Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Right To Remain Ignorant

Call me an elitist snob. Call me a bleeding-heart fucking liberal. Call me an over-educated college professor who dwells in an ivory tower and casts aspersions on those dirt-encrusted plebes who inhabit the ground beneath me. What-fucking-ever. I just absolutely despise ignorance. ESPECIALLY self-inflicted ignorance, which in my mind borders on pure, unadulterated sociopathy.

Interesting word, sociopath. Literally, "a person…whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience." Seems to me that those qualities - having a sense of moral responsibility and social conscience, social behavior - are ones that we value, so that a person who is sociopathic is generally deemed "not good" for our society. There's another interesting word: society. "A highly structured system of human organization for large-scale community living that normally furnishes protection, community, security, and a national identity for its members." As in, "an American society." Again: good, desirable traits. Makes me wonder why "socialism" is deemed UNdesirable. Anyway…

I genuinely, strongly, and absolutely believe that self-inflicted ignorance is bad for our society. It's okay to not know something…shit, there's plenty about this world that I don't know. Plenty I don't, and plenty I really don't need to. I don't know the top speed of a healthy gazelle, and I don't know the names of the layers of the planet…or of my own skin. I understand in a vague fashion how my car works, but I don't know the details of it; I couldn't build a car from scratch, you see. But, my not knowing these things doesn't negatively affect my society. My neighbors don't care that I don't know how to build a car, and my state isn't the poorer for my not knowing how fast a gazelle can run. I will remain ignorant of these things precisely up until I need to know them, and then I'll go looking for answers. I won't just…remain ignorant.

Because, see, that willful ignorance? That can have a real effect on the rest of society. Take…oh, I dunno, let's stick with cars: take driving, for example. If you don't understand how the letters on your steering column correspond to the various gears, you could really have a negative effect on those around you. You're sitting in a car, ready to pull forward, put the gear into "R" and smash into the car behind you. Your ignorance of the way the gear shifter worked was costly. Magnify that: if you're ignorant as to the effects of alcohol on your judgement and motor skills, and you go out driving? Well, you can see that one through.

This all is centered around a certain "right" that our new Speaker, Rep. Boehner, claimed for us in the news yesterday. Rep. Boehner was speaking on "Meet the Press," and was asked about the persistent belief among some circles that Pres. Obama is either 1) not a U.S. citizen, and/or 2) a Muslim. Boehner replied: "The American people have a right to think what they want to think." Pressed about a responsibility to "stand up to that kind of ignorance," Boehner continued: "It's not my job to tell the American people what to think."

Oh. Oh, really. Because, it seems to me that politicians of EVERY stripe spend pretty much all their time telling American people EXACTLY what to think…precisely as long as it suits their agenda. To claim otherwise is preposterously disingenuous. And that claim that we have a right to think what we want to think? Funny, I don't see that in any of the Articles of the Constitution. Willfully wrong opinions…deliberately incorrect thoughts…these things have the power to be frighteningly dangerous to our society.

Sure, now you can get all Orwellian on my ass and claim that I'm advocating thought-control. No. I agree with the general precept that people should be allowed to have their opinions, and to think what they want. BUT - and that's a heavy "but" - sometimes people believe shit that's just…wrong. Take Obama's citizenship. Rep. Boehner told "MTP" that "the state of Hawaii has said that (Obama) was born there. That's good enough for me." Right?? I mean, how else do ANY of us know where we were born? Our birth certificate says so. How do you know who your daddy is? 'Cause your momma told you so. Same thing with Obama's religion: man say's he a Christian. Okay! Great! Can we not just…accept the man's word? Observe his practices, listen to how he speaks, and come to the conclusion "Okay, he says he's a Christian, and he acts like a Christian…must be a Christian!" When people remain willfully ignorant of these things - telling themselves "He's not an American! He's a Muslim!" - they're going out and voting on those thoughts. Which, hey, take it or leave it: a big part of me thinks that our federal government is so broken and polarized, don't much matter WHO sits in the driver's seat. But…the laws that govern us as a society affect us all. As a collective, we stand or fall together, and when you get a large (and larger) bloc of people voting their combined ignorance, how long will it take before something TRULY catastrophic happens?

People already tend to think in groups; like-meets-like, if you will. The internet has only exacerbated - worsened? - that tendency, because now, instead of getting an even-handed flow of information, you can cut off all the thoughts you don't want to face, all the information you've pre-determined to be "wrong," and settle down in some cozy little corner with the thousand others who think just like you. You build a frame around your world, and anything you don't like simply bounces off the frame. That's not helpful. That ignorance is having a direct effect on my life, because you're going out there and actually ACTING on your ignorance. Please. Don't do that. I deny your claim to a right to think what you want, when the thing you think isn't backed up by any credible source of information. Fuck you, because at some point you're going to end up fucking me, and then somewhere down the road, you could end up fucking all of us.