks and crannies that are full of incredible ideas, emotions, and perceptions. So how is it possible to declare that a specific person has a much weaker, lesser, or inferior mind? It seems that the definition of an idiot is all about the comparison to what is "normal", or what is "smart".

Malcolm Gladwell touches upon the idea of smarts in his book Outliers. He discusses the "trouble with geniuses" and how they’ve invaded our culture, including one intelligent young man named Chris Langan, who entered a trivia game-show many years ago. The show’s announcer wastes no time with Langan’s introduction: “’The average person has an IQ of one hundred…Einstein one fifty. Chris has an IQ of one ninety-five. He’s currently wrapping his big brain around a theory of the universe. But will his king-sized cranium be enough to take down the mob…” (70). ‘Big brain’, ‘king-sized’: these descriptors are merely just inflated adjectives, but they cast the image of Langan as a superior human being, whom everyone should recognize. A hypothesis that’s existed since the dawn of time, tested and accurately proven otherwise, is the fact that a bigger brain causes a person to be naturally smarter than a small-brained person. We all know this is not true, but by authoritatively defining these adjectives as characteristics of intelligence, this one game show announcer intimidated an entire nation into feeling mentally inferior. Are you only an idiot if someone else labels you an idiot, and only a genius if someone else labels you a genius?

The human brain is made of billions of small nerve connections, called axons. All of these axons are connected and allow us to think, feel, smell, eat, etc -- every single human experience that we live for. The brain within itself is separated into several different sections, each one possessing different patterns of axons in order to produce different stimuli. Certain areas are specifically dedicated to the thought process: asking questions, finding answers, organizing information, and applying that information to your original thoughts. These are all split-second experiences that we face daily without a second thought, but certain people are born with more axons, more nerve connections, and more stimuli in certain sections, just as some are born with less. The brain is a being within our bodies, and as each one produces a unique person with unique characteristics, there’s no way to compare any two, whether or not they have the same amount of axons and the same powerful stimuli. How can we claim that someone is a lesser thinker when their mind is just as fantastic and complex as the everyone else's? We need to appreciate what's really going on beneath our skulls.

The term idiot cannot exist without its counterpart: genius. These are two polar opposites on the lengthy intelligence spectrum, but what lies in between? The ‘average’ individual inhabits the rates of two-nine on the intelligence scale, filling the blank space between the two definite endpoints. This normality is not only uncomfortable, but it’s confusing. Are normal people trapped in the middle because they're both geniuses and idiots? Do they have the better deal? The definition of ‘normal’ has swarmed around our society for the past ten years, and has become the topic of interest in all ABC Family television programs as everyone is mulling over what normal really means.

The dictionary definition of ‘normal’ is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”. This definition ultimately erases all of the boundaries between idiots, geniuses, and everything in between. Not only are we competing with every other human, due to our animalistic instincts, but we’re also competing with ourselves. Each person is born with a specific view of life, and as they grow, they fit certain standards and goals that they enforce themselves. This is what makes them normal. I’m normal because I completely expect myself to be an ‘idiot’ and Google when the Fourth of July is, for that’s exactly who I am. And Chris Langan is normal because he has set expectations for himself as being a trivia master, and he fulfills his standards. I’m proud that I’m sometimes considered to be an idiot, because I won't let all of these definitions hold me down. And now I know when Cinco de Mayo is, so I am satisfied.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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