The danger of embracing ignorance

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Today’s a big day in Ontario, the province where I live: Election Day. June 12th is the day when Ontarians have the opportunity to make their voices heard and… vote for the member of provincial parliament in their riding who will represent them in the legislative assembly and the leader of the party with the most seats becomes Premier. Yes, it is as convoluted as it sounds.

While no one’s entirely certain who will come out on top this time around, there’s one thing that’s almost a sure bet: there’s a good chance this year we’ll see a record low voter turnout. Just like last time. After all, even the best of the parties we have to choose from is pretty unsavory, and it’s unpleasant to have to choose the best of the worst at the ballot box, y’know?

But I’m not sure that’s the reason most people decide not to vote. Actually, I’m concerned far too many choose to remain ignorant about things that really matter. (And like it or not, politics really does matter.)

But this kind of embrace of ignorance goes by another name: foolishness.

Years ago, during another election season, my wife asked one of her coworkers—one who was extremely well educated—if he was going to be voting that evening. His response? “Nah, it doesn’t really matter. They’re all bad anyway.” Incidentally, he also once argued with me that nothing really existed, including himself.

Foolishness.

Slightly beyond politics, there’s the ongoing myth of overpopulation, one which continues to hold sway in popular culture, even as we see nations sink into economic disaster due to under-population.

“I can’t believe you have three children—don’t you know we have a population problem?”

“Actually, the entire population of the world could fit in Texas with about 1000 sq. ft. between each person.”

Foolishness.

And then there’s the recent rise of the “trigger warning”—the idea that you might need to label blogs, articles, and, shockingly, classic books because they have content that might be offensive to modern sensibilities.

“I had no idea this book had this word in it! How can they put it on the curriculum?!?”

“It’s Huckleberry Finn.”

Foolishness.

There’s a kind of ignorance that comes with a lack of knowledge. When we simply don’t know something, that doesn’t make us fools. It just makes us ignorant. It’s a situation we can change and should want to gladly. But when we embrace ignorance, when we latch on to nonsensical ideas and perpetuate them, when we fail to engage with literature and the arts, when we neglect rights and privileges because politicians are “bad…” I can’t help but wonder how much the words of Ecclesiastes apply to us:

“Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool” (Ecclesiastes 10:3).

 

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