Arrogant Ignorance

Arrogance2Fear is a powerful emotion, and it tends to promote action. My concern is that far too many people have lost the ability to think about their fear and analyze its power. Blaming guns is easy, but thinking about our thoughts and considering the possibility that our fear is misplaced is hard. Sadly, I see this inability to think outside of emotional responses on both sides of this (and every other) issue today. “I’m right and you’re stupid” is not a valid stance in any argument, but watch the news, read social media, or watch anywhere else people debate topics these days and that’s what you’ll see on both sides. What’s worse, if you watch videos showing government in action, you’ll see it there too.

Sadly, this is not a new phenomenon.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

~ Isaac Asimov, Newsweek (21 January 1980)

I’m not going to invalidate my point by claiming that people who are afraid of guns are stupid. I know some very intelligent people who fear or just dislike guns. In almost every case, these people have had no direct experience with guns and built their opinion based on what they’ve seen on TV and in movies. When I’ve exposed people like this to guns (including my rigid safety indoctrination) their thoughts on guns usually changes. They don’t necessarily go out and buy an AR15 right away, but they realize that they had held on to misconceptions based on ignorance. That’s what smart people do — they reevaluate their position after curing their ignorance.

Ignorance is cured with research, first-hand experience, and a willingness to learn. Mark Twain once wrote that, “The man who doesn’t read has no advantage over the man who can’t read.” So it is with ignorance: people who don’t cure their own ignorance are no better than those who can’t. The politician who doesn’t learn about the topic she is pushing has no advantage over the politician who is incapable of learning. When that happens, and it happens a lot, woe betide the people being governed.

I commonly see posts on social media sites that attempt to distill an otherwise intelligent person’s point of view into a single pithy saying, often accompanied by a comic or picture intended to make anyone who disagrees with them look stupid. “I’m right and you’re stupid” is the battle cry of the ignorant. I call this behavior arrogant ignorance.

This country was founded by brilliant men who were braver than most of us will ever have to be. The very least we can do is be brave enough to cure ignorance, especially in ourselves. Repeating insulting slogans  in the guise of “clever” memes is not the same as being witty. Reposting obnoxious pictures with logical fallacies printed on them does not make you clever. Think for yourself, form a valid opinion based on evidence (opinion polls are not evidence, nor do they indicate consensus, no matter how many times they’re repeated), and please, everyone, stop arguing from a position of ignorance. Doing so makes you nothing more than a useful idiot, and the world has far too many of those already.