I’m a big fan of Christmas, not so much New Year. I understand the thrill of a fresh start but then comes January. And this one is proving to be a cracker. A head lock of grim weather and grizzly news.

Relief has come, as it often does, through reading with a standout performance from Otto English’s Fake Heroes, a captivating tale of how 10 of history’s biggest names are not quite the icons they’re cracked up to be. Without giving anything away, Mother Teresa is on the list.

It was Otto’s book that introduced me to The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, published in 1976 by Italian-born economic historian and Berkeley professor Carlo M. Cipolla. His thesis kicks off with Law 1: ‘Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation’.

This is the fundamental problem. Stupid people are everywhere and, as Law 2 points out, stupidity is not governed by characteristics like education, rank, or income. There are stupid people at Davos this week, stupid barristers, bricklayers, priests, pole-dancers, engineers, and estate agents.

Clearly, we are all capable of being stupid sometimes. Humans are flawed. But, again, beware, the stupid are paragons of consistency.

What really resonated with me, however, was Law 3, Cipolla’s Golden Law of stupidity. ‘A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself (sic) deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.’

It’s the Post Office! Yes, along with Fujitsu, they were cruel and greedy but overall, stupid. Persecuting colleagues, extorting funds, lying repeatedly to no real advantage and now the abyss. It’s normal for a new IT system to need de-bugging and in their own subpostmasters they were blessed with the perfect collaborators to find a solution.

Contrast this behaviour with the relentless intelligence of Alan Bates. Nothing to add here. He’s all over the news.

Another antithesis to stupidity comes in the form of Charlotte Hollins whom I met recently on a MarketingKind Zoom gathering. Charlotte manages England’s first community-owned farm, Fordhall Organic Farm in Market Drayton, and has done since 2006 when, with brother Ben, she needed to think big to save the family home. Totally inspirational.

Like Mr Bates, Charlotte is the very essence of purpose, resilience, and fairness, refreshingly at odds with the self-serving short-termism favoured by the Post Office.

On that note, we’ll end with Cipolla’s Law 5: ‘A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person’. So, let’s be on it in 2024, support people acting intelligently and call out those who aren’t, including, if necessary, ourselves.

It’s the example set by our Alans and Charlottes that will prevent us being crushed by our idiots.