Everywhere a Confederacy of Dunces

When a true genius appears in the world,
you may know him by this sign,
that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

– Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting

As a general observation, when the hatred and ranting against an idea is wholly disproportionate to the weight of the idea, the idea is probably right or at least dangerous to the mob. Ideas that are patently false or baseless garner little vitriol from the mob because they are not a threat and are unlikely to sway opinion. But when an idea emerges that threatens to dethrone the self anointed elite and their bureaucracy of yes-men, the fangs and claws come out and suspiciously the rules often change to favor the incumbents.

In examining new situations and schools of thought where I am mostly inexperienced and largely ignorant of the local culture, I gravitate toward the touchy subjects and see who is talking a lot and saying little. These people tend to be the dunces and they are usually the “old guard” who are complacent and resting on their laurels. It’s then pretty easy to see what idea or person is their favorite target or greatest fear. More often than not, the the dunces are throwing tantrums because the new ideas are evocative, provocative, and convincing. The proponents of those ideas have followed the rules, been logical, and made a strong case that unsettles the establishment who have grown lazy and complacent with assumed consensus.

Few people have power. Those that do have power rarely have as much as they want. This turns them into despots, looking to exert their will where they can, because they can’t exert their will where they want. Men beat their wives because they can’t beat their bosses and cowards kick dogs because they are afraid to hit the bullies.

When powerless people gain a little bit of power they abuse it, because abusing a little bit of power makes it seem like they have a little bit more power. I find that the closer low power people have to work with high power people, the more likely they are to abuse their low power, probably because they’re sick of being low man on the totem poll.

Meter maids, DMV employees, traffic cops, receptionists at law firms and doctors’ offices, middle school teachers, internet forum administrators, hobby club founders, committee chairmen, low level bureaucrats, customer support operators, insurance adjusters, volunteer community leaders like boy scout masters and church event organizers, and anyone involved in the home owners association.

It’s not uncommon for these people to turn the soap box we afford them for their job into a political rostrum to spew their dogma that is either mostly or entirely irrelevant to their position. The media makes a strong case that a good number of tenured college professors use their pulpits to preach instead of teach, but the numerous other people in our daily lives who hijack our attention and abuse their power aren’t as easy or as sexy to write articles about.

But they are out there hallucinating competence; dunces who can’t earn the attention and respect that they want. Fully aware of the fraud they are perpetrating, they will lash out at any attempt to remind them that they are overstepping their bounds. They are perfectly satisfied to use what leverage they do have to drive out competition and pretend that sensible criticism is actually jealousy and backstabbing. Such delusions of grandeur usually stem from the inflated self worth these frauds have due to the endless and shameless self promotion they carry out from their pulpit. It’s not helped by the lackeys and sycophants that are stupid enough to buy into the hype.

And thus forms the confederacy of dunces.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.