This clip from Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker’s commencement speech at Northwestern rings so true to me. The older I get, the more my thinking runs along the exact same line. Worth watching the whole clip, but here’s the nut:
The best way to spot an idiot? Look for the person who is cruel.
When we see someone who doesn’t look like us, or sound like us, or
act like us, or love like us, or live like us — the first thought
that crosses almost everyone’s brain is rooted in either fear or
judgment or both. That’s evolution. We survived as a species by
being suspicious of things we aren’t familiar with.
In order to be kind, we have to shut down that animal instinct and
force our brain to travel a different pathway. Empathy and
compassion are evolved states of being. They require the mental
capacity to step past our most primal urges. I’m here to tell you
that when someone’s path through this world is marked with acts of
cruelty, they have failed the first test of an advanced society.
They never forced their animal brain to evolve past its first
instinct. They never forged new mental pathways to overcome their
own instinctual fears. And so, their thinking and problem-solving
will lack the imagination and creativity that the kindest people
have in spades.
Over my many years in politics and business, I have found one
thing to be universally true: the kindest person in the room is
often the smartest.
I like the idea of responding to acts of cruelty with “Idiot”.