"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Bigger Problem

"Miseducation is harder to overcome than ignorance." 
             -- Francis W. Porretto

Once again I run across a tidbit from Liberty's Torch that becomes the seed for a post here. Francis managed to encapsulate an idea in just seven words.  Sometimes, really great quotes don't get the appreciation they deserve. Maybe this one little sentence struck me so significantly because I have enough worldly experience.

Maybe it set off bells and whistles in my head because I've had to deal with the truth of that statement so much lately.

At the risk of boring my more intelligent readers, I feel like expounding on the quote above. I guess another reason for this is that I've got several decades of experience that growing older does not guarantee growing wiser; at least not in a society that coddles ignorance and stupidity.  Recently I've had to encounter the most egregious sin of stupidity.  Willful ignorance.  While lately I have seen this attitude most irritatingly in people quite older than myself, I try to mitigate my angst by seeing an underlying attitude of: "I'm old, I've paid my dues, and I'm not long for this world anyway."

Believe it or not, I've spent enough time thinking about this that I now have two categories of willful ignorance. In the first kind, the subject is confronted with facts that are so upsetting to his worldview, that he dismisses the new information and quickly moves on to something else that distracts him from having to really ruminate on it.  It may be in the back of his mind, able to resurface later if brought about by another event.  But the subject sort of subconsciously suppresses it because the cognitive dissonance is just too uncomfortable to deal with presently.  In this primary level, at least there is hope that the subject will accept the truth in the future.  When I encounter this in an individual, I can easily smile and drop the subject, thinking to myself, "It's okay, he/she's just not ready yet."

But the second level of willful ignorance is where I have to fight the demons that set my blood to boiling. It's when the subject makes clear and very declarative statements to the effect of: "I don't WANT to know." And more importantly, the statements are made with a smile and a smugness as if delivering divine wisdom from on high.  This is where I DO need grace from the Almighty, because I feel like slapping the ever-loving shit out of the jerk.

Getting back to the main idea; both of the levels of ignorance above are most often born out of miseducation.  Ignorance in its pure form simply means that you don't know, but you have not been indoctrinated in any particular direction, like a juror in a fresh venue with no prior knowledge of the case.  The problem comes from being purposely "educated" to believe things that seem very plausible, have been seemingly accepted by the vast majority, and are typically very difficult and time consuming to falsify or prove on one's own. Amusement of all kinds is the modern American sport. Ignorance is bliss. "I'll take the blue pill."

Why?  Well, as much as I don't like leftist/progressives, I'll quote one here.  Gloria Steinem said, "The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off."  Of course, truth won't piss you off until you are forced to come to grips with it.  It's like the child of any age who's parents finally throw him out of the house to go fend for his self. The Eastern Airlines employee or air traffic controller who finds out that the union doesn't really have his best interests at heart. The college graduate who finds out that there is no one looking to hire someone with a masters degree in "Graffiti's Social Importance."
So many more examples I would like to give here, but I'll move on.

People don't cling to false things they believe to be true because of evidence or logic.  They cling to those things because of their emotions.  Kevin Baker over at The Smallest Minority has many uberposts on his blog, along with some long-running exchanges with hoplophobes that help prove this point.  I remember sifting through long threads on his site as well as others, and being dumbfounded at the extremes to which anti-gunners will go to defend their position against all evidence and logic which demonstrates their position to be blatantly stupid.

One reason emotion is such a big issue is because nobody likes to find out they've fallen for a lie.  Short-term lies on the personal level are one thing. Someone in your personal world lies to you, but you eventually find out. Most of your anger can be righteously directed at them, and once you've calmed down you can at least feel good about yourself for discovering the truth.  But the big lies that will really rock your world are just too painful to deal with for a lot of people. Big lies that you find out you actually talked yourself into because they sounded so good.  But it was wrong.  And in the realization it was wrong you become angry. You are angry because it made you feel stupid.

The bigger the lie, the more stupid you feel, and thus the angrier you get.  The force multiplier to the tune of 10X is the fact that you have no one to blame but yourself.  There's not one individual you can blame for knowingly defrauding you.  If you got taken in by Bernie Madoff, you've got someone you can focus your anger on.  But who are you going to take to court or see in shackles over the Social Security Ponzi scheme?

Nothing perpetuates and protects ignorance as much as believing that you already know the truth. Oh, I believe that there are indeed absolute truths. But they are the things which I am always willing to put to the test.  Any test. Over and over.  But when you've come to the conclusion that "the argument/debate is over," then the only thing you have proven is your ignorance. 

Minor Rabbit Trail:  It's so easy to be like one of the sheep in this parade.  It's cool to feel like you are connected with a popular movie star.  It's so easy to let people like Leo and Algore and Bernie the Commie Sanders do your thinking for you, instead of asking the epistemological question: Are they right? How do they know?  What are the arguments on the other side?  If the argument is over, why the need for the march?  Back to my screed.

The things I am willing to argue passionately for are the things I am sure are true, with the caveat that I know I am human and that there may be information yet that I do not have.  But show me someone who is unwilling to entertain a reasonable and intelligent argument, and I'll show you a willfully ignorant and downright stupid fool.

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