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The Dumb Donkey's Fable -- For the Tougher -- How To Understand and Navigate Stupidity and Ignorance

Updated: 5 hours ago

A donkey in a desert ruins.


During a small gathering at my neighbour's apartment, someone told us about the tragic life of a deceased person whose name I forgot. However, he was nicknamed "the crazed" due to his extreme eccentricity.

Scarred in the Sands

When that person was a child, he was walking in the desert with his father with several animals. One of these animals was a male donkey. The donkey was so dumb, he thought the child was a Jennet.

The animal, having a desire that is obvious to adults, approached the child. Since then, the child was never the same. Something in his psyche has changed permanently. Due to that single misfortune, the child's whole life was, in a sense, altered for good, and it wasn't even his fault.

He lived a solitary life, with no wife or family, because he was socially undesirable. I'm not sure if anyone wanted anything to do with him, with the "Crazed Man". To quote Natalie Watkins:

You can struggle to relate to others if you focus on your differences instead of the things you have in common. It is often more about how you understand other people’s experiences than whether you share them.
Relating can also be hard after extreme experiences that change how you view the world.

He would approach random women and flexed his muscles like the satirical character Johnny Bravo. That's how he wanted to show his interest to them, without even starting a conversation. It is obvious that there was something wrong with him.

It does not only matters how muscular or handsome you are. As long as people fail to relate to you, you will be deserted, and even rejected as insane like this poor man did.

How a Moment Reshapes Lives

Now, imagine a life where that donkey didn't exist, or where the donkey actually understood that the child wasn't a Jennet. Donkeys are considered stupid animals, despite the evidence against this claim. However, to deem an individual animal as either smart or stupid is a product of The Whole Person Fallacy... Or the Whole Donkey Fallacy?

Imagine the friends he would've had, the family he could've built, and perhaps even a business and a lineage of children...

All of these possibilities, in theory were taken by the Dumb Donkey, and by his inability to overcome the trauma. All, due to a stupid assumption. This is how even the smallest of events can lead to trauma, trigger a chain of events, and cancel, many other opportunities, from being realized.

“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That's how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”


This is one of the reasons why I prefer to live in largely physical isolation from the world. I don't think that the world is very safe Why? Because I can't trust most people enough when they say they know what they're doing. This false sense of confidence about reality is something that could lead to many regrettable mistakes. Many people, metaphorically, see "Jennets" where there are completely different beings. They see situations in degrees that don't really exist beyond their perception, whether these degrees underestimate or overestimate reality.

Much of it has to do with people's ignorance and misunderstanding of critical thinking. To quote William Locke:

Most people who haven’t been trained in critical thinking don’t even know what it is.
Critical thinking is a set of skills that one learns through studying the various cognitive biases, heuristics, and mental shortcuts that people make in thinking to speed up the process and simplify results.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone who thought they understood critical thinking say something to the effect of, “Critical thinking is something that just can’t be taught!” I’d be on my way to retirement by now.

I do not necessarily fear stepping out of the door if it's necessary, but I really prefer not to risk myself due to people's unfortunate incompetence at making smart decisions. Even the smallest of events could have an influence of a lifetime, as presented in the presented anecdote. However, unaware of the timing bias and its importance in relationships, many people would choose to get into the heat of the moment and do dumb stuff just to gratify their short-term desire for pleasure and satisfaction, with not enough thought about the consequences.

And I've no desire to partake in people's self-destructive behavior, fueled by impulsivity, hatred and misplaced rage.

Just Learn, For Heaven's Sake

Also, if you happen to be around animals that aren't "traditional", cats, dogs, rabbits and so on, make sure you know which animal you're dealing with, and what could be the risk, by being in their presence. Different animals think differently than humans, and this claim also apply to their sense of logic. The fact that we humans have largely conquered the world, doesn't mean that most of us can conquer our default ignorance.

Gorillas, for example, could be friendly, but if they believe they are threatened, they could be extremely violent. Don't just adopt a chimpanzee as a pet just because it is being friendly to you. In reality they can be extremely violent and use violence as a socio-political tool.

Whenever you have free time, just try to learn. Read articles or even books. Who knows when your newly-increased knowledge would help you? You might as well should learn just to increase your psychological safety, and help you beware of this world's "dumb donkeys".

Regardless of anyone's good intention, they can't act on it effectively and on the long-term if they are uninformed. Use knowledge to not regret causing your dear ones anymore trauma. It is not your interest to add to their illness, but to reduce it.

Ms. Tamara Moskal's Feedback

An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you". This quote from Christopher Nolan's Inception accurately describes the danger of delusion and manipulation. Sometimes, it's not the event itself but rather our mental interpretation of it that can be traumatic, leading to anxiety and irrational behavior.
Changing our belief system can be challenging, and we can experience a physical discomfort of cognitive dissonance or even a mental breakdown. As an extreme example, in the movie Inception, Mel, Cobb's wife, killed herself, refusing to believe that she was awake and would fall to her death.
What can we do to protect ourselves from a truth bias? The best way to accomplish this is by cultivating critical thinking skills and conducting thorough investigations before accepting information as truth.
However, sometimes, we want a "fairytale" to be real so much that we refuse the logic and willingly risk being misled, lied to, and manipulated. Like Mel, we are prepared to go to the edge of our sanity to discover what's real.
From my own experience, I discourage anybody from venturing on the thin ice of such obsessive conduct because the chances are high that you get hurt and traumatized.
Think logically and beware of manipulation by narcissists and other individuals who might want to take advantage of you. Also, AI love apps might be misleading, leading to mentally exhausting and emotionally painful truth bias in their users.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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