Before we start on this week's topic, a few words about last week's. I heard from some readers about last week's column. Someone with way too many student loans informed me that messing up someone's hair wouldn't be assault, it would be battery.
So, if I would have said, "Ma'am, I'm going to mess up your hair," that would have been assault. If I'd actually done it, that would be battery.
Good to know.
Another woman wrote to say that whenever she's stuck on a crowded bus or subway, she has to resist the temptation to lean over and kiss the person next to her on the neck.
I don't know what sort of crime that would be -- I suppose battery, but I'm guessing if I did that Iâ€™d be the one who'd get pretty well battered, and I'd probably be pepper-sprayed as well.
Time to change the subject. I read a quote this week which has actually given me some real hope for the world. It's from Napoleon, of all people, and it goes, "Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence."
I've been a little discouraged lately. You can't watch the evening news without coming to the conclusion that the world is full of evil people, doing evil things. But then, I discover that, according to Napoleon, the world isn't full of evil people.
It's full of stupid people.
That seems better to me. Evil seems powerful, intimidating, dangerous. Stupid just seems...stupid.
I can deal with stupid.
Look at the mess the big boys on Wall Street got us into. It's pretty easy to get a mental image of some evil genius in a pinstriped suit sitting behind a big walnut desk chortling over the fact that his diabolical plan to ruin the country is succeeding. And what can we do about a situation like that? We're just out of luck.
Then, in another turn of events, we find out that although the guy may have been wearing a pinstriped suit, he wasn't an evil genius. He was just greedy and dumb as a box of rocks.
Of course, it's still a mess. And a fine mess it is. It's kind of fascinating, in a way, to think of how remarkable a mess we have here and none of it was on purpose. Heck, the terrorists who really do want to destroy America haven't even pretended to claim that they had a hand in what's happening and Osama Bin Laden is the closest thing we've got to an evil genius. And since he's been living in a cave in Pakistan for a few years, you've got to think he's edging a little bit toward the stupid side, too.
Don't get me wrong. Stupid is bad enough. Stupid is hard enough to deal with on a daily basis and Iâ€™m not claiming I'm immune to it myself. There are several scars on my body that I would choose not to explain given that option, so trust me. I know all about stupid.
"Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence."
Let's stop spending quite so much time talking about evil and maybe just try to fix some of the stupid around us.