The Opposite of Common Sense

When you use the phrase “common sense,” what exactly do you mean? Prudence? Practicality? Sound judgment? I got out my old Webster’s college dictionary from Random House and looked it up:
common sense, n. sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge or training; normal native intelligence
Sound practical judgment. Normal native intelligence. I don’t think the two mean the same thing.
Twenty years ago, I think it was different. I think your average person on the street had enough sense to come in out of the rain back then. Today, though, I have very little faith in the judgment of my fellow man. Maybe my view of the world was narrower when I was younger. Maybe the media has shifted since those days to focus more on the negative than the positive. Or maybe we, as a society, have lost our sound judgment. It reminds me of something I read in college.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story titled “Harrison Bergeron.” It was about a society that forced equality on its citizens by making the athletic wear weights, the beautiful wear masks, and the intelligent wear small receivers that would blast a random sound into their ear to break their concentration. It’s this last one that I’m reminded of. The wife in the story is of average intelligence, and does not have to wear one of these radios.
I remember reading this story and thinking how incredibly dumb this woman was. How could she possibly represent a person of average intelligence? But, of course, I hadn’t met everyone on the planet. Hell, I was living on campus at Clemson University. (Not to say we were all geniuses or anything, but certainly above average intelligence.) So maybe that’s it. Maybe my perspective of society is skewed because I’ve surrounded myself with people who have above average intelligence, and it caused me to believe the average was higher than it really is.
What’s my point? The world is full of idiots. A lot fuller than it should be. Watch the news and you’re bound to see a story of some guy doing something incredibly stupid and getting in heaps of trouble for it. (I could make a few political comments here, but I won’t.) Even the internet is a playground for these people. Don’t believe me? Just read any public message board for a few days. They come out of the woodwork (or at least circuit boards, in this case) just to argue about the pointless.
Ask any reasonably intelligent person what their definition of “Common Sense” is, and they’ll likely give you a definition very close to “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge or training.” They’re also likely to agree that it does not mean the same thing as “normal native intelligence.”
So I move that we either change the definition of the phrase, or invent a new phrase for our misplaced definition. Perhaps we should call it Uncommon Sense.

2 thoughts on “The Opposite of Common Sense”

  1. That’s a funny thing to say, given that most people think that acronym means “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” It ACTUALLY means “Keep It Short & Simple.” (And I wish I still had the three different journalism textbooks that presented it so I could officially reference them)

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