In “After Ten Years,” the small set of brief essays written by Bonhoeffer in 1942 as he reflected back on a decade of resisting Hitler, one of the most important passages is entitled “On Stupidity.” It’s point is simple: When fighting against evil, the most difficult opponents are the stupid ones. They may have normal or even high IQs but for one reason or another they have chosen stupidity in the face of evil. Often they have committed themselves to a person or cause, probably for the wrong reasons, and then choose to be senseless rather than to change. Their problem is not in their head but in their heart and must be addressed at that level, if at all.
Try to read the opening paragraph of the mini-essay without thinking of donald trump’s followers:
Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
This paragraph is taken from Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works in English, vol. 8.