Would you pass a Stupidity Test?

2013 Canadian Weblog Awards nominee

Let me get this straight: Mom ties me up next to 200 pine trees and leaves me here for half an hour. And I’m not supposed to pee on any of the trees. Right. Got it. As if.  Which one of us is Stupid?


Would you pass a Stupidity Test?
Let’s hope not.
“The Stupidity Test” has been a part of Smith Family lexicon for decades; it should be part of yours.
You will find yourself in life situations that test credulity: this person – or this organization – is actually asking me to do WHAT? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Who would do such a thing?
A stupid person, that’s who. And the person or organization asking you to do such a stupid thing has no interest in engaging a smart person: they are testing for stupidity, and when they find it, they grab it and exploit it. Passing the “Stupidity Test” means failing at life. You do not want to pass the Stupidity Test.
Let me give you a few examples. Some are funny; others are more sinister. Stupidity Tests are not benign.
When I was starting out as a writer, I sold a lot of humour pieces.
Around that time, I spotted a classified ad placed by a man looking for a comedy writer. I thought I might have a shot at the work, so we arranged to have a coffee. It turned out he was an aspiring stand-up comic; he liked me right away and was enthusiastic about working with me.
“So here’s the deal,” he proposed. “You write lines for me, and I will use them. And if the audience likes them, I will pay you.”
I sat in silence for a few moments, and then I laughed out loud.
“You’re a comedian, right?” I deadpanned. He did not laugh.
“Well, no, I won’t be writing anything for you to use without being paid,” I had to explain explicitly. “In advance, actually,” I added, having realized that my work was very likely to be stolen no matter what kind of deal we reached. That was the end of that venture. I did not pass the Stupidity Test.
A few years later, a friend got sucked into a “personal growth” group that was clearly, in fact, a cult. He described to me one of the early meetings which was 6 or 7 hours long; attendees were informed at the beginning of the meeting that no one would be allowed to leave the room, because to do so meant they would not “receive the full benefit of the event as intended.”
“So what if you had to go to the bathroom?” I asked.
“You have to wait.”
“What if you can’t wait?” I persisted.
“There are big guys manning the doors; they will let you out, but they will not let you back in,” he explained.
“Ah, I see,” I replied. “They don’t want anybody in the room who dares to think for themselves…they want to get rid of those people as quickly as possible, and this is one way they use to do it.”
“No!” he replied angrily. “People who leave the room don’t receive the full benefit of the event as intended!” Certainly, he passed the Stupidity Test. He ended up giving this group about $30,000 of his own money and recruiting several other suckers before he ran out of cash and contacts, and they kicked him out of the cult.
When my son Tom started high school, it was evident he bothered some people. Tall and extremely smart, his mere existence was an affront to several of the Alpha males at his all-male school. In the first few weeks, he was challenged multiple times by guys who told him, “Meet me in the parking lot after school, I’m going to kick your ass!”
“What did you do?” I gasped when he told me months later.
“I always said, ‘OK, see you at 3:30.’ And then, I got on the bus and went home. I never fought anybody, and they all just stopped threatening me.” Tom failed the Stupidity Test, and good for him!
The incident that alarmed me most, and made me most proud of my daughter, occurred when she was about eight. I had enrolled her in a summer camp, and one morning they were sitting in a circle engaged in a game called “Find the same thing.”
“Find someone who has the same colour shirt as you,” the counsellor instructed, and the kids would do so.
“Find someone who has the same running shoes.”
“Find someone whose hair is the same colour as yours.”
And then: “Find someone whose underwear is the same colour as yours.”
“Well, that’s it, I’m out of here,” my daughter Johannah stood up, dusted herself off, and started walking towards the street, either to find a phone to call me or simply walk the mile back home.
“Johannah, come back, come back!” the counsellor chased after her in total panic. “I was just joking!”
As if.
Johannah returned to camp but she reported this egregious case of boundary-crossing to me immediately when I picked her up. Even at age eight, she knew a Stupidity Test when she saw one; and she failed it, with flying colours.
 My pride in her excellent judgement was tempered by my alarm at the counsellor’s behaviour, which I reported to the camp immediately.
It has given me great satisfaction, over the years, to overhear my kids talking about situations in which they have been asked to do questionable things – and to hear one of them reply with confidence: “That’s a Stupidity Test. Don’t do it.”
I see Stupidity Tests in business and government on a regular basis. I have been fired because I refused to do illegal things. What a slippery slope on which to stand: once you do a Stupid thing, you can be pressured and blackmailed with the very threat of the revelation of your own Stupidity. It is a quagmire from which you may never emerge. Manipulative people count on this, which is why they need to get rid of independent thinkers as quickly as possible. 
Don’t take my word for it: ask anyone involved in “Duffygate.” Some of them may wind up sitting in a jails cell, convicted of fraud or bribery, pondering the meaning of “Just say no.” 
Don’t be afraid to fail a Stupidity Test.
–Rita Smith

Postscript: Wow. Every single person who ever gave this man money passed the Stupidity Test…in some cases he invented new charges for the same people half a dozen times – and they paid them. I could not invent a better example of the kind of person who uses Stupidity Tests to eliminate people who actually think: