The Greatest Sin of All

The world has never been easy. Let’s face it, there’s a lot out there that’s downright dangerous,  misunderstood and unknown. Even walking to the bus stop can get you killed these days. Terrorism, poverty, global warming, pollution…Homo sapiens has done a pretty good job screwing up a planet that had been just great for billions of years. And we’ve only been doing it since the last few thousand years, since we stopped being hunters and gatherers and settled down into communities.

And there are many reasons why we’ve done that. Not settled down, I mean screwed up the planet. But there is one thing that drives the destructive gene in human beings, that is the seed, as it were, for all the other stupidity we’ve managed to pull off since we climbed down from the trees and decided walking on two legs was a good idea (which it wasn’t).

I’m talking about ignorance.

You know what that is. We’ve all been guilty of it. Hell, I’ve managed to look pretty dumb on the odd occasion. But by ignorance I don’t mean just not knowing something. I mean deliberately deciding not to know something.

There are four types of ignorance. I mention these in my novel Plato’s Cave, but here they are again:

(1)   What we know we don’t know. For example, we know that we don’t know if there is life on other planets.

(2)   What we don’t know we don’t know. Until we know about it, we can’t actually know that we don’t know something.

(3)   What we think we know, but don’t. Maybe apples don’t really grow on trees, it just looks that way. We’ve been fooling ourselves with appearances.

(4)   What we don’t think we know, but do. Maybe we already possess the key to time travel. We just haven’t realised it yet.

Those types of ignorance are fine because they allow the possibility that our ignorance will one day be lifted. If we keep asking enough of the right sort of questions and keep looking for the answers in a practical way, there’s a chance our ignorance will change to knowledge. In other words, the four types of ignorance listed above are scientific. Used properly, they have the ability to lead a sufficiently curious anthropoid ape towards the truth.

But there is another type of ignorance that actually lies beneath these four. And that is the type I’m calling the greatest sin of all.

(5) What we choose not to know.

For many reasons, there are people who deliberately decide not to know about something. The knowledge they eschew might conflict with their own personal beliefs. If they accepted the truth, it would contradict what they choose to believe, and that keeps them ignorant. Or, they might think that discovering the truth is too much like hard work. Or it requires them to associate with people they don’t wish to acknowledge. There are many reasons. None of them are legitimate.

This is what makes that type of ignorance a sin.

A few examples:

  1.  Homophobes choose to be ignorant about why people are LGBT. They think there is a choice in the matter, that gay people somehow, at some point in their lives, choose to be gay. The homophobes don’t want to know that gay people are gay because they are gay. They were born that way. Maybe homophobes object on religious grounds. Maybe they think gay people have some kind of hidden plan to steal children because they can’t have their own. Or that there is some kind of  “gay agenda”. (If there is I missed the memo). All poppycock of course. It’s worth remembering that the word “homophobe” means “fear of man”. That’s what their hatred stems from. Fear. Not knowledge.
  2. Literature.  Love it or hate it, it’s still a necessary part of our lives. I am a teacher and when I teach poetry I tell my students that there are only two types of people who read poetry: other poets, and students who are forced to read it by their teachers. That’s not true, of course, but it breaks the ice. I then tell them that the reason people don’t like reading poetry is because it forces them to think. And who wants to do that? Then I ask them what pop songs they like and get some responses. Their interest in poetry usually shifts after I explain to them that songs are just poetry set to music. They already like poetry, they just weren’t aware of it (see types of ignorance number 4 above). So too with other types of literature. Reading helps relieve ignorance. But some people choose not to read because it interferes with their decision not to think about things, or it’s too much hard work.
  3. Global warming. Most people accept global warming. A few don’t. A dangerous few. They have chosen to be ignorant for commercial reasons. Because the fact of global warming interferes with their desire to make enormous wads of cash they refuse to accept the truth. These people unfortunately have the capacity to influence politicians who decide to accept their dangerous disbelief because it keeps them in power.

There are many other examples. War. Religion. Conspiracy theories. World hunger. Terrorism. Astrology. All of these stem, ultimately, from deliberate ignorance.

That’s why I became a teacher. I help take some of the ignorance away from the world. Sometimes I despair when I go on the internet and find someone touting homeopathy, or warning that the world will end next Tuesday week. But I keep trying, because deliberate ignorance can be fought and defeated.

Russell Proctor   http://www.russellproctor.com

 

Garfunkel and Oates v The Stupid

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of stupidity in the world. But I’m comforted by the knowledge that Garfunkel and Oates are there to point out exactly where it is.

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Garfunkel and Oates are the musical personas of singer/songwriters Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. I’ve listened to their album All Over Your Face (http://www.amazon.com/Over-Your-Face-Garfunkel-Oates/dp/B004VMXA46) a lot since I received it only yesterday. Ten songs about what is stupid about a lot of things, from sexual expectations to cannabis licences to sex with ducks. Yes, that’s right, ducks. Although, it’s not actually sex with ducks they claim is stupid, just the belief that it has anything to do with gay marriage.

Some people no doubt have complained about their explicit language. Even the song titles contain profanity, such as one charming number called simply Fuck You. But pointing out stupidity often requires profanity. As the American philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett commented: “…there is a time for politeness and there is a time when you are obliged to be rude, as rude as you have to be.”

These girls know about being rude, and there isn’t anyone, apparently, they are afraid to take on. This is a healthy thing, and made healthier by the insertion (they would find a great rhyme for that word) of a good deal of humour into their otherwise bitter comments.

Far removed from the angst-ridden excesses and self-guilt of someone like Alanis Morrisette, Garfunkel and Oates lay the blame for failings in the world squarely on other people’s shoulders where they belong. Morrisette might sing deep-and-meaningfully about love and relationships and connection; Garfunkel and Oates climb out of the bed and try to sneak out of the room while putting their bras on. They don’t sing about love, they sing about lust and one night stands and, well, fucking. Even pregnant women get told where to go. And it’s about time.

I pride myself on being a grumpy old man. I treat people the way they ask to be treated. As my father used to say, “Act like a mug, you get treated like a mug.” So if someone treats me like an idiot, I treat them the same way back. But I have been put in the shade by these two young women, who dare to say things that would attract more criticism were they not so fucking hilarious.

I look forward to lots more G&O.

As for the sex with ducks…just listen to the song.