Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Ignorance Is Not a Virtue

If there is one thing that really ticks me off is other people telling me what’s good or bad for me, and what I should or shouldn’t do. The other thing I find equally annoying is people who allow themselves to be blindly guided by the rules set by others and moreover get offended if other people don’t also comply with the same rules.

It is not because I am by nature rebellious or anti-social, but given this wonderful thinking machine that we’re equipped with in the form of the brains and that we humans are supposed to be the epitome in Evolution’s millions of years travails to attain the perfect species on this planet or (for the religiously minded) created in our Maker’s image, I cannot help but think that sometimes not only are we underutilising our intellect and capacity for thinking, but we deliberately undermine those very abilities for no other reason than sheer laziness.

And when it is our leaders or persons of influence who indulge in this mental laxity, is it any wonder then that instead of progressing, when it comes to basic rational thinking, we can still encounter beliefs, attitudes and responses that are practically medieval in nature. Except the digital age is making the stupidity a lot more pervasive, while democracy ensures that ignorance is also the domain of the ruling elite and a reality that we have to endure and play by.

What, for instance are we to make of some Ulemas’ paranoid objection to the film 2012 and the burning of DVDs of the film by some elementary school children, other than knee-jerk responses of some minds faced with something they have absolutely no clue about. I guess for dull minds the easiest response is to reject, if necessary with some forms of violence: because it hurts their heads to allow the light of knowledge shine into gray cells and expand their corseted intellect.

Hence their propensity for proscribing just about anything they cannot wrap their little minds around. Don’t do this, don’t do that. Don’t read this, don’t watch that. And if you ask them, ‘why?’ they tell you not to ask questions because then you’ll go to hell or box your ears. It is hardly surprising that the number of dull-witted people increase with each coming generation. When teachers have little knowledge the pupils feed on barren ground.

The sad thing about people of little knowledge, however, is their tendency to cling on to whatever petty belief system they have and shove it down other people’s throats as if their life depends on them. In a way, I suppose it does. For any sign of doubt or hesitation is tantamount to the end of life as they know it, who they are and what they stand for.

As such the basis of their beliefs is fragile because it is founded not on real faith that is the fruit of wisdom, the pursuit of understanding or the result of self-knowledge. Instead it is based on wilful ignorance, second-hand knowledge and parochialism.

Banning would not only increase the popularity of the film (and boost the sale of pirated DVDs), but elevate the importance of the film to something other than a fun and sensational form of entertainment. It is also a lazy way of dealing with new ideas and a sure recipe for stunting a developing critical faculty.

I dread to think what sort of people incite elementary school children to engage in burning books and DVDs as a show of protest over the showing of a film that they’re most likely too young to comprehend and I shudder to think what sorts of adults those children would grow up into if their taught response to any new ideas is to destroy them like some deadly disease.

Do they really think anything good would come out of their action other than proclaim their pitiful intolerance and narrow-mindedness? If anything it teaches them to legitimise violence and vandalism as an acceptable form of social discourse and mode of expression. And more dangerously, take away their natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge about the world.

It would be a lot more constructive for them and the teachers to make an outing of watching the film together and turn it into an interesting project for class discussion. Perhaps it is also a good opportunity for both teachers and pupils to learn a bit of history and culture, to surf the web for as much information about it and to do a practical criticism or debate on the content and quality of the film itself.

This way they might even have fun and actually use their brains to learn something useful in the process. The two things which, by the way, are rarely found in most of this country’s school-rooms.

(Desi Anwar: First published in The Jakarta Globe)


  1. Hello Ibu Desi... I agree with what you covered on your writing. We as a country still think backwards. And we will continue to do so if the weak such as kids are to be degraded continually in terms of receiving prohibition by parents or religious people in, even if we think it is, what seems to be illegitimate according to the belief system without having to explain the rational reason behind it. At least they got to be allowed to exercise their critical faculty so that they can really analize and choose for themselves whether things are tolerable or not. This also impedes the capability of today's generation to express freedom of speech when every little idea or thought is curbed by parents or fundamentalists away without, just like you wrote, explaining the whys to them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and look forward to reading more of your writing.

    God bless!

  2. I enjoyed to read your article,Desi! Good that there are, in life, such people like YOU! Michael http://trueknowledgeispower.blogspot.com/


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