I was bullied through most of school. A lot. Not just for being a non-conformist—eyeliner, torn clothes safety pins, as early 80s as you can imagine. Not just for being gay. Not just for coming from a single-parent household. There was a much deeper stigma…
I was effortlessly, unstudiously, and unapologetically smart (i.e., good at academic subjects). One bully grabbed my copy of Canterbury Tales that I was reading in class because I was bored and tore it up in front of me. Over time, enough kids who needed good grades saw how I could benefit them, and it created a social buffer zone, at least sometimes.
In case you’re wondering, that’s why I use my voice today to incinerate the ideology of stupid wherever I find it. I’m using my position and experience to make the world safe for people who can be bothered to stand out and think things through.
Make no mistake about what ideologues of stupid are really doing, whether it’s about marketing, strategy, or some other topic. They are replicating adolescent school-yard bullying. Maybe it’s internalized damage, maybe it’s an echo of past behavior. It doesn’t matter. Because either way, it’s the same story—stigmatizing non-conformity and hiding behind mediocrity. Even if it’s been dressed up in the cheap business casual of tips, advice, best practices, etc., it’s just ugliness in disguise.
And playing bullying stigma games means more than just wounding others to enforce conformity. Look at what’s coming. We’re going to need deep thinking and smart doing even more in the coming decades… The stakes for strangling intelligence (and empathy) are getting higher and higher.