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Is That Guy Stupid, a Jerk, or Both?

Noisiness tends to stem from an inability to look outside oneself, which is something both the unintelligent and the boors lack

Photo by Maayan Nemanov / Unsplash

Schopenhauer said, “The higher one's tolerance for noise, the lower one's intellect.”

I've long said a similar thing: “The louder a person is, the less intelligent he is.”

These are merely general rules and I've known a few notable exceptions.

They're also rules that are subject to one's situation in life.

Young people, for instance, are louder than older people. They haven't fallen down 10,000 times like older people, so they lack the wisdom and resignation of an older person and, therefore, have the undiluted joyful enthusiasm we all ought to have. They also have more energy and are healthier.

They can also drink more alcohol.

All contribute to loudness and none of them mean the young person is less intelligent than the older. It's a pretty big hole in Mr. Schopenhauer's and my observations.

Still, I think the observations hold.

I think the reasons noise and stupidity tend to walk together are illustrated in this Taki piece, “Aural Rape.”

Last week, after yet another record snowfall, on a beautiful sunny afternoon, I was cross-country skiing and stopped for a picnic lunch with Lara and Patricia, two married friends of mine who had left me miles behind while skating, the new method of cross-country. (I remain traditional, gliding on the double track.)
A cloudless and very blue sky accentuated the beauty of the landscape. I haven't seen so much snow in the 62 winters I've spent here, the mountains looking their best, their solemnity inaccessible as there is too much snow for skiers to handle. (And too much risk of avalanches. I'm not one to talk, but had the Alps remained pure and inviolate, instead of being full of brothel resorts, this would be a far, far better place.) Then a bearded 30ish man arrived and took out something from his duffel bag, and suddenly all hell broke loose. Dogs howled, birds took off, sleepy farmers opened windows to find out what the racket was. I had no idea what was going on until Patricia's young son pointed at the bearded jerk and the machine he was holding while controlling a drone that was making all the noise and scaring away the wildlife.

Beautiful setting, silence salted with nature sounds.

And that guy didn't appreciate it that he'd ruin it with his drone.

That's a lack of intelligence.

Taki said the guy was a “jerk” and an “a**h***.” I'm not sure. Taki confronted the man and the guy immediately grounded the drone and left peacefully.

Taki is 83. I doubt he cut a menacing figure. The drone guy, I'm guessing, was a decent guy and didn't mean to cause any problems.

But how couldn't he have appreciated the aural devastation he would cause?

I can only conclude that he's less intelligent.

But “less intelligent” how?

This obviously opens a pandora's box of questions about intelligence: what it is, how to measure it, can it increase or atrophy, etc.?

Here, I'd simply define it as the ability to discern truth. The intelligent person can know. The more intelligent a person is, the more and faster he can know.

This doesn't mean the intelligent person does know. It just means he is capable of knowing because his mind allows him to gather and organize facts readily.

Now, apply this to the drone guy who destroyed the natural silence. He could've been an “a**h***” like Taki surmised. He didn't care that the drone would destroy the peaceful setting. Or he simply could've been oblivious. He didn't process (he didn't know) that his drone would destroy the peaceful setting.

Or apply it to the loud talker in the office. The office setting is generally quiet, but there's often one guy who insists on projecting his voice so everyone can hear it. Why? He could be a bombastic jerk, yes, or he could simply be oblivious to the effect it has on others.

But I don't think that “either/or” answer gets to the root of the problem. Bombastic jerk or stupid jerk?

I'm not sure they're mutually-exclusive. In fact, they might the same thing.

Keep in mind, we're talking about the ability to know.

Know what? Truth. In particular, objective truth. Truth that exists outside ourselves. The smart person knows truths outside himself. He is, to this extent, pointed outward.

The stupid person doesn't know truths outside himself. He simply lacks the ability, so he goes about blithely adding to the noise pollution that is a huge problem in modern life.

The loud jerk doesn't lack the ability to know truth. He just doesn't care about it. He lacks the disposition to “other” that is necessary to cause him to keep his volume level low.

Both add to the contemporary cacophony because they're both cut off from the outside . . . from the other.

Both, in other words, are stupid, even if they come to their stupidity differently.

The benefits of forest bathing.

A few quotes from Max Picard's The World of Silence:

“Silence puts man to the test.”

“That is what silence itself is: holy uselessness.”

“The mark of the Divine in things is preserved by their connection with the world of silence.”

“The man who lacks the substance of silence is oppressed by the all-too-many things that crowds in upon him every moment of his life today.”