Like everyone, I've had the misfortune of knowing a few idiots in my time. Work especially seems to drag them out. For me, one particular idiot that springs to mind is a man with the slightly comical name of Mickey Mallett, whom I worked with for a month in 2007, while offshore in Equatorial Guinea. The stakes were high on an expensive exploration rig searching for gas in the Gulf of Guinea, and Mickey Mallett was the man supposed to be in charge of the test on the gas well. Never has a man been less in charge. In his sixties and surely with decades of experience, he spent his month in a perpetual state of confusion and panic. At one point, so clueless was he to operations, during a crucial part of the test he hid inside my lab unit stating expressly that he "had no idea what was going on" and that he was "scared the rig was going to have a blow-out" (i.e. a rig-destroying explosion). His behaviour onshore was no better than off, and his regular indiscretions involving prostitutes and other locals caused so much trouble, not to mention real danger to himself, that the oil company in charge, instead of just sacking him, eventually banned all personnel from being out after 11pm. His manner was like a congenial uncle crossed with a sex offender crossed with a gigantic human "wobbly-man" toy that rights itself when pushed over. He wasn't even entertaining company, and spent his conversation in malicious, petty and truly inane gossip about his own colleagues - when not talking about his latest African "girlfriend" and, with a wink, his poor unwitting wife at home, that is.
So imagine my surprise when I heard that this idiot not only had been given a sainthood by the Catholic Church, but also had a world famous cathedral built in his honour. No, it's ok, that of course didn't happen, but for anyone around in 16th Century Russia who happened to know a man called Basil that is exactly what did occur. Basil was a cobbler by profession but a true holy idiot by vocation. Not, in fairness, an idiot in the infuriatingly annoying Mickey Mallett way, but in the running around naked, knocking over stuff, making a general nuisance sense. And while Mickey was idiotic for prostitutes and gossip, Basil claimed for his own glory that he was "idiotic for Christ's sake." And the Russians loved this. Because, astonishingly, back in early Tsarist Russia, idiocy was seen as a common form of religious fervency, and the most sincere and dedicated of idiots were treated with reverence. They loved a good idiot. Oh yes, 16th Century Russia was a good time to behave like an absolute bloody imbecile.