Ending ignorance | Sunday Observer

Ending ignorance

16 January, 2022

They say that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance generally means a lack of knowledge or belief on the world around us. According to the dictionary definition, it is a “lack of knowledge or information”. People who cherish ignorance are called ignorant individuals.

If you don’t know much or if you don’t care much about anything, it can be a sort of bliss. But as Alexander Pope said, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. A person who is ignorant can take irrational decisions that can harm not only himself or herself, but also the entire society.

Mindless decisions

Ignorance can be very damaging in the long run, as evinced from the saying “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”. This is because those are ignorant will not think twice before committing any act, even a murder. Ignorance muddles the thinking process to the point where you tend to take mindless decisions.

The Buddha and all the other Great Masters of Religion have warned against ignorance. Ignorance, though difficult to quantify, can lead to a life that sees no difference between good and evil.

Hence they have warned against ignorance and urged their followers to practice mindfulness.

The biggest danger of ignorance is that it can lead people down the rabbit hole of superstition. The world is very advanced today, yet most people are ignorant of the basic scientific facts and facts of life.

They will believe that a distant star or planet can influence your life and try to adjust their lives according to those planetary movements. This has been thoroughly debunked by the scientific community, but many people still consult their horoscope or astrologer for everything from their nuptials to housewarming. This reliance on superstition has become a real boon for many scammers and charlatans who prey upon gullible and ignorant individuals.

Surprisingly, people can also be highly educated and yet ignorant of many other aspects of life. Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia, but many people believe in the weirdest superstitions that have absolutely no basis. This probably means that they have not made the maximum use of education. This is also a question of having an education, but no wisdom per se. Logical explanations and reasoning are not their strong points. Indeed, they will fall for any snake oil salesmen that happen to go by due to their ignorance and belief in various superstitions.

One would think that the widespread availability of the Internet would dispel ignorance. On their other hand, it is thriving on and because of, the Internet.

There are any number of sites and scammers on the Internet who will skillfully draw money from the ignorant, promising everything from the inheritance of a departed Nigerian prince to a huge win at the Spanish lottery.

Many people, even the educated ones, fall for these scams due to their sheer ignorance. One should have one’s wits about when surfing the Internet, otherwise it is difficult to guess where one is heading in cyberspace.

The education system and schools must play a bigger role in stamping out ignorance. If, after 70 years of free education many of us still believe in everything from hooniyams to horoscopes, there is something drastically wrong. Practically everyone learns science at least till Grade 10 in school, but these self-same individuals will still fall for the most unscientific baloney out there. Unfortunately, there are many teachers who are ignorant of many issues themselves. Many of them are known to tell the parents to get a yanthare (talisman) for students who lag behind in class. It is hard to think that they will show the correct path to their charges.

Religious leaders

Religious leaders must take more responsibility for leading their followers out of the darkness of ignorance. Today, ignorance and superstition are widespread among Sri Lankans regardless of community or religion. Some of the practices they engage in due to their ignorance are totally against the teachings of the Great Masters. The religious sermon must be used to dispel myths and superstitions and to drive people out of the abyss of ignorance. If someone says that it is sinful to engage in such practices, they will perhaps listen and stop those practices.

Ignorance can affect the health of a society too. For example, many people are blissfully unaware of the health consequences of Covid-19. Now that the disease has somewhat receded, they go about in crowded places as if there is no such disease called Covid. This long weekend, thousands of Sri Lankans are going on trips with nary a thought for the health guidelines.

They will go about sans masks without any social distancing or hand sanitizing. The public must realise that Covid still poses a clear and present danger and that they have to take all precautions in order to evade it.

It is with regard to this type of ignorance of facts that the media can and should play a bigger role. They should act as beacons against ignorance.

Rather unfortunately, the media are very much guilty of propagating ignorance and superstition in this country. If you take any newspaper, there are plenty of advertisements for any number of superstitious acts and services. Sometimes there are radio and TV shows and entire articles on these superstitious acts. This is not a healthy situation at all. The media must ground their reportage in confirmed facts without dabbling in messaging that can actually increase ignorance in the wider society.

We have to turn the search light inwards and see whether we ourselves are ignorant or superstitious. If it is so, we have to stop those practices, however ingrained they may be among others in the society. If at least a few people emerge out of ignorance at a time, it will be a victory for science and knowledge. Ignorance is not in the vocabulary of countries that have reached developed status. We too have to give it up if we are to reach that lofty goal of being a developed nation.