One of my entertainments is to read the newspapers every morning and collect interesting phrases. Sometimes just a few words open up a school of thought. Three that recently caught my attention are; “Tribe defining belief,” “Trench-warfare political tribalism,” and “Droolingly stupid.” You may detect here a theme of intolerance for uninformed people who cast their votes for dangerous positions.

“So how can you tell if someone believes a set of ‘facts’ because of accurate information processing or because of their tribal loyalty?” you might ask.

My first thought is to check whether their belt goes through all the loops. But that is my elitist view of using markers of a good education and careful self-examination to judge a person’s intelligence, a view that unfairly disqualifies folks who, for one reason or another, haven’t enjoyed the privilege of a good education or simply dressed in a hurry. My personal experience indicates that the ratio of the stupid educated to those unschooled but very bright is nearly equal.

Looking to see whether their hat has an aluminum foil lining to protect them from mind-altering radiation could be another clue, or perhaps checking to see whether they are card-carrying members of The Flat Earth Society—those would be pretty good indicators. But I think that just talking to folks for a bit gives you a pretty good idea of how their minds work. I regard talking to strangers a rewarding exercise, both because it strengthens ties in our universal community and because it rewards me with an opportunity to get out of myself somewhat to better understand the world and how it works.

If I was still employed in the teaching racket I think enjoying language as they read voraciously and talking to strangers as a regular practice would be the best lessons I could pass on.

Tim Tunks, Former professor and current Ocean Park resident.