What is Intelligence?

What is intelligence?

Is that a stupid question?


fool for five minutes


If you spend enough time surfing online, you’ll come across lots of references to the intelligent and the stupid, often in a versus scenario which evokes Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, Celebrity Death Match or some other surreal version of the human tendency to make everything a competition between self and other.

In the red corner we have challenger #1 representing Intelligence. In the blue corner we have challenger #2 representing Stupidity. One of them will become the champion who will win the opportunity to live to fight again, and the other will get the chance to be entered into the Darwin Awards.

The rest of us will support one side or the other, while preparing ourselves to change sides at any moment. We will encourage them to fight, egg them on, because we think they’re both idiots and we feel smart thanks to them if for nothing else than the fact that we’re not dumb enough to place ourselves in such an exposed to human judgment for sport situation.

Please turn your cell phones or any other devices ON, enable your anonymous online identity, and prepare to tweet your opinions. Be sure to use hyperbole, cliches, puns, ludicrous accusations, fiction as facts, flaming and trolling is allowed (beware of backfiring and boomeranging), and prepare to justify your actions with lame excuses, moopy-faced emoticons, and other deflection tactics.

Welcome to the human circus, zoo and freak show all rolled into one big tent which is always about to collapse and kill us all!




Since most humans tend to think they are the intelligent ones, and that other humans are the stupid ones in comparison… statistically that would make us all potentially intelligent and potentially stupid, and would make Team Intelligent and Team Stupid interchangeable depending on perspective.

So… Is ‘stupid’ a form of intelligence?

That last question is inspired by something I read in – Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers – a long time ago, and which just got stuck in the sieve which is my mind.

I don’t recall that much about the book, except for one scrap – There was a scene in which the main character, Lord Peter Wimsey, while solving a murder said something along the lines of “There is nothing more dangerous than a stupid woman.” He was referring to one particular woman whose ‘stupidity’ had influenced one intelligent person to kill another one… and she had benefited from this. So, was she really stupid?

I can’t recall enough about the story to answer that, and frankly the only reason that stuck with me was because she reminded me of my mother whose stupidity often proved dangerous for me, as well as others. Yet she always seemed to benefit from it, so was she really stupid?

Some of the danger caused by her stupidity was real and present danger, not necessarily life-threatening but there was a threat of some kind which could have easily become a worst case scenario experience.

There are several incidents which I will never forget.

Was it stupid luck or intelligence which saved me from something worse than what actually happened?

Luckily I don’t have an answer to that. Perhaps I’m being deliberately stupid about it…


Frantz Fanon


My mother was indubitably a stupid person, not because she lacked intelligence but mostly because she suffered from smartest person in the room (on the planet) syndrome, which made her think everyone else but her was stupid. What an awful predicament to be in!

She saw herself as intelligence personified, and braggingly bemoaned this on a constant basis by pointing out how dumb everyone else was and using their dumb to promote her smarts.

That’s a moronic tactic because it’s utterly fallible and very prone to backfiring on the user. For one thing – How can you rate your intelligence is there is no one else around? When you’re only as intelligent as the person next to you is stupid… who is the real stupid one? You need to be ‘with stupid’ to be seen by yourself and others as intelligent – Stupid wins this game!

Both my parents used this tactic to prove their superhuman intelligence… but it often only highlighted their lack of logic. Isn’t logic considered an essential element of intelligence?


Brain study test


Intelligence and intellect was highly valued in my family… but… much intelligence and intellect had to be sacrificed in the process of acquiring what was considered highly valuable about it.

To deal with the circumstances I developed an arrogant mind. This makes me a bit, and sometimes more than a bit, of a mental A-hole. This kind of mind is really only useful when dealing with people like my parents, narcissists, and even then it can land you into a whole load of stupid shit which you could have avoided if you’d kept your arrogant mind humbled to grovelling degrees, and your intellect dumbed down to barely there.

My arrogant mind was part of my narcissist parents survival kit, and it did help keep me safe in certain ways while also exposing me to peril. When I was about 8 years old I discovered the wonders of geology, geographical history, the science of the Earth, and… plate tectonics! I don’t know why I loved tectonics so much… or do I?

I mentioned this to my parents one day, and they didn’t know what it was. They were insufferable know-it-alls, so to find something they actually admitted to not knowing, even if it was only momentary, was the kind of victory… that was Pyrrhic, but fun for a few seconds.


Pyrrhic victoryIf you’ve been in a relationship with a narcissist, this kind of experience will be familiar to you.


That moment, as fleeting as it was, and as much as I had to pay for it later… created a seismic shift in perception for me. I suddenly had a moment of clarity in a land of confusion. I saw that my parents were not who they were pretending to be, and that they weren’t as intelligent as they claimed to be on a constant brainwashing of others (including me) about them basis. It made me really begin to actively and consciously question everything they had told me about everything and everyone, including myself. Especially about them.

That was just a seed, a tiny schism which changed the landscape of my world of the years to come.

When someone demands that I believe a truth beyond a shadow of a doubt… because this is the ultimate truth and that is that… I doubt it. It may indeed be the ultimate truth, but I want to ascertain that for myself. That may seem arrogant, it may well be arrogant… How dare I question you!



question everything


If I’m wrong and you’re right, if your truth is the truth, I’ll find that out eventually even if I have to take a long detour through stupid doubters’ land… that’s my journey not yours, the consequences are mine to deal with, and you’re safe where you are knowing what you know with certainty… aren’t you?

Why does my questioning bother you?

It doesn’t bother me when I question myself… okay, it does make me uncomfortable, and I do squirm, but the pros outweigh the cons of it.

Why does my quest to think for myself cause you such annoyance?

Wouldn’t you rather that I agreed with you because I genuinely agree with you, rather than because I’m afraid of disagreeing with you, of offending you, pissing you off, denting your ego, or something like that… so, I superficially agree with you while disagreeing, and as a result I find you disagreeable.


Cathy Thorne


I’d rather you told me that you disagreed with me when you do, you might open my mind to a perspective I’ve missed and in the process bring some new intelligence to my old stupid.

You’re not helping me to develop as a lifeform if you agree with me when you don’t, if you don’t share your view out of fear of my reaction that may bolster my own fears or ignorance, and therefore encourage my stupidity to become calcified. By agreeing with me when you think I’m being an idiot… helps me to remain an idiot.

And please don’t be afraid of my dyslexia, even if you don’t understand it and what it means. Just ask me or any other dyslexic person you meet. We’re okay with that, it shows a willingness to understand. Don’t talk to me as though I’m deaf and dumb – deaf and dumb people aren’t lacking in intelligence, neither are those with dyslexia. A learning disability is just how such a thing has been labeled, it does not signify stupidity.


a test of the great mindThis is how text often appears to people with dyslexia, which is why we sometimes read things wrong, and may be slower readers. Once we learn to work with our ‘quirk’, we can often read faster than people without dyslexia because we are more efficient at skimming, and autocorrect typos without makign a big issue out of them, so we understand what is being said.

People without dyslexia can also read this.


I’m okay with being a member of Team Stupid, in fact I prefer that allegiance, it keeps me on my toes, limber, rarely prone to fossilising… just as I prefer the allegiance to Team Going to Hell.

If I admit to being stupid I also admit to having a lot to learn and that stokes my curiosity about everything.

I call myself ‘stupid’ all the time, which is a habit that irritates my nearest and dearest, and sometimes it also annoys those who don’t know me and really haven’t had the time to find out if I’m really stupid or intelligent.

I’m quite good at appearing more intelligent than I am. It’s an old protective mechanism which hasn’t run out of fuel yet. It’s also a by-product of being painfully shy, and an introvert. I keep quiet, am private, in social situations… I don’t reveal just how dumb I can be so people assume my silence is a sign of intelligence.

And I have a rather intense gaze, my eyes can burn holes in you because I don’t blink much and they’re dark. People often think I’m thinking… calculating complicated universal mathematical equations… or that my mind is filled with the dark matter which is actually in the mind of the observer of me, what they think I’m thinking about them which is actually what they’re thinking about themselves.

What my mind is actually doing more often than not is often more akin to white noise.

It’s amazing how irrelevant being personally stupid or intelligent is when it comes to interacting with other people, and how relevant their own intelligence or stupidity is… our stupidity or intelligence to others really is more about what they’re projecting onto to us than what is actually there.

If, like me, you’re often blank… you become a mirror, mirror on the wall for others… which can get you into more trouble than who you actually are.


Mirrors - jean cocteau



What is intelligence?

What do you think it is?