The Virtue of Ignorance: Revisited

The term “The Virtue of Ignorance” has never come under fire more than it has in the past few months not just in the United States but on a global level. The virtue of ignorance, which was the title of a textbook I studied in college as well as the unofficial title of the Academy Award winning film “Birdman” (although ‘unexpected’ is thrown in there), refers to the innovation and breakthroughs that have come about as a result of ignorance. What the term fails to mention is that there is no virtue to static ignorance, only ignorance that spawns positive action. For example, a team of people do not believe something is possible and are considered intelligent because all science and knowledge supports their claim. Someone then speaks up and says “It can be done” and they’re considered ignorant until they act on their ignorance by searching for ways to make the impossible possible. If successful, they are then considered a visionary or genius. If not, they’re just considered ignorant.

Ignorance has become a major problem on a global level and current events and conversations about them remind me of that on an almost daily basis. It shocks me how people are so convinced of something that is simply not true and have no facts to support their claim based simply on rhetoric, image, or inherent defiance. For example, I spoke with a friend today and asked him who he was voting for and he responded “T-Money” referring to Donald Trump. I asked him why and his response blew my mind, “Because he’s a boss.” I inquired if he was serious and he was, he knew nothing about this man other than that he was a “self-made billionaire” yet is willing to vote him into office of the United States of America. I’m not making a political statement here, I’m simply pointing out observations of ignorance.

I once co-owned a business with a friend who claimed to be a Republican and hated Obama. I respect everyone’s opinion and have voted for and worked on campaigns for candidates in both major political parties. One day we were discussing politics and he was ranting about how Obama was ruining the country and I simply asked “How?” to which he had no comprehensible answer and accidentally revealed he didn’t even know who the Vice President of the country was. How could someone with absolutely no information be so passionate and angry about a subject in which they knew nothing? To be honest, this experience frightened me and shed light on a lot of historical events that had perplexed me until that moment.

I once revealed at a prior workplace that I was born and raised in the Jewish faith at which point all of my co-workers looked at me as if I had just been diagnosed with a fatal illness. They were certain I was destined to go to hell and had to accept Jesus as my savior or I was doomed. I accepted their beliefs as I always do but was a bit curious. I then asked a few questions to see where these beliefs came from as I was educated in all religions and went to an Episcopalian school for four years and a Hebrew school for the same amount of time. I mentioned a simple fact that Jesus was born (and died) Jewish and was in fact, a Rabbi. Everyone looked at me as if I had just said the world was flat. Not a single person I worked with was aware of this fact. Again, I was frightened. When they argued that I was wrong, I simply stopped arguing and asked that they read the bible.

With globalization and the democratization of intelligence and knowledge through online means, it is amazing that we are still so ignorant as a species. My friend could have easily looked up Donald Trump and learned that Trump was not a self-made genius billionaire — and — knowing my friend quite well, he likely would not vote for “T-Money” simply for the fact that he’s an immigrant, the kind of immigrant Trump wouldn’t allow to move here if he were elected. My business partner who ranted about his hatred of Obama could have easily read up on Obama’s accomplishments, successes, failures, policies, etc. in 30 minutes on Google (it was only six months into his presidency) and likely would have had a less drastic and one sided extremely emotional opinion on a man he knew nothing about. He also would’ve learned who the Vice President of the Country he lived in was. The religious co-workers I was sitting next to at work could’ve read the bible and perhaps would have been more accepting of my religious differences and a fact I recited from the very book on which their entire religion is based. Yes, they also didn’t know that the Jewish people believe in the Old Testament. To them, the bible was for Christians only.

These are three simple anecdotes to demonstrate ignorance but truth be told I could write a book. My question is why? The mass of the world’s known information and history is in your pocket or on your computer so why are we still so ignorant? I can understand ignorance if it’s based on a misguided interpretation of knowledge but when it is based on absolutely nothing, I get concerned. So how do we, as a civilization, go about fixing the issue of rampant ignorance? Is it possible? Is it the fault of education or institutions around the world who serve up intelligence a la carte? Whatever the fault, I don’t care — I care about a solution. The information is there but how do you bring a mass of horses to water? Why do we always decide to learn up on things after something bad happens?

I am a fountain of information, 95% of which is useless to the world. I am inherently curious and if I end up searching for information online, it’ll likely lead me to learn about 1,000 other subjects with little to no relevance to what I originally intended to learn. I’m not saying everyone needs to be like that — what I am saying is before you speak or act, make sure your words and actions are based on knowledge and intelligence rather than — well — nothing. Even if what you say or do is wrong, it should at least be based on accurate information, otherwise known as facts. Your interpretation of the facts can be right, wrong, or simply an opinion but if it’s not based on any facts whatsoever I strongly recommend you do not speak or act. Instead, take out your smartphone, turn on your computer and learn about the subject; once you have some facts under your belt, you are welcome to voice your opinion and it will deserve respect as all well-founded opinions and beliefs should. That is all.

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