Ignorance, Idiocy, and Democracy

"Every human being has to be born ignorant and, for a time, live in ignorance. But if he remains ignorant that is his own fault. The fight against ignorance waged by everyone during his or her lifetime must be an individual, personal thing."
-- Earl Nightingale

Do you know any stupid people?

Perhaps, perhaps not. What each of us considers being "stupid" varies widely. Many people, myself included, likely cannot perform linear algebra to save their life. Calculating eigenvectors is more difficult than trying to navigate 80 years of conscious existence. That's why I had to take the class twice in college and still only passed with a C. Having a professor who wrote the book on the subject did not help on the first try, either. And going to Japan for 10 days in the middle of fall semester, junior year also did not help my grades in any class I was taking.

To some, that makes me stupid. Not just because I cannot perform math as well as them, but because I would do something like take almost two weeks off in the middle of a key semester of college. Or that I would find engaging in life pursuits important enough to fail a computer architecture class because while I had a B average overall, I had a 36% homework average and the professor automatically failed anyone under with a homework average below 50%.

Others, still, might find my language and grammar to be subpar. They might mock me by asking if I flunked out of the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good. Or that I used the wrong form of "its" or "there." They might hear me say "mi espaƱol es muy mal" or "boku no nihongo wa totemo dame da yo" and think I'm stupid for butchering foreign languages in addition to my native English.

Then there are those who find some of my humor to be immature and, thus, "stupid." Sometimes when I get made fun of, I make fun back. Humor brings laughter and laughter brings smiles and smiles are signs of happiness. But happiness is unique and individualistic, much like humor and much like what people think is "stupid." This makes it difficult for those outside of the humor circle you're engaged in to necessarily understand what is going on and/or why a particular thing is funny.

The reality of humanity, in my opinion based on 35 years of existence on this planet across a dozen countries, many languages, and a plethora of cultures, is that there are stupid people in this world. Stupid people of all races, genders, nationalities, religions, heights, weights, sexual preferences, and age. Was it Einstein who said "there are two infinite things in existence: the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former?" Or maybe someone else. I'm willing to bet someone will tweet in the near future how I screwed up the quote. I'm willing to accept that. What I want to propose to you is a theory on stupidity. There are two types of stupid, in my opinion, and the distinction is of incredible importance to this conversation and life in general. To me, stupidity is broken into two sub-categories: ignorance and idiocy.

Ignorance is by far the most common form of "stupidity" that we encounter. It's what all of us as human being possess. Ignorance is a lacking. Not just a lack of knowledge, but a lack of training, and, most importantly, a lack of awareness. If there is one thing that education is supposed to teach us, it's precisely how many metric craptons of stuff we simply don't know. It could be ignorance in math, science, languages, medicine, law, religion, how to cook, how to fix a car, how to trade stock options, ignorance into why the sky is blue, why everyone looks different, why accents occur, or why there are so many bad drivers on the road.

I like the driving example because driving clearly demonstrates the concept of ignorance and awareness. When you are in a moving vehicle on the highway, constant danger exists in the form of other cars, medians, potholes and more. We are able to drive and survive precisely because we are aware of these dangers; we're aware of the danger others pose to us and the danger we pose to others. This is why we have mirrors to check other perspectives that we cannot see by facing forward. It's also why we have turn signals, so that the flashing light catches our attention, causing us to register awareness that another seeks to take an action. It's also why we have laws banning texting while driving, because the tunnel vision and distractions that occur remove your awareness. They can make you ignorant of road activity.

Ignorance is "curable." You can teach those who are ignorant. You can realize that someone lacks a certain awareness and move on. When a person suggests a really stupid idea for a car fuel cell, like a mini-nuclear reactor surrounded by concrete and iron because, you know, that keeps the radiation at bay, you forgive their ignorance into how that stuff really works. Ignorance, while curable, can also be incredibly dangerous. Take ignorance with guns, for example. I'm willing to bet some of you reading have been to a shooting range. Have you ever seen people ignorant in how to handle firearms at a range? I sure have. Teenagers, college kids, and even adults with their fingers all over the trigger guard, waving the barrel around while chatting. Even unloaded, that is ignorant and dangerous. But it happens. And those people need to be made aware of what they're doing so that they can change and function more safely and efficiently.

The real problem in the world is idiocy. Idiots are those who not only don't know, but cannot be changed because they don't care to know or don't want to know. They are fixed, unchanging, and willing to die being stupid. An ignorant person says 1 + 1 is 3, but comes to learn 1 + 1 is 2 after explanation; an idiot says 1 + 1 is 3 and you're a neuron deficient spider monkey for believing otherwise. They also think the world is flat because no one has really walked around the entire planet or because they haven't personally witnessed someone walk around the entire planet. Idiots are blind to their beliefs, unable and unwilling to allow even a hint of skepticism into their being.

When I say "beliefs," I don't mean religion, though there are those people and I will address religion in the future. By "beliefs" I mean anything that we think we know to the point where it cannot possibly be affected by change. To be unaffected by change is to be either divine or dead, such a fundamental part of universal existence or something that has ceased to exist. Everything else changes. Our bodies and minds, our thoughts and feelings, our cells, the weather, age, death, life, and more. Change is the only real fundamental truth to existence in my mind. Then again, that's my opinion; I could be wrong and reserve the right to change my opinion at a later date.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
-- Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, one of our esteemed founding fathers, very much realized the need for education in the populace of a democracy. He believed education critical to preserving liberty. I concur wholeheartedly. Education, the ability to learn, the ability to reason and think critically imparts upon us all a guarded openness. We open ourselves to other perspectives of the world from various speakers, but can use the magnificence of the human brain to shield ourselves from false and/or misleading statements. Such "spin" that politicians tend to engage in, single perspectives of one party or another that the masses gobble up because party trumps truth is what leads the deterioration of liberty. An enlightened people is the greatest counter to horrible politicians that exists in democracy. It also does wonders to counter lobbyists seeking to woo our representatives with anti-democratic and anti-capitalistic ideology.

Think about democracy in this way: the people cannot approve what they don't understand. People living in ignorance need to be enlightened, need to be given the tools and opportunity to understand. Such is the only way to make a good, informed decision. Those who fail to understand, those who receive the teaching but then ignore the points being shared without counter points of their own, they are idiots and they hold democracy back. They hold themselves back and they hold the rest of the republic back due to their purposeful desire to ignore more logical evidence out of spite, hate, or any other reason. The more we can educate Americans, the more we can clear the cloud of ignorance over each and every one of us (myself especially!), the better off our democracy will be.

Awareness will allow us to really grill our politicians. It will force our potential representatives to explain themselves. It will destroy the blight of soundbite politics facing our nation. My thoughts are quite verbose- purposefully so. The number of pages does not make the content better, rather it provides more opportunity for making readers aware. And in the case where questioning of thoughts/data might exist, I provide references for you to check out. All in the name of clearing any ignorance in the matter.

We are all ignorant. We're born that way. But we have the freedom and ability to transcend such ignorance. Logic, reasoning, and critical thinking is the means in which we do this.


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