You don’t have to be some university egghead who discovers the next “God particle” to make a contribution to society. You can be just as useful as an idiot.
“From time immemorial, fools have played an important role in civilization,” points out sociologist Daniel K. Roelston. “In the Middle Ages, every community had a village idiot, who took townsfolks’ minds off of concerns such as the Black Plague. Kings had court jesters who eased the burden of absolute rule. Examples of this can be found as far back as ancient Egypt and in cultures as remote from the West as the Aztecs.”
Often dressed in colorful and outlandish garb, court fools could use mockery to point out flaws in a monarch’s plan, while advisors might face beheading for such criticism. They could also give bad news to the king that no one else would dare deliver.
“For instance, in 1340, when English ships destroyed the French fleet at the Battle of Sluys, admirals of the French King Phillippe VI didn’t have the nerve to tell him,” reveals Roelston. “But his jester clued in the king with the wisecrack that ‘English sailors don’t even have the guts to jump into the water like our brave French.’”
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was advised by a series of half-wits known as “holy fools” who appeared at court from the countryside in rags. Their “nonsensical” babbling contained warnings of discontent among the peasants.
“I’m sure you remember that class clown in high school whose antics made mean and boring teachers bearable, and kept you from worrying about the big chemistry test,” Roelston says. “Now today perhaps you’re not very educated or bright, but you can play the same role. You don’t have to be a useless idiot, you can be a useful one.”
Here are five ways you can be useful to those around you, even if you’re dumb as a bag of hammers:
1. DISTRACT – While the boss is announcing upsetting news such as a wage freeze, get your coworkers’ attention with a sight gag or good old-fashioned pratfall.
2. DUMB DOWN – When the neighborhood brainiac tries to show off at the barbecue by talking about some highfaluting book he read, making everyone feel stupid, put Mr. College in his place. Show how little you value book smarts with a line like, “Personally, I didn’t think The Divine Comedy was funny at all. I read 40 pages and only laughed twice.”
3. DEFUSE – If your pals at work are angry because they’re losing their dental coverage, calm them down with a one-liner such as “Well I’ve always wanted to look British!”
4. DISPUTE – If a neighbor starts spreading word that the street is about to be rezoned, freaking everyone out, insist idiotically that “The Twilight Zone doesn’t really exist.”
5. DEFLECT – If a manger criticizes your division for “not giving it your all,” jump in with a funny line like, “You didn’t say that when Cathy got drunk at the Christmas party.”
“Just remember the Five D’s and you can’t go wrong,” the sociologist says.
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth