Do You Have to be Smart to be Good?

Whenever I don’t understand anything to which I’d like an answer, I obsess over it until I have an answer. It may involve excessive research, excessive pondering, or both. I have always been this way. The most recent example of this came a few months ago, when a question randomly entered my mind, and as per usual, I didn’t put it to rest for a long time. That question is: Is there a correlation between intelligence and character?

I have seen no examples of anyone examining this question, whether from Greek philosophers or from any scientist today; not to say no one has, I simply have never heard of any who have. Perhaps this question entered my mind because, at this point in my life, I am beyond frustrated with immoral people, and finally my brain picked up a pattern: Everyone whom I think is shitty, I also think is stupid. I didn’t connect the two until recently.

Consider wisdom or anyone you may think of as wise. Do you also think they suffer dimwittedness? Can anyone have advice to give, or give it, without some higher intelligence? All throughout my life, it is the loudmouths, the impulsive, and the people who just never learn who also make the worst decisions and have the worst of character. In fact, those things seem to be one and the same. Think about what people go to prison for in the first place. Pretty much any reason you hear can be summed up by, “Well, that was dumb…” Statistically, the more intelligent someone is, the less likely they are to end up in prison. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Controlling one’s impulses, doing what is right even if it contradicts one’s desires, valuing listening above speaking… How many people have you known with these qualities who is also a moron? Probably very few, if any. For me, it’s zero. Everyone I respect, everyone who has imparted wisdom to me throughout my life … they have all been people who don’t seem to struggle learning, or seeing different perspectives.

Speaking of seeing different perspectives, that’s no easy task, and seeing different perspectives is how we grow in the first place. How often do you hear loudmouths screeching at each other, but also explaining, “I see what you’re saying, and I can understand that, but from my perspective…” Yeah, no. Loudmouths don’t touch that level of maturity with a 10-lightyear-long pole.

To really solidify my point here, let’s go back to the subject of criminality. Let’s talk about violent, selfish, and overall shitty behavior in general.

You could be the most selfish, sadistic, sociopathic biped to ever walk this Earth, but if you are also highly intelligent, the odds you will behave as such is slim to nothing. Why? Because it’s behaving as such is incredibly stupid. There is always benefit to working together, to earning trust, and to repaying favors; greater benefit than would ever come from working alone. It’s most often the idiots of the world who believe they need help with nothing.

I’m going to state a few obvious facts: There is greater benefit to not getting in trouble with the law; there is greater benefit to have assistance than to go alone; there is greater benefit to be truthful than to attempt to keep track of one’s lies; there is greater benefit to being trusted than mistrusted; there is greater benefit to being reliable…

Think of the lives of dictators. Even in the off-chance a dictator is never overthrown or assassinated, no dictator has presided over a wealthy, happy land and people. There may be periods of perceived prosperity (North Korea had a few years of greater wealth than South Korea at first), but in the long run, the people always suffer, and thus the nation as a whole does too. The most prosperous countries are the ones where the people have freedom. That’s no coincidence. So, if you wish you were a dictator, but you don’t want your country to be a laughing stock, or a shit hole, and especially if you don’t want to live every day in fear of revolution or being plotted against … your best bet is to give your power to the people. Let them rule their own lives, to a reasonable extent (don’t want anarchy or anything). The stupid thing to do is to remain a dictator, thus living every day in fear, and your country being in shambles. (Oh, and everyone around you only being nice to you because they’re afraid of you … rather than it being authentic love.)

So, again, you can be the worst kind of human shit deep down, but if you’re intelligent, you’ll act on it less, or never at all. The only ones who get away with being shitty are just plain lucky. Some people get lucky, but if you’re smart, you won’t think it’s worth the gamble in the first place. I’m not saying all stupid people are shitty, but without a doubt, intelligent people are far, far less likely to be. Life is not like the movies, where the smarter you are the more evil you are. That’s beyond absurd. In movies, dogs are omniscient angels, women are omniscient angels, and witty comebacks come naturally to everyone. Don’t take your cues from movies. Intelligence is something to prize, not fear.

Why are stupid people less principled, and why are less principled people usually stupid? Because that’s the best they have to work with. Humans are animals, remember. The less intelligent we are, the more animalistic we behave (lack of foresight, loud, impulsive, greedy, etc.), but the more intelligent we are, the less animalistic we are (structured, disciplined, restrained, principled, and silent so as to listen and observe).

Remember my mention of loudmouths? That’s an example of instinct filling the gap where intelligence cannot. The mental discipline to be patient is virtually never present in those who lack the sense to stop and think in the first place. Something I’ve noticed in my personal life regarding how quiet and thoughtful I am: I’ve never seen an intelligent or rational person being afraid or suspicious of me, at all. Thus, I have noticed being quiet and thoughtful is only something to fear by those who are not quiet and thoughtful themselves. I grew up with 2 of my siblings – knew them since birth – and they literally never grasped this. They are both dimwitted loudmouths. My sister once said to me, “It’s like you’re always quiet because you don’t care about anything.” She said that when I was 24. Knew me since birth. Said that when I was 24….

Final example (though by far not the last one I could talk about) … the radical left. Where everything everyone says that they don’t agree with is racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, blah blah blah. People who openly hate free speech, and believe people need to be conditioned to have their world view or otherwise everyone will remain fascistic deep down. Seems only intelligent people understand that conversation, ideas that are not your own, are actually among the most important things in life, because exchange of ideas is how we eliminate bad ideas. Well, not when you’re stupid, and not when you have emotions with no rationality. Hearkens back to what I said about dictators. Today’s Left is a collection of wannabe tyrants, because tyrants are always weak people. That’s the irony of them. It’s stupid to think your ideas are the best and perfect, and to believe that so tremendously that you try to silence everyone who openly disagrees with you. Only intelligent people, it very much seems, can handle opposing opinions. Everyone else just has an emotional overreaction to them.

I’m not speaking in absolutes. Being smart doesn’t make you a saint, being smart doesn’t mean you never make stupid decisions, and also being a shitty person doesn’t always make you stupid. Sure doesn’t change the fact that being a good person is, generally and objectively, smarter, and requires you to be smarter. Principles are objectively superior to none, and certainly the more the better. Generosity is objectively superior to conceit. Working together is objectively superior to working alone. Reliability is objectively superior to being unreliable. Honesty is objectively superior to being a lying sack of shit. Maturity is objectively superior to being irrational.