Cleverness versus Intelligence

For some reason we in the west have mixed up and prioritised ‘cleverness’ over ‘intelligence. Cleverness is short term, reactive, a quick answer that seems smart but in the long run gets us into trouble. We teach cleverness at school and in the profusion of colleges that should know better. Cleverness in it’s short-term-ness gets us into the pickles we are in in society, politics and the environment. In fact most of our global systems are in crisis today because of short term clever reactive thinking. We seem to not have time for intelligence, let alone wisdom. The intelligence of reflection, looking at long term effects encompassing the interconnectedness of things is forgotten. So where are real live examples of this cleverness in action? Well lets look at ‘Phthalates’. Phthalates are used as plasticizers, that is added to plastics to increase their flexibility, durability and transparency. 8.4 million tons are produced every year. All sounds great and clever. EXCEPT, they are now found in infants urine.

“Body-care products containing phthalates are a source of exposure for infants. The authors of a 2008 study “observed that reported use of infant lotion, infant powder, and infant shampoo were associated with increased infant urine concentrations of [phthalate metabolites], and this association is strongest in younger infants.”

Well do we have any evidence already that Phthalates cause problems? “In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects. “

So after the cleverness of manufacturing the Phthalates and flooding millions of tons every year into the environment including into our delicate infants with them, what gets decided, well maybe we need some investigation of the cumulative effects.

“In 2008, the United States National Research Council recommended that the cumulative effects of phthalates and other antiandrogens be investigated.”

(Please note: Personal-care items containing phthalates include perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray.)

But we do this all the time. Something that seems like a good clever idea, without any understanding of the ramifications in the ‘real’ world, get manufactured or produced in vast quantities only for us to be dragged kicking and screaming into a semi-intelligent way of looking at what we have done. I say semi-intelligent because true intelligence would mean looking at the long term effects before we contaminated the environment and us with these things.

Indigenous peoples who were so closely connected with their environment and were constantly taking feedback of their actions, understood the difference between cleverness and intelligence for they took intelligence to its higher octave – wisdom. The wisdom to simply live in harmony with your environment.


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