Zen master explains why there are so many idiots in America

In Philosophy & Culture, Politics & Society
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Imagine if aliens suddenly came to planet earth and examined the current state of humanity. What would they find?

  • A species polluting the planet and making it harder to live in for themselves and other species.
  • Different groups of humans hating each other based on the beliefs they grew up with.
  • Inequality between the genders simply based on the biology someone was born with.

And much more.

What is the reason for this craziness? If you asked Osho, the controversial and influential spiritual guru from the 20th century, you would get an interesting answer.

The problem is we live in an “idiotic world”, he said.

This raises the questions: who are all these idiots? Where do they come from? In his words…

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We live in an idiotic world

“It is a complicated question. Almost ninety percent of idiots are trained. Ten percent are born. And the ten percent are born because of those ninety percent who have been trained.

“Man from his very beginning has lived a very weird life—weird in the sense that somehow he needs idiots. If you don’t have idiots you will not have the so-called wise men. If you don’t have idiots, you will not have the giants of intellect. It becomes almost a necessity that the category of idiots should remain.

“Nobody has looked into the deeper layers of how society has functioned up to now. But the way it has functioned can only be described as utterly criminal. Society needs categories, hierarchies. It has always been a competitive society, and the very idea of competition is dangerous to human beings. You call one man an idiot only in comparison—in comparison to someone who seems to be intelligent.

“A small boy told me… I was a guest in his house; I was sitting in the garden in the evening and he was the only child of the family. He was not more than six years old. I asked him, ‘What is your name?’

“He said, ‘Up to now I used to think that my name was “Don’t!” Now I have started going to school, and there I discovered that it is not my name.’

“He is saying something tremendously important. Whatever a child is doing, the adults are there to say, ‘Don’t do it!’ Nobody is allowed to blossom according to his own intrinsic nature. And that is the fundamental cause of creating so many idiots in the world. But they do serve a certain purpose. If people were allowed to blossom according to their nature without any comparison and without any ideals and without enforced discipline, do you think anybody in the whole world would have accepted Adolf Hitler as a leader? Just look at your leaders!

There are too many idiots in America

“In America, the average American is sitting glued to his chair in front of the television set. The television has become his whole life. Now television can be used in a dangerous way, and it is being used. Ronald Reagan would not have been able to become the President of America if there were no television. The television has changed the whole structure of the American mind. Now, the leader need not be wise, but he has to be photogenic. Now what has being photogenic to do with being a President? He has to be a good showman, an actor….

“The people who are continuously watching television…and seven and a half hours average per day is not a small amount of time, it is one third of your life. You are being imposed on by ideas, by personalities, continuously repeated.

“The idiots have been an absolute necessity for a few people to proclaim their egos, for a few people to rise high and become Nobel Prize winners. Just think for a moment—if everybody were living according to their own nature, not trying to be somebody else, a tremendous intelligence would explode within them. It is the fundamental law of life and existence.

“It is good that flowers don’t listen to your teachers and your leaders and your politicians. Otherwise they would say to the roses, ‘What are you doing? Become a lotus!’ Roses are not so foolish. But if, just for argument’s sake, roses did start trying to become lotuses, what would happen? Two things are certain: there would be no roses, because their whole energy would be involved in becoming lotuses, and the second thing, a rosebush cannot produce a lotus. It is not in the inbuilt program of its seed.

A history of violence against every individual

“Have you ever come across a tree that you can say is an idiot? Or that it is very intelligent, a great giant, deserves a Nobel Prize? Man has been distracted. Everybody from your parents to your teachers, the school, the college, the university, your religion, your preachers, your neighbours— everybody is trying to make you somebody else, whom you cannot become. You can only become yourself, or you can miss becoming yourself, and be just an idiot.

“I call this whole history of mankind a long, unjustified crime against every human individual. It has served the vested interests: the people who are in power, the people who are scholars, which is another kind of power, the people who are rich, which is another kind of power. They would not like everybody to be centred in himself, because a man centred in himself cannot be exploited, cannot be enslaved, cannot be humiliated, cannot be forced to grow a cancerous sense of guilt. These are the reasons humanity has not been allowed its growth.

“From childhood, everybody is condemned—whatever he says, whatever he does, it is never right. Naturally, he becomes afraid of saying anything, of doing anything on his own. He is appreciated if he is obedient, he is appreciated if he follows the rules and the regulations made by others… everybody appreciates him. This is the strategy: condemn the man if he is trying to stand on his own feet and appreciate the man if he is just an imitator. Naturally his inner seed, his potentiality, will never have a chance to grow.

“It is very difficult to find human beings in society who will allow you the freedom to be yourself. That has created a retardedness all over the world.”

This excerpt from Osho was originally published in Osho Times.