An article by Lisa Schonhaar and Gisela Wolf in the UK’s Independent newspaper entitled ‘5 Habits of Stupid People that Smart People Don’t Have’ gives us something of a framework that might be helpful in our efforts to extract ourselves from our current predicament. It doesn’t involve any shiny new technologies or geopolitical shifts. It simply requires that we change the way we relate to each other and the world around us. That we learn to use as much of the intelligence we’ve each been gifted with as possible.
Our joint predicament
Which predicament, I hear you ask? The one I’m thinking of is the one we’re left with as we emerge from a pandemic. One where, almost certainly, the societal devastation we’ll witness over the coming months and years will greatly outweigh the direct effects – as traumatic as they’ve been for those affected – of the new coronavirus itself.
The 5 habits Schonhaar and Gisela’s article point to – turned around so that we can focus on the attributes most commonly linked to smart people – are:
The reason why I raised this, is that I cannot remember any period in living memory where these attributes of supposedly intelligent people (i.e. everyone with a functioning brain) have been so suppressed. At the very time when we need to apply as much intelligence as we can to fathom our way out of this – we’ve actually invented new ways of suppressing not only individual intelligence, but the intelligence of the majority of the people on the planet.
Before I use this framework to look a little closer at how it could help us, let’s just do a quick 101 on a few things neuroscience tells us about the human brain.
Our 3 brains
I won’t delve here into what the science of neurobiology has been telling us about intelligence itself – despite it being an active area of scientific research (if you’d like to dip in, see here and here for starters).
Suffice to say that if we’re to use the intelligence we’re gifted with to its full potential, we have to put the frontal lobes of our forebrain (cerebral hemispheres), by far the largest part of the brain – and the most recent in evolutionary terms – through its paces, on a regular basis. Those neural networks need to be lit up regularly to get the most of our capacity for rational thought and reasoning, prime functions of the frontal lobes.
Let’s start by just looking at three different divisions of the brain: the forebrain, that we’ve already touched on; the midbrain and the hindbrain. These three divisions of the brain all represent different stages of our evolution. As I mentioned, the forebrain is the most recent part, being most developed in humans compared with our closest primate relatives, the chimps.
The midbrain and hindbrain together comprise the brain stem, along with the diencephalon, sometimes referred to as the ‘between brain’ as it borders the upper parts of the brain, that includes the forebrain.
>>> Find out more about the anatomy and functions of the three main divisions of the brain
The take-home here is that as humans evolved, so did the range of functions of our brain – and I’ve summarised some of the key functions of each of these key divisions of the brain below.
The midbrain is the relay station of the central nervous system – all sensory functions pass through it – it’s like a relatively primitive smoke detector that’s looking for fire (threats) - that responds to anything that looks vaguely like a fire. When we experience fear or are exposed to stress – especially chronic stress – we disengage our frontal lobes and stop thinking rationally, with reason. We lose part of our humanity and become more primitive, more like our chimp relatives, casting aside tens of thousands of years of independent evolution from the Pan genus (chimpanzees).
I mentioned in the subheading to this section there were 5 compartments to the human brain. I wanted to mention the left and right hemisphere divide of our cerebrum.
The reason I raise this way of looking at the human brain is, I believe, important after much of the world has been exposed to horror stories about an invisible enemy for nearly a year. Many people have left the best bit of their brains in the long grass, and have reverted to their monkey or even reptilian brains. They can perform all the rudimentary functions to survive but they lack the ability to see any of it in context, know what information is missing or uncertain, or what other information they need to make a rational decision when scientific uncertainty is the order of the day.
Let’s get back to the Independent article and see how we can use the 5 premises it suggests are linked to smart people, hopefully engaging our frontal lobes in the process.
Let’s get smart
Own your mistakes, don’t blame others
One of the things we’re going to have to come to terms with is that uncertainty, political and corporate pressure hasn’t necessarily delivered outcomes that work for the majority of people. All of us, politicians and world leaders included, have made mistakes. Where we continue to be forced to accept limitations to our freedom that are the result of mistaken interpretation – or worse, deliberate misinterpretation – of the science, the sooner we can move on, the better. Those who’ve also said there is no virus at all, perhaps need to re-evaluate the evidence. Let’s be honest with ourselves, and with each other.
Accept that others might be right
The main point I want to make here is the need for everyone on all sides to maintain an open mind, especially given the uncertainty that is all around us, and avoid marginalisation or censorship of dissenting views. The idea that things are black and white when they are shades of grey – owing to the uncertainty around the interaction of a new host-pathogen interaction and the human response to it – is spurious. As Schonhaar and Wolf propose, what is called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which makes incompetent people overestimate their competence and ignore the competence of others, comes into play in a big way. What has happened is a travesty to science, to democracy and to reasoned argument, that is fundamental to all so-called civilised societies. The silencing by government authorities and private corporations that control the airwaves and the status quo of those with contrary views can only happen if those views are a threat. Why are dissenting views not received and subjected to analytical discourse – in the knowledge that something closer to some kind of truth will emerge? We need to be very concerned about the degree of censorship to which we’re currently exposed – and we need to work diligently to reverse it.
Don’t react to conflict with anger and aggression
This is one for all of us. Polarisation has become a feature of contemporary society during this covid era. Forcibly denying views that don’t concert with your own could be seen as a survival instinct, driven by our ‘monkey’ midbrains; let’s eliminate the source of the threat. We need to have respect for all views, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of those with opposing views. I have been surprised by those in the natural health and integrative medicine community who have rallied in support of vaccines over immune protocols, but perhaps they’re concerned for their own vulnerability in the face of a new pathogen? Perhaps they’re drawn to be part of the mainstream system from which they have been marginalised for a lifetime? We need to share our differing views, and see what our forebrains do with the massive amount of information we have on the subject. As learning theorists and philosophers like John Dewey and David Kolb have taught us, let’s reflect, not be slaves to our belief systems or our particular streams of consciousness that may be greatly affected by our individual experiences, things that are often not in our control. That includes being exposed to the mainstream narrative on covid-19 via the vast majority of broadcast media channels.
Don’t ignore the needs and feelings of others
We can't be so sure of ourselves, that we deny the feelings or views of others. We can be very bad listeners, especially if we’re in the place of fear once we revert to our ‘monkey’ or ‘lizard’ brains. It works both ways. At this point, it would be hard to argue that suspending the right to protest or cast a democratic vote hasn’t denied the needs and feelings of others. Closing the social media accounts of those who’ve exercised what they thought was their right to freedom of expression is also a denial of a fundamental right, of a need, and associated feelings. As the owner of a very powerful and influential private company, Zuckerberg and his ilk may feel entitled to do what they like. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right – or even smart.
Don’t think you’re better than everyone else
This is an interesting one. It comes down to where we are with our sense of self or ego. I think the conspiracy theory tag is now so widely used to tarnish those who have a different view, it’s become a fantastic tool – developed at very high levels of the system that now has the controlling influence over the direction of human society – for the cancel culture. The people with the power to cancel see themselves as superior to those they’ve cancelled. They even think they may even bask in the glory of cancelling others, without adequately considering the who or what they have cancelled, let alone the implications - personal, as well as public.
If you’ve got this far, thank you for listening (reading). I’m deeply disturbed about where we’ve got to in society, and government, and the corporatocracy. How we’re meant to accept the balance between public health and freedoms or privacy as dictated to us by authoritarian regimes. I am increasingly feeling that we’d do better to start looking for the next part of the solution within ourselves, rather than outside.
We often hear via the mainstream media that we’ve entered an existential crisis. But that doesn’t mean we need to retreat to our primitive brains. Let’s do the opposite and expand our horizons, and broaden the information and ideas to which we’re exposed. For me this has been a journey as I come to terms with the views of people like Klaus Schwab, via his two books the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Covid-19: The Great Reset. I will admit here and now that there are many views expressed in these books that I share, particularly around environmental issues. There are others, notably around synthetic biology, implantable devices and trans-humanism, that I don’t. But that’s OK.
Let’s appreciate that there is a huge amount we don’t yet understand. Let’s tune in to the spiritual energy that binds us all together, along with all the other life forms with which we share this delicate planet.