Monday, December 5, 2016


As is her occasional wont, Janet sent out one of her multiple-recipient quotes from her late husband Isaac Asimov yesterday and I was on the list:
There is a cult of ignorance  in the United States, and there always had [sic] 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 “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.
Given the on-going horror/anger/surprise/anguish/outrage/delight over Donald Trump's winning of the 2016 presidential race on Nov. 8, the quote carries with it a series of up-to-date barbs from one point of view. Without getting terribly specific, Trump's stream-of-consciousness campaign volume dissed a great deal of what the intellectually-inclined held dear. Women, immigrants, outsourcing of jobs, racism and a host of other issues were just the surface of what he was willing to trash. Never with much intellectual specificity, mind you, but with enough so that a lot of people just knew what he meant. Hard-working, church-going, health-care strapped, three-job-holding Americans had had enough.

For some time, I have felt that drugs has skewed the activities of the ignorant ... and the smart ... but slowly it becomes clear that blaming drugs is too easy:
US police have arrested a man wielding an assault rifle who entered a pizza restaurant that was the target of fake news reports it was operating a child abuse ring led by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her top campaign aide.
Also worth considering is the sensitivities [enforced ignorance] of ....
"To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"  have been suspended from the curriculum in some Virginia schools, after a parent complained about the use of racial slurs.
But back to the quote: I find myself not quite convinced: On the one hand, ignorance can be unspeakably cruel, confining, consoling ... and just plain dumb. I find it unspeakably stupid, for example, to dislike a person just because of his or her color or sex and that stupidity deserves a slammed door from where I sit. I also find it pretty damned dumb to deny history.

And yet the quote would not resonate, I suspect, if those laying claim to intelligence didn't sometimes smugly overlook the ignorant and less-fortunately endowed. Kindness is lovely ... if you can afford it, if the kids aren't hungry, the bills unpaid.

No, "ignorance" is not as good as "knowledge," but it is a knowledgeable person who is likely to know this. It is the knowledgeable who must learn to exercise the patience and courage to turn back to the tide of ignorance. This means education and a certain comfort level. The knowledgeable get tired of saying "no" and the ignorant get tired of being said "no" to.

Never mind ... I'm losing the thread of this argument. I guess maybe smug-dumb and smug-smart both make my teeth itch.

Color me Dumbo.

1 comment:

  1. What is not explicit in most of the ignorant / knowledgeable arguments (especially in what passes as post election analysis on TV) is that both morality and compassion are what are missing not simply information.

    The lack of knowledge is no excuse for at least fundamental (e.g. 10 Commandments) morality; nor is it an excuse for a lack of compassion. Possessing extensive knowledge does not excuse one from being moral and compassionate.

    Hatred and cruelty have increased in this country as a direct result of Mr. Trump's campaign. Trump's cabinet picks seem to be deliberately designed to further inflame many of our fellow citizen's propensity to hatred and violence. News reports indicate it has been successful.