To postulate that intelligence is a natural attribute is nothing new; Aristotle himself did so. From this it follows that stupidity is also a natural attribute. If stupidity was solely a necessary fact of nature, we would, I think, have little cause for concern. But circumstances are such that stupidity arising from greed is far more elemental and dangerous.
In their perpetual fear of death, human beings contrive various strategies of escape, such as the incessant pursuit of “more and more,” of “bigger and bigger.” At least in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Where this is possible. This means of compensating for the inevitable is a general human trait. And yet human civilization is endangered not by the little man, even if he is just as apt to want more and more as anyone else, but by the intelligent. The shrewdest thieves possess high IQs. And yet this does not in the least suggest that such individuals cannot simultaneously be stupid. The intelligent thief, who is generally arrogant, too, does not bother himself about his supposed stupidity.
Literature has known these peculiarities of human nature for thousands of years; which is to say, literature itself has done the most to bring them to the world’s attention as problems that might be dealt with. By the present day, it has among other things become the charge of literature, and by extension, of the writer, to portray a set of circumstances that is indeed new—the threat of the Earth’s annihilation—with the tools at its disposal. That is, no matter how romantic this may sound, within its given community literature aims to serve as a voice of conscience, as it were.
But let us not delude ourselves: the political will always have its way; for it has the means—the “laws”— to do so. It is indeed so well equipped with such means that it is capable not only of annihilating our civilization but also itself. We need only to consider the self-destructive bent of this or that particular individual! Who is capable of preventing a single person of doing harm to himself?
Alas, never has there been an age in which literature has been powerful enough to fundamentally influence politics. Our only recourse is to write as intelligently and as honorably as possible—to “struggle” with what tools we wield against stupidity; which, we have determined, derives from nature, but which, those of us who practice literature might also agree, can be countermined in the face of nature itself.
(translated by Paul Olchváry)