The Moron Manual

Chapter 5

If our endeavor has been at all successful thus far, gentle readers who feel overwhelmed by the demands of reality are beginning to take heart. If there are those willing to make the effort to cope, and if they are eager to care for us, then in accommodating them we solve our problem. However, this is not as simple as it may sound. Certain fundamentals must always be kept in mind.

THE MORON AXIOM: Reality is intrinsically overwhelming.

The Human Condition is defined by our realization that reality is too much for us. Reality is too much for everyone, not just those less gifted. When we are attacked for not being able to handle things, we must remember that the attackers are in the same boat. Nobody can handle things. We have no reason to be defensive.

THE MORON COROLLARY: Efficacy is luck.

If a man tells you that he finds reality challenging but not overwhelming, you may safely assume that he is bluffing. In the rare event that you encounter an actual master of reality, then you must not acknowledge it, since we do not acknowledge that such people exist. A good way to counter such a boast would be to assume that the boaster is bluffing. Thus the rule is to assume that general mastery is a bluff.

Bear in mind, however, that this does not apply to particular expertise. Anyone may be master of some special aspect of reality. This is to be encouraged and applauded. When you say, "Bill here is our expert on casting porosity," you not only make Bill feel good, but you also remind one and all that Bill is not expert at other things.

Why, a moron might ask, is it so important that nobody can handle things, and efficacy is luck? It is not just important; it is absolutely central. Remember the fundamentals.

THE MORON DEFENSE: Create a Doubt.

One who believes himself master of reality has some reason for this belief. He has developed a method. His method works for him. He thinks it will work for others. Strictly speaking, this may be true—but his method requires effort, so it must be rejected. We must insist that his method is basically just luck. Otherwise, he will grow stubborn, and refuse to share his bounty.

THE MORON DECREE: Virtue is a bluff.

It is vital to establish that we are all victims of circumstance. People are not inclined to help out anyone with a "more-in-charge-than-thou" attitude. Rather, they incline to help a fellow victim of the vicissitudes of life. To elaborate on the example of the clerk:

It is here that we find the clever secret of the Moron Muddle. Clarity and directness are part of an understandable, friendly universe. Murky phrases and obscure locutions are perfect expressions of the moron universe—one in which we all strive in vain, but together.

It is fashionable to ridicule phrases like "end-use allocation," and "attitudinal restructuring." The very same people who demand precision in language also demand the general, imprecise words "rationing," and "persuasion." They recognize how influential is the particular way one expresses things.

The great philosopher Marx owed much of his influence to the sonorous tones of his expressions, like this from Das Kapital (p.837): "...with the inevitability of a natural process, capitalist production brings forth its own negation." If one looks for some mundane exactness of denotation in such words, one looks in vain. The power of the expression lies in the feelings it evokes—the overall impression. Demanding mere precision would nullify it.

If a politician said, "When I take over, I'll raise taxes," this might convey a certain eagerness. A more leisurely manner of expression could avoid such an effect: "At a certain period of time, subsequent to picking up the reins of office, consideration will of course begin of the problem of revenue enhancement."

Note here the use of impersonal phrases and passive verbs. These are generally easier to take. Not "I hope," but "hopefully." Not "we'll do it," but "it will get done." Not "you must," but "there is a necessity for you to..."

Let us showcase the inspiring mastery of this manner of expression now displayed by our moron officials. We will quote from a document issued by the Clearinghouse on Adult Education of the Division of Adult Education of the U.S. Department of Education. It is Fact Sheet #13. Its topic is a fitting one for our illustration: literacy in young adults, a Study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Princeton, New Jersey.

F "Home-support variables (such as parents' education and access to literacy materials) were found to be significantly related to the type and amount of education and to the literacy practices reported by young adults."

The genius of this sentence is to be found in its multiple layers of ambiguity. Whose access to what is referred to inside the parentheses? What are home-support variables? What are literacy practices, and which of them were reported? The sentence is a brilliant pinwheel throwing off questions. There is much to be learned by morons from this sentence alone.

Another masterstroke of ambiguity is the conclusion of the study:

F "Although 'illiteracy' is not a major problem for this population, 'literacy' is a problem. Sizable numbers of individuals are estimated to perform within the middle range on each of the scales."

This study was submitted to experts from three Universities for review, who also came to a conclusion:

F "After reviewing findings on specific literacy activities and the relationship of literacy abilities to respondents' characteristics, the authors concluded that problem-solving skills are weak and that general ability is low relative to societal needs."

The attentive reader will note in that sentence the adroit use of generalities. There would be no way to pin down or embarrass the writer about anything. The writer is safe. The funding is safe. The morons involved are safe.

We have not exhausted our panegyric on this example. Please keep it in mind as we move to a consideration of the greatest and most enduring moron triumph of them all.

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