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Ignorance is piss: What place does ignorance have in today's society? If any?

Updated: Apr 24

Written By Maya Dhanjal

Excuse the aggressively gross title, but it fits the bill of how I feel towards ignorance in today’s day and age. What does ‘ignorance’ even mean for us today and where do we get off on claiming it as a justification in society?

Image by Maya Dhanjal

As a definition ‘ignorance’ means lack of knowledge or information. In the days where information travelled via carrier pigeon and took 78-79 working days to arrive to the other side of the world, I can understand where ignorance would have a place in the biological make-up of a person. But when there is not a [grown] person alive today who doesn’t have access to some sort of technology that can find an infinite amount of information on any given topic, at any given moment, the book of excuses is scarily slim to be able to claim ignorance in our society today.

When daily news has never been more horrifying and the end of the world has never felt so nigh (sorry 1999) there is no better time than now to examine how we can all play a part in trying to fight for collective justice, however small a part that may be. There is an insurmountable need for collective self-reflection and awareness in the face of mass injustices going on across the world. These days ‘ignorance’ = blatant, active disregard for others’ suffering, since we no longer have a ‘lack’ of information available to us. ‘Bliss’ is far from what ignorance constitutes.

The concept of ignorance is tough for people to grasp because the only antidote is being self-aware enough to reflect and stare our ego in the face to admit the fact that we do not know everything, and there are things that maybe we should know that we don’t, or that there are things that we do know, that might not directly affect us which is why we deliberately ignore it. The lack of acceptance and understanding of ourselves as imperfect beings is what ignorance hinges on and to become wise to the world we must venture into ourselves to accept this inherent ignorance and actively do the extracurricular work to pull ourselves out of this pit of so called ‘bliss’. However, the sad truth is that there are a large number of people who are content with being oblivious as long as things don’t affect them directly. This is where the concept of humanity separates like oil and water.

The first step to pulling oneself out of ignorance is acknowledging our finite capacity as human beings and accepting what we do and don’t know without beating ourselves up for where we are right this second. The second step is the conscious decision to follow our morality and curiosity in the name of humanity and open ourselves up to filling the gaps in our knowledge in an active and attentive way. The second step is where a lot of people fall and don’t get up. We as humans are not good at criticising ourselves; from our unhealthy social media habits to admitting we may have ingrained prejudices. Either we don’t look deeply enough within ourselves to identify what is wrong, or we identify what’s wrong but we wallow in it and don’t make a conscious effort to drag ourselves out, often out of shame, fear of others opinions or simply because we don’t want to; which is what makes ignorance such a powerful and dangerous guise of comfort for people to cling to.

For the majority of us, our eyes are pinned to whatever comes across our screens and we can make the conscious choice every moment to scroll past things or to stop and digest. When our screens are chock full of traumatic scenes every second of the day it can be understandable that we might feel overwhelmed and highly anxious with the amount of endless and immediate news that we can access 24/7, since our brains did not evolve to handle consuming this much content with such speed. Which is why so many people claim ‘content burnout’ as the reason for their ignorance. This takes us the third step further into owning our self-awareness. Our content habits can feel out of our control and it’d be unwise to say that switching off is easy in such a chronically online world, however there is something to be said for being aware of your content consumption: how much, the type of content and how frequently you consume it. It’s arguable that the mental health effects of social media is not enough to justify being deliberately blind to what is happening around the world, since the choice of what and when to consume media is ultimately on us as individuals. However, where the Western media is inherently biased and in control of the most constant content we see - or don’t see - it has become more paramount than ever for us to go searching to find the truth of injustice where we can. It takes work to search for information ourselves, there’s no doubting that, however the importance cannot be stressed enough of keeping our eyes & ears open to be able to access this deep level of self-awareness. Even defying the recent censoring of political content from Meta, by switching the option to ‘Don’t Limit’ in our settings, takes an act of conscious and radical acceptance of choosing to keep our eyes open to what they’re trying so desperately to hide.

Now no one is saying that you must become a historian and revise and have the facts of every occurance in history ever at the front of your mind - However there are certain political and humanitarian causes and things happening around the world where the simple idea of right and wrong is hard, if not impossible, to argue with. And at the crux of it, morality should be an innate reflex in all of us as humans to know when to unequivocally agree that evil in the forms of genocide, mass starvation, torture, rape, racism, slavery, FGM, [the list goes on] is monstrous and will never be just in any way shape or form. You shouldn’t need to have memorised dates, statistics and names to be able to refute evil when it rears its ugly head. The bare minimum it takes to be a conscious participant in today’s society is the recognition of humanity as an equal experience for us all, with no qualms attached. To do anything less than accept the fundamental morality and mortality of all humans alike is accepting moving through life as a passive being in the worst way possible.

You don’t have to spray paint a political building or deface a historical art piece - But being aware of what is happening around the world and joining forces with your fellow humans to protest against injustice does more good than you can imagine. Be steadfastly motivated enough by your morality to get involved in humanitarian causes however you can. There are so many big and small ways to do this these days, so even if you don’t think that boycotting a company or showing up to a protest by yourself will do anything, if enough of us make the decision to do these things it gives us incredible strength in numbers and after all we’re better standing together than apart. It’s that simple.

Morality is just as powerful as ignorance, and if used as a collective motivator it can massively change the course of the world for the better, especially at this pivotal moment we find ourselves in. I feel that we stand teetering on the precipice of collective downfall or collective justice and at no time in history has every person on earth had so much power to make such a crucial shift in the fabric of our existence. We have to decide what our future looks like and we have to do what we can to get us there. Even if that means sharing an Instagram post or not buying a can of Coke. There truly is no contribution too small.

It’s more important than ever that we don’t switch off. We need to consciously consume and interact to keep from being desensitised and we need to band together as humans. I don’t think there’s a better time than now to encourage this radical introspection in everyone for the betterment of the present, and future, of humanity as a whole.

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