I received this question a while back and I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to answer it until this moment. A whole load of shit has piled up that has led me to believe that, collectively, people kinda suck. So now it’s time to rant about society.
The question is this: Do you think ignorance is bliss? You seem like you constantly battle to get rid of your own ignorance, but can you blame someone else for choosing it?
I’m gonna address this on a few levels.
First, the few things that happened this week that have led me to doubt my faith in humanity:
-An article was written by University of Michigan senior Jeffrey MacMahon, in which he declared all females on campus to be “princesses” who need to be “protected” by the men of umich. He didn’t stop there, though. He proclaimed that we didn’t need to dress provocatively and sleep with men (yes, ignore heteronormativity here) in order to get someone to like us. We’re perfect they way we are—which, I guess, in his opinion, is a chaste and honest woman looking for a big, strong man to care for her in all of her delicate vulnerability.
-Watching 60 Minutes with my family while home for fall break, a segment on Syria prompted discussion among my family members. One of the four present proclaimed that she— okay, I narrowed it by ONE. You all knew it wasn’t my dad anyway. She said that she didn’t want to hear about all of the terrible things going on across the world. She “wanted to be happy” instead.
-A friend of a friend came out to her mother, and, while the mother came around eventually, she still claims that she will “pray for her [daughter]” to find a man.
– Five unresolved arguments with my best friend about the misogyny in Newsroom (Aaron Sorkin’s this time) that led to often-yelled “JUST WATCH IT WITHOUT THINKING LIKE MAN“‘s.
-One long unresolved argument with my parents that ends, every time, in “you just don’t get it.”
All of these things piled up this week. My patience is wearing thin. So for the next few days, if you: say something I find asinine and close-minded, if you disagree with me fundamentally on an issue that I feel strongly about, or if I find you to be nearing hopelessness in toleration and ideas of equality, you will be referred directly to this page.
Here’s how I feel:
“Ignorance is bliss” is easy. It’s simplicity and lack of thought and one-dimensional and that is fine. If you wish to remain in the dark about wars that are plaguing your fellow human beings, I am not someone who can berate you for your chosen path. I am no better than you, I don’t know your reality, I can’t force opinions on to you or even make you listen to my own. If you truly think that your existence is bettered by your lack of knowledge, then who the hell am I to force you to see any differently? As an aspiring journalist, a friend, a blogger, a daughter, a sister, all I can do is expose you briefly to issues I think deserve attention. It is your albatross to carry from there.
But (and this is a big but), the moment that your ignorance begins to affect those around you negatively is the moment that I will blame you for your lack of knowledge. If your views bring hate to a group of people, you will hear from me. If you judge others based on your own narrow worldview, I will not hesitate to start attempting to change your mind. I will write, or yell, or sit you down for a nice, long chat until you see that your ignorance has become something larger, and is now prejudice due to lack of (and unwillingness to receive) information.
Jeffrey MacMahon exhibited this in his purportedly well-intentioned article that instead was full of disrespect to women and sexist, traditional views of masculine and feminine roles in relationships. His article even hit Jezebel (for those who don’t know, Jezebel.com is a widely-read feminist EZine), and in the comment section, I found a particularly wise set of words: “benevolent sexism is still sexism” . Jeffrey may have been writing this to encourage the men of campus to treat women with more respect, he may have been thinking the whole time that he was doing us all a favor by sticking up for us like he did. Instead, he managed to offend a great portion of the campus and proved to many that ignorance regarding feminism and respect for women still has much to hope for. His privilege as a male, his inability to see past that viewpoint, made him prejudiced to 50% of this campus as frail creatures who need a man to survive a whole and complete existence. And for that, I do blame him.
For those of you who still have no idea what’s going on in Syria, for those who still have no knowledge of the Arab Spring: you can stay trapped in a glass ball your whole life but you will eventually run out of room to grow. You’ll remain one-dimensional in your fear of knowledge (and, from there, commitment) and you will never truly know empathy without aching to know and understand the pain of others. Your back, weak from a lack of practice, will break at the lightest straw. You will sleep well at night, not plagued by thoughts of those suffering so far away, or right across the street, but you will not find additional solace there. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also flat.
Therefore, you may think what you wish. You may flip your TV from Bravo to TLC, skipping all news channels in between. You may believe that a woman’s purpose is in the home, to care for her family while her husband provides and protects her and his. But the moment that those thoughts become actions that disturb the peace of another individual’s lifestyle, the respect that you give collectively or individually, or the hate that you exhibit as a result of your ignorance is the moment I blame you, your thoughts, AND your actions. Ignorance breeds prejudice, breeds hate. I have no room for hate in my life.
There are a million other things about which you can decide to be ignorant. I am not here to judge you for those things, or even to disagree with you on all of them. I may be opinionated (only slightly….) but I am also reasonable (for the most part). Don’t fear that I sit here, typing on my high horse, looking down among you all and assuming that I am so well-learned and without any ignorance at all. If you are getting that, I encourage you to read again, or to think harder at the underlying current I’m getting at here. I’m still ignorant of so, so much, and I do admit that there is much that I still struggle with exposure because not knowing would be so much easier. But I try to fight that, along with the prejudice and hate that come after it, rather than get swallowed in my own small reality.
I would encourage you to do the same.