The Moron Manual

Chapter 1

The Moron Manual! Is there any excuse for such a title? If there is not, then perhaps that very fact provides a reason to use it. That which has no excuse sometimes proclaims that it needs no excuse, and breaks new linguistic ground.

The term "Yankee" was born in derision. It had the implication of "cheesy." "Yankee Doodle" was a song written to defame. A "doodle" was a fool. But American Revolutionary soldiers took up the song as an anthem. They adopted it proudly, and changed the meaning.

This is a common pattern in history. Terms of insult have gained currency, only to become terms of honor. The victims refuse to be victimized. They don't admit to being despised—they boast of it.

In our own "in-your-face" times, the word "moron" is being stretched beyond its original meaning of "mental retard." Here are some typical present day remarks:

Perhaps that last is one of the common thoughts of our times: the morons are in charge of things. If so, then perhaps it is not such a bad thing to be a moron.

The thing to note here is the implied acceptance. If everyone accepts the fact that we have to take care of the morons, then perhaps it is not such a bad thing to be a moron.

Here is part of an internal memo from a big-city library:

F "The ...Computer Center promised to pick up the on Tuesday morning, Dec. 20, to fix the disk drive. They did not. I called and talked to the service manager... who knew nothing about it, but said he would look for the order and call me back. He did not. ...I called Wednesday. ...I called Thursday. ...R____ said that he did not have the proper software to diagnose the problem. ...M_____ said that he would look into it and call me back. He did not."

You might think that such an experience would cause this library to change repair services. But no, they think of it as normal. They are ahead of you in enlightenment.

Here is part of an interview with a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, from the magazine Microtimes (#57, p.54):

F "In America, unfortunately, our methods of product development are—well, the Japanese design it for reliability and for low-cost manufacture, and test the hell out of it, and by the time they ship it it works. The more common pattern in the United States is that you get sort of a breadboarded pre-prototype pre-production pre-everything, and you just kind of ship it out there..."

Is this man saying that production in our country is controlled by morons? If so, perhaps it is not such a bad thing to be a moron.

We have seen an example from public service, and from business. What about the arts? Here are two items from the magazine Musical America. First a Nov.'88 review of John Cage's first opera:

F "...Nothing that happens is supposed to have any meaning... There is no guiding intelligence—which is the point."

Second, a May '89 dance review:

F "Pain, real pain, is an increasing factor in contemporary modern dance... In fact, Deep End is an essay in loathing, not only of others but one's self as well..."

Taking all these examples together, we can see what it now means to be called a "moron." It means to be called an incompetent. A moron is a less gifted, but not necessarily undeserving, human being. Is this really such a bad thing?

If you are too ungifted to do a good job at your work, the boss will tolerate you so as not to run afoul of the government, or be called a "bad guy." If ignorance hampers you, the boss may send you to school. If drugs slow you down, the boss will send you to "rehab." If you are unable to hold a job at all, others will give you money to live on. If you are unable to handle money, they will dress you and feed you and put you on a waiting list for housing. If you find yourself unable to handle the mental stress of being incompetent, they will send you to therapy for that.

Are you still thinking it is bad to be a "moron"—an ungifted one? Reflect that these are the times when people are turned down for employment on the grounds that they are over-qualified.

The most respected of the television anchormen once began a comment on the economy by saying, "I defer to no man in my ignorance of economics. However..."

That is the first rule, and the explanation of the title of this book.

THE MORON PLOY: Don't admit to it: boast of it.

If we morons are in fact to be in charge of things, then let us be proud of it. We are part of a long tradition. Let us avoid any form of apology for incompetence. Not, "I admit I know nothing." Rather, one of these:

Remember at all times that we have a ready-made, built-in, all-purpose excuse. We are human beings. We are fallible.


THE MORON SUPER-PHRASE: The Human Condition.

As morons, we must never apologize—but we must always defend ourselves. Competence will forever hold us in derision, but competence is in retreat. In subsequent chapters, we will examine why this is so, and how we can ensure it remains so. We will look at the historical roots of our methods. We will discover further rules, and we will discuss how to apply our rules to all situations.

We will not attempt any further to convince the gentle reader of the advantages of being a moron. The fact is that we are in charge. The problem is simply to remain in charge. The Moron Manual was written to address that problem. The author is, of course, only human. He admires and learns from academics at all levels, bureaucrats at all levels, and sociologists of all kinds. You the reader may at times think he has stolen methods and examples from popular politicians and personalities. However, consider this: it might be the other way around.

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