Call me stupid

In 16th century Seville in Spain and, much later, in 19th century Tarragona, different communities received the same designation –alumbrados, which means “struck by light”. The religious overtones of their particular social rule put them under persecution of the Catholic Church, and their leaders on trial and then exile.

This is explained and celebrated by protofascist revisionist Menéndez y Pelayo in his infamous History of the Spanish Heterodox. His Inquisitorial zeal and unashamed bias won him a nomination to a Nobel Prize and the admiration of many academicians, encumbered by the dedication of a university in his hometown, Santander.

Set aside a common religious source, we are dealing with two different kinds of stupidity here. Alumbrados is an etymological synonym to “the stupid ones”. Stupid means stupefied, struck by wonder, anesthetized, made numb. They are said to have sought refuge in more loose a social norm while benefitting from the spiritual creativity and relative sexual freedom enacted by the mystical zeitgeist. Indeed, 15th to 16th century Iberia witnessed a heterodox peak, a God-baby boom tragically misinterpreted and decimated by a criminal and deeply corrupt Catholic hierarchy. Menéndez y Pelayo is a modern representative of this second sort of stupidity. The alumbrados’ was, at worst, a self-inflicting one, whereas the protofascist’s was downright persecutory.

This is the difference between community and institution.

The Catholic, to name only one of the most perverse and chameleonic human organizations, has traditionally arranged for the systematic suppression of the subject under transcendent excuses (the will of god, salvation, universal truth), while universities tend to occupy a part of that space with ideological ones (the need for accreditation of knowledge, sacralisation of the scientific, social prestige). The university has helped substitute class struggle for individual and corporate competitiveness; it has sanctified merit and quantifiable value. But the corporation is not a community. Value does not equal money, not profit, not academic excellence. Science does not mean truth, nor does it mean that religion has been overcome.

The primitivism of persecution and execution of the other is not only more lively in the spirits; it has been empowered by technology and surveillance, and removing it from the realm of the civilized by identifying it with the other, the foreigner, the terrorist, cannot but forge a stupefied army of fun people eager to be useful, lawful, incapable of compassion. This is what we call psychopaths.

Google co-founder Larry Page about Google co-founded Singular University:
Google co-founder Larry Page about Google co-founded Singular University: “If I were a student, this is where I would want to be.” Really? (Photo: Singularity U.)

The Singularity University, an ambitious project launched by NASA and Google, proudly states the inefficiency of accreditation and examination while it charges its own alumbrados stupid sums for its programs (back in 2013, a student reported to Forbes paying $25K for a 10-week something in Computer Science). But it is even more proud of “using technology to solve the big world issues in less than 20 years”. That’s salvation, stupid!