To interpret news today, I’ve taken to substituting the word “greedy” for “stupid.” When Wall Street bankers say they acted stupidly on subprime loans, they’re lying to us and themselves. They weren’t stupid then and they aren’t now. What they were and are is greedy.
When a congressman or former statesman says he was stupid to accept a bribe, or not pay his taxes, or hire illegal workers, he’s not stupid. He’s just being greedy.
And when Alex Rodriguez excuses himself for taking steroids because he was “young and stupid,” come on. Alex is no fool. He was angling for the biggest salary in baseball.
Most of all, when a headline or article refers to all these acts as stupidity, they are not practicing honest journalism. They should call it what it is: greed.
Stupidity is an Olympic hero smoking a bong while someone takes his picture. Stupidity is trying to drive in Seattle in the snow (not necessarily because you don’t know how to drive in the snow, but because hardly anyone else does). Stupidity is missing your bus or your recycling day, or driving too fast on Aurora at the speed trap north of the bridge.
But stupidity is not a synonym for greed. With greed, you know what you’re doing. You’re trying to get away with something for the sake of more money.
We all know this, so why make a big deal of it? Because by labeling greed “stupidity,” it excuses conscious deception, fraud and criminal behavior. If you say you were stupid, it’s kind of like, well, you know, it was out of my hands. I didn’t really mean to. It could’ve happened to anyone.
It also deflects the act away from its root cause, the worship of money. The problem with greed is that it destroys our humanity. It turns us into dogs eating dogs, every man for himself, the filthy rich versus the mass of people. Stupidity is not one of the seven deadly sins. Greed and its kissing cousin gluttony are two.
Greed is not good and never was. At least Gordon Gecko called it by its right name.
Most of all: If it’s stupidity, they’re implying they wouldn’t do it all over again. And here they’re lying again. They would do it all over again, in a flash, if they thought they could get away with it. Their motto derives from Dylan: “In Jersey anything’s legal as long as you don’t get caught.” After all, if they do get caught, they can just say they were stupid and the media will back them up.
Anyway, try it the next time you hear or read the word “stupid” from someone apologizing or writing in the news. It’s remarkable how it clarifies your perspective on what’s wrong in America.