Everyone in the world is either a tosser or a cretin.

Allow me to explain.

The Greek poet Archilochus' Fox and Hedgehog was an idea explored by Isaiah Berlin in an essay published in the volume Russian Thinkers. In the essay, Berlin states that, "taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general." There is, he says, a great divide between those that view everything as part of a coherent structure and those that, for instance, pursue "many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory...".

Well, I'll leave that to the writeup on that subject. Here I'm talking tossers and cretins. Not an intellectual divide, more an asthetic one driven by one's own intellect and personality compared to other people's. I shall elaborate.

A Tosser is somebody that is damn good (at anything) and knows it. As a result, this person will have few personal insecurities - although neuroses are allowed. He/She is likely to have a stable and well-adjusted personality.

A Cretin is somebody who gives the impression of being out of their depth no matter how good they are at something. These people may be insecure and self-deprecating. This may be hidden with a veneer of confidence that will show cracks now and then.

To (over-)simplify: a tosser is somebody who knows they're better than you; a cretin is someone you know you're better than.

Most of the above characteristics will be subjective, though there are some traits that many if not most observers will agree on. It is not 'better' to be either type: from the above, one might infer that it was less desirable to be a cretin, however, cretins tend to have a less 'tamed' intellect and have a habit of being more lateral thinkers. There are, of course, some people completely outside either bracket, and some that many would agree could be both. Much like Berlin's Foxes and Hedgehogs, in which the writer observes that many people of one type spend large parts of their lives trying to be the other, one finds that people frequently try to change themselves, to varying degrees of success.

In the words of the late great Isaiah Berlin: Of course, like all over-simple classifications of this type, the dichotomy becomes, if pressed, artificial, scholastic, and ultimately absurd. But if it is not an aid to serious criticism, neither should it be rejected as being merely superficial or frivolous; like all distinctions which embody any degree of truth, it offers a point of view from which to look and compare, a starting-point for genuine investigation.

Original idea provided by James "Kenny" Macleod.

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