“When ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.”
– Dalai Lama
Rising ignorance and the normalization of anti-intellectualism is an alarming trend in Western culture. Why would someone not want to be intelligent? Why on earth would someone want to repel knowledge and wisdom – to say no to new ideas, alternative worldviews, new languages or learning new skills?
Fighting for idealized correctness
People are fallible. To learn something new, people must often unlearn previous beliefs. These could be thoughts internalized during childhood and taken for granted from then on. God helps us through sickness and despair. Breakfast isn’t breakfast without some butter on toast. A desk job requires 9 hours of sitting down, 5 days a week. These thoughts are not easily swayed despite the mountains of scientific evidence or health studies. Questioning them could reveal that we are wrong and that we have always been wrong. Such an idea is unpleasant to our ego and self-esteem. Disregarding fact based evidence is thus a fight for personal, idealized correctness – which is much easier than understanding raw data and admitting one’s faulty way of thinking.
Inside the knowledge bubble
Disregarding facts makes people less curious, which creates a knowledge comfort zone. These are like soap bubbles. We sit inside, and we are happy. Here everything is clear and simple and known. We look through the concave walls of the bubble that acts as a distorting lens, and through it we observe everything unfamiliar. The micro-thin wall repels every new idea, since they would make the bubble burst. And then we would see that everything surrounding us actually isn’t curved or stretched.
Drastic changes to lifestyle shake the ground on which we base our knowledge, and this is stressful and frightening. The world is a murky, unknown void outside our zone – we’d rather look at it from a distance, from inside looking out, than understand it. Fear of the unknown makes people weary of strangeness and foreignness. And so many persist on being prejudiced, racist and ignorant.
Importance of curiosity and creativity
A willingness to learn and expand personal knowledge requires curiosity. It dances freely in the mind of children, causing them to make new neural connections and absorb vast amounts of information every day. However, this trait is efficiently butchered in schools. Teachers who fail to excite and spread the importance of learning make students feel unchallenged or overwhelmed with formulaic work. Students paddle in pre-dictated ways of thinking and ready made patterns, already designed by physicists, mathematicians, historians, literary analysts, and scientists. Only one way to read a poem. Only one way to solve an equation. Only one way to learn: sit down and be quiet. Protest and apathy make grades flop, preventing students from progressing to the next, more advanced standardized comfort bubble. Because students are not taught to create, they grow up to be consumers. As adults, they end up paying those who do create.
Gap between consumers and creators
Creative people are more likely to find purposeful work and success, which is seen as jealously and mockery in the media. Those who continuously expand and distort their comfort zone are easy targets of scrutiny, as people fail to understand the importance of self-expressive creativity. The bubble limits people from understanding the jargon of a publishing scientist, or finding meaning in the works of a modern artist or an independent game designer. If people aren’t interested in gaining new knowledge and are unfamiliar with the creative process, how can they even begin to empathize or be inspired by people bring new ideas to the world?
Is ignorance bliss
Knowledge doesn’t necessarily bring happiness. The more intellectuals learn, the more they are reminded by the knowledge they lack: the murky void expands like the unknown universe around our planet. Although ignorance seems blissful, it promises limited opportunities for content. It blocks unknown potentials and creates a false sense of wisdom. Anti-intellectualism is damaging because it hampers the capabilities of the human race. Ignorance thus bites itself in the foot by blocking self-improvement and hiding novel opportunities for happiness.
Thankfully, we can cure ignorance through education. At an early age, people should be given the tools for questioning, problem-solving and mind expansion – and not given the Lego house already built.