Monday, September 14, 2009

The 51st State?

When Tarleisio—one of my favorite bloggers—posted The Politics of Childhood on MoltenMetalMama, I got to thinking about the nature of classism, the mindset of bullies, and how religion, despite being a major influence in shaping societies the world over, is as much a tool used by ignorant bullies to justify their bad behavior as it is a tool used by powerful interests to control those over whom they have power. But this is not a discourse on the pros and cons of religion; it’s a brief look into the causes and effects of ignorance.

Because ignorance is defined as a state of not knowing (and also a lack of education), it can accurately be said that everyone is ignorant to a certain degree; no one knows everything about everything. For instance, while most people might benefit from having a basic knowledge of first aid, they don’t need to learn how to make complex medical diagnoses or perform complicated surgical procedures. It’s okay for people who have no intention of becoming a doctor to remain ignorant of the things every doctor must know.

What’s not okay is for people to remain ignorant about the things all people should know: the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the basic workings of their government, the value of a good education, the necessity of not allowing blind emotional impulses to control one’s actions, the importance of respect for one’s self and for the rights of others, et al.

Whenever and wherever egregious departures from acceptable social conduct occur, ignorance attends, either as the root cause or as fertilizer for the root cause. Whenever public debate devolves into a shouting match, ignorance attends. Whenever religion becomes the “be all, do all and end all” of civil society, ignorance attends. Wherever ignorance attends, bullying flourishes, because bullying is the only avenue left open for ignoramuses to express themselves or gain attention.

The willing accomplices of ignorance are complacency, laziness, and a profound lack of curiosity. Hey, it’s easier to go along to get along, Rush Limbaugh says it’s true so it must be true, and besides, critical thinking is really, really hard. Ignorant people are content to live their lives inside the little boxes they build for themselves (or in which they allow others to build for them), because these are their comfort zones. Anything that challenges the status quo directly challenges them by threatening to push them outside of their comfort zones; because new ideas displace old ideas, new ideas and new ways of doing things must be resisted at any cost.

But ignorance is the brake that keeps social progress at a standstill. It’s the reason democracy doesn’t work as well as it should, the reason why news media have become purveyors of lies, and the reason why many legislators occupy their time dealing with trivial matters while more serious matters run amok. Ignorance is the primary reason why the U.S. continues its backward slide and falls farther and farther behind other developed countries in terms of social, economic, technological, and environmental progress.

Most discouraging of all is that the batshit crazy, doorstop-stupid barking moonbats that infest populate the Republican Party (and a small-but-growing segment of the Democratic Party) seem to take great pride in their ignorance and stupidity; they flaunt these negatives—and glorify them—at every opportunity. To make matters worse, they pass these same negative values on to their children, thus ensuring that doorstop-stupid barking moonbats will never become an endangered species. In fact, the community of willfully ignorant people has grown so large that it should probably apply for statehood.

That’s what happens when education takes a backseat to bank bailouts and war, to auto company bailouts and domestic policies masquerading as war. Maybe someday we’ll get our priorities straight, but we probably won’t. Because too many willfully ignorant people are willing to listen to and believe the misinformation and disinformation delivered by media pundits representing the status quo, too few people with way too much financial clout and political power—and too much to lose—will have the final say.

Q >>>