The Idiot

Elif Batuman

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2 Fragments (saved in 2017)

I found myself remembering the day in kindergarten when the teachers showed us Dumbo, and I realized for the first time that all the kids in the class, even the bullies, rooted for Dumbo, against Dumbo's tormentors. Invariably they laughed and cheered, both when Dumbo succeeded and when bad things happened to his enemies. But they're you, I thought to myself. How did they not know? They didn't know. It was astounding, an astounding truth. Everyone thought they were Dumbo.

Most people, the minute they meet you, were sizing you up for some competition for resources. It was as if everyone lived in fear of a shipwreck, where only so many people would fit on the lifeboat, and they were constantly trying to stake out their property and identify dispensable people – people they could get rid of.... Everyone is trying to reassure themselves: I'm not going to get kicked off the boat, they are. They're always separating people into two groups, allies and dispensable people... The number of people who want to understand what you're like instead of trying to figure out whether you get to stay on the boat - it's really limited.