Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Bonhoeffer

October 18, 2023 • 9:30 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “slogans,” came with this note:

Here’s the full text of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letter. It’s worth a read. [JAC: the text is titled “Bonhoeffer on stupidity”]. A quote which is relevant in view of the previous post:

‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

Mo is offended by the truth, but he doesn’t know why!

8 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ Bonhoeffer

  1. Definitely one of my favorites. But the word stupid doesn’t feel quite right – at least in the sense of raw brain power. Instead it seems to me to have more to do with the brains discomfort with uncertainty. In many people, of any intelligence, this discomfort seems to cause the brain to force unsupported conclusions that then would be too painful to let go of. And then entire, often ridiculous, ideologies can be built on top of these unsupported conclusions partly just to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty.

    1. Camus said the problem was ignorance:

      Le mal qui est dans le monde vient presque toujours de l’ignorance, et la bonne volonté peut faire autant de dégâts que la méchanceté, si elle n’est pas éclairée. Les hommes sont plutôt bons que mauvais, et en vérité ce n’est pas la question. ”
      Albert Camus, La Peste (1947).

      1. The Firefox translation utility did a pretty good job with that:

        The evil in the world almost always comes from ignorance, and good will can do as much damage as wickedness, if not enlightened. Men are more good than bad, and indeed that is not the question.

        1. Good translation, but the translation of ‘en vérité’ by ‘indeed’ might just as well have been translated closer by ‘in truth’.

  2. “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain” (Schiller).

    Yes, the source for the title of Asimov’s novel.

    I do agree with Mars/FB above, that a better word is ignorance (not knowing, sometimes intentionally; refusing to learn), rather than stupidity (lack of capacity to learn).

  3. After reading Bonhoeffer’s letter, I wonder if he was echoing, consciously or unconsciously, Schiller’s 1801 Maid of Orleans whose most famous line, ‘Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain’, introduces similar reflections. If so, panel four is all the more ironic.

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