A Two-Zone World: When The Foolish Met The Clever

Thought experiments are interesting. They allow the thinker to contemplate scenarios seemingly bearing little or no relevance to reality, while paradoxically capturing reality perceptively.

Imagine a world carved up into two zones; zone 1, Cleverland and zone 2, Foolishland. The initial state is characterised by perfect division.

The residents of Cleverland are advanced in education levels and indulge in furious enterprise. Detecting genuine humility in this group is a trifle far-fetched and on average, every Cleverland resident tends to assume (s)he is the all-knowing One. As CleverMan/Woman enthrones him/herself, it follows that everyone else is inferior to the Enthroned. Supposition of wisdom precludes efforts at critical introspection. Being overly aware, they assume they are the only ones worth existing in this vast universe.

On the other hand, inhabitants of Foolishland whoop it up in foolishness. A zone overflowing with simpletons, they take immense pride in their remarkable idio(syncra)cy and zealously resist intrusions that threaten to corrupt their ignorance. Education levels are universally low and their world-view is, well, rather limited. Generally, no resident of Foolishland is wise enough to pass oblique judgements on their fellow zone-folk. No one is superior (or inferior) to anyone else. Being overly ignorant, they assume they are the only ones existing in this vast universe.

As time wears on, certain patterns emerge. Cleverland is a cauldron of fiercely competitive individuals who take the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest to the extreme. Fraudulence develops into a stylish appendage to enterprise and happiness comes to be viewed as a zero-sum game. Altruism in social gatherings is a fashionable indulgence and so is a professed appreciation of art, certain chosen animals and other exotic pursuits. Invisible veils camouflage a Frankenstein-ian alter ego but paradoxically, Clever-folk are strongly opposed to visible veils.

Foolishland, as might be expected, is not a conducive environment for profitable business. Being foolish, B is fooled by A, C is fooled by B…and so on the group is stuck in a permanent get-fooled-by-the-next man loop. It is interesting to note the parallel with Cleverland. Cleverland inhabitants are likewise stuck in a perpetual fool-the-next man loop (only here, A fools B, B fools C and so on).

Deceit is virtually absent in Foolishland. Being intellectual still-borns, Foolish-folk have scant appreciation of art and other pursuits that please the higher senses. Social gatherings are an interesting affair. Due to the absence of spurious altruism and other such wondrous emotions, they speak what they think, sometimes leading to awkward situations as a result. However, Foolish-folk are secure in the knowledge that no one is a phony and their forthrightness becomes a source of cheery humour. Uncomfortable situations are an integral part of Cleverland social gatherings too. However, these are typically caused by the lurking presence of fakery. Insecurity runs high as a result of distrust, derived from veiled niceties.

At some point, the zones intermingle. The Clever who saunter into Foolishland cannot believe their good fortune. Ill conversant in the advanced methods of survival so finely polished by the Clever, the Foolish get done in rather easily by the Clever. The Foolish – who generally don’t lie – gradually learn the fine art of deception after suffering at the hands of the Clever. The slow learners become perennial sufferers and some never learn at all. The latter group, which dwindles over time, owes its gradual extinction to the natural process of death rather than to conversion.

The Clever quickly become Socrates-like figures in social gatherings; the proverbial one-eyed King leading a kingdom of the blind. Foolish-folk advance a little along the intellectual scale but most stay around their natural rate of foolishness. Instead of growing Clever, they learn ways to survive without too many mishaps. While the Clever learn little from the Foolish, the latter learn a lot many things…of the dubious variety, from the former.

Foolish that end up in Cleverland, swiftly run into trouble of various sorts. Apart from being undone by the superior intellect of the Clever in business dealings, they encounter ridicule in social gatherings. They gradually learn that there is no market for qualities like authenticity and straight-forward courtesies. Unable to grow an invisible veil, they become social recluses, preferring the company of fools to the company of intellectuals. They, however, learn novel forms of deceit but don’t get very far. The Clever need a certain level of genuine fakery to make the cut. The Fools flunk badly.

Time wears on and gradually a point is reached where the Clever try their best to come across as Foolish, while the Foolish fall over themselves attempting the opposite.

The line blurs permanently.


This is a moderately reworked re-run of an old post from the early days of Haphazard Linkages.


19 thoughts on “A Two-Zone World: When The Foolish Met The Clever

  1. Isn’t this the history of humanity – since the first priestly caste appeared – only, now we call them leaders, bussinessmen, intellectual luminaries —– and the rest!

  2. Once again, had to read it twice.
    This one sounds Orwellian in its tone.
    There seem to be several take-aways. What I get is :
    – people will gravitate towards their own kind
    – it is a relative world; you are not rich if everyone is rich. You are rich only if others are not.
    – “get fooled by others loop” is pretty much the same as “fool others” loop at the societal level
    Thought-provoking as always.

    1. I find amusing paradoxes wafting everywhere around me. We’ve made tremendous advances in education; to encourage original thinking but prefer regimentation and assembly-lining (it makes life easier for everyone). Life is tough for sore thumbs that don’t fit the norm. As you so wonderfully capture on your blog, the corporate world is replete with more such paradoxes. Companies fervently dignify virtues while taking great pains to remain undignified in the same.

      We want honest and forthright employees but the fate that awaits the spade-caller is quite sadly, amusing. We want to employ the clever but actually look for the foolish (not literally, of course, just carrying on from the post’s theme). The foolish that pass off as clever are great subjects for humour, while the clever that try to pass off as foolish are great subjects for rancour!

      My preferred state is to draw some amusement as an anonymous bystander. 🙂

      Truly appreciate your detailed comments. Like the exchanges. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    1. Sharmishtha! Sorry for the delayed reply. Have been on the road for the past 7 days with no internet connectivity. Will catch up on reading and writing soon. How have you been?

      1. well sorta nice and sorta really awful. 🙂
        we are experiencing hell’s blazes down here, that too started in early april, my soul is shivering to think what will happen in June. this is sure 2012 syndrome, devil is sharpening his instruments and will start with kolkata.

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