The Inane And Unimaginative by Richard King

Story type: Essay

In every mixed crowd there always seems such a large percentage of the unimaginative and the inane that I am never surprised that the silliest superstitions still flourish, “the Thing” is rampant, and that, in every progress towards real civilisation, the very longest way round is taken with the very feeblest results. It is not that this percentage is wicked, nor is it strikingly good, neither is it necessarily feeble-minded, but it shows itself so entirely unimaginative and inane that it is no wonder that the charlatan in religion, politics, and education rampages over the world through a perfect maelstrom of bouquets. Nothing impersonal ever seems to stir the sluggishness of their “souls.” They feel nothing that does not hit them straight between the eyes. They never perceive the tragedy behind the smile, the wrong behind the justice of the law, the piteousness and helplessness of men and women. The price of currants stirs them to revolt far more rapidly than that disgrace to civilisation which are the slums. Air raids were the greatest injustice of the war–air raids, when they never knew from one moonlight night to another if they might not join unwillingly the army of the heroic dead in heaven. That is why so many of them secretly believe that they endured far more at home than the ordinary common soldier did in the front-line trenches. They cannot realise his tragedy; they can, however, fully realise their own. That is why they talk of it with so much greater eloquence; that is why, when they listen to his recitals of dirt and hunger and indescribable pain, they do so with a suppressed yawn and a secret conviction that they have heard quite enough about the war. As for tragedy–their apotheosis of the tragic is reached in a street accident at which they can stand gaping, nursing the details for the moment when they can retail them with gusto at home; but I verily believe that, if the dying man cut rather a ridiculous figure, some of them would have to laugh. But then, this inane and unimaginative percentage among the crowd is always ready to laugh. Their special genius is that they will always guffaw in the wrong place. Or, if they do not laugh, they will let fall some utterly stupid remark–so stupid that one wonders occasionally if nature by mistake has given them a bird’s brain without giving them at the same time a bird’s beautiful plumage. And the worst of it is one is up against this inane percentage in every walk of life–this unimaginative army of men and women who can perceive nothing which does not absolutely concern themselves and their own soul’s comfort.

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