A Short History of Stupid (Helen Razer & Bernard Keane, A&U)
A Short History of Stupid is concerned with the rise of Stupidity in a world ruled by ‘fade-resistant individualism’, extreme paternalism, political condescension, conspicuous compassion and ‘the injurious yoga class of the mind’. Your pilots through the increasing idiocy of public debate are Helen Razer and Bernard Keane, prolific columnists and bloggers who are determined to remedy (or at least rail against) the current ubiquity of Stupid. They begin by examining the different ideas and cultural theories that have founded the Western world as we know it. From Descartes to Burckhardt, Marx to Heather Locklear, they discuss whether it was powerful art or powerful market forces that led to the creation of the ‘self’ and its expensively dressed first cousin, the individual. They spotlight the strong correlation between political conservatism and climate denialism, and sail briskly through the popular obsession with ‘personal stories’, which promotes the idea of a person as a narrative. Some chapters, such as the one about holistic yoga and ‘safe spaces’, are less well-referenced than others, but it’s nearly impossible for Razer or Keane to write badly so the writing maintains a consistently entertaining surface. A Short History of Stupid is an excellent, caustic guide to knowing thy Stupid self and liberating thyself from Stupidity by thinking critically.
Hilary Simmons is the assistant editor at Books+Publishing and a freelance journalist