In the Column of Quotes in last year’s TIME magazine, I read that the once American presidential candidate John Kerry said, during a talk to some German students, “Americans have the right to be stupid”.
It sounded real funny. What a stupid thing to say! My friends and I had some big laugh about it. No wonder there were so many weird things Americans did, such as those in the Darwin Awards. Indeed, YouTube is filled with thousands of “stupid American” contributions.
Two recent events made me realize how serious this “stupidity” matter actually was.
Couple of weeks ago, when one of my term deposits matured, a bank sale called up and offered me a “good deal”. One new investment could bring me returns as high as 20% annually and at worst I could still keep my principal. I just had to “pay a little more attention to the market”. I told her that I did not want to gamble and preferred to remain at the present rate of 2%. She then started to lecture me on how “unwise” it would be to keep money in low return investments, which would lose out to inflation. The “good deal” was not a gamble. A wise investor would watch the market daily and there would be plenty of opportunities to make a lot of money if one can play the market right. Blah, blah, blah.
I said to her,” I am retired now and I want a relaxing life, so I do not like to spend time watching financial news everyday. At my age, life is more important than money.” After about 10 minutes of further unproductive discussion, she finally said. “Don’t be stupid. If you can make more money, why not?” Still, I said “No. Thanks”.
Last weekend, two well-dressed Mormon fellows were at my door preaching their religion. They asked me whether I believe in God, I said no. They asked why; I said I do not believe in miracles. One of them then gave me an example. “My aunt’s doctor said she had only 3 months to live, we prayed to God, and then she lived for two years, is that not a miracles?” I said, “ In this case, mostly likely, the doctor made a mistake. Doctors are not perfect.” (I am sure about that after working in hospitals all my life)
He then asked me “Do you ever pray?”
I said ”No. I think some people are just fooling themselves when they pray to God to get rich, to win a football game, to pass an exam, to locate a missing pet etc. If God can answer prayers, he should first take care of those hungry dying kids who are praying just to get some food.”
From there on, we moved to unproductive exchanges, during which they continued to try to introduce me to God, while I continued to say I was not interested. After about an hour, I realized that we were not going anywhere, so I finally said ”I fully respect your religion, I hope you also respect my lack of religion. Thank you”.
They then left with the following parting words, “ Sorry we are just trying to save you. Even if you do not see God now, you should be smart enough to know that Jesus died fore your sin.” Then they walked away shaking their heads.
I am sure in their minds, these people are genuinely trying to help me. The fact that I did not choose to follow their recommendations is “stupidity” in their definition.
Then I ask myself the chilling question, “What if I live in a land where I cannot choose, even just to be stupid?”