Why Ignorance Is Not Always Bliss: The Dangers Of Being Oblivious
by Sheryl Teoh. |
We’ve all heard this trope before; from the patient who doesn’t want to know that he’s terminal, from the wife who doesn’t want to know that her husband is unfaithful, from people who willfully avoid watching the news to shield themselves from the unpleasant truths – ignorance is bliss. It is true that sometimes being oblivious could save us a lot of excessive worrying, anxiety and sadness. However, more often than not, obdurate ignorance causes us more harm than being aware and able to take action.
1. Sweeping problems under the rug can worsen them
There is another aphorism that we are all familiar with – knowledge is power. What this power implies is the ability to make the best judgments out of a situation and to make decisions that deal with it in the most effective and optimal way. We could all turn a blind eye to the effects of climate change and continue denying its existence, but all that does is hasten the process of irreversible damage to our environment as we continue indulging in activities that harm the earth. A person might feel less awful if they didn’t realize that they were being cheated, but that could result in serious financial loss that could have been averted. Law enforcement officials will not acquit you of your offences because you were not aware of the law. It is in fact, your duty to be informed and cognizant.
2. It has detrimental effects on society
One could argue that if someone chooses to be happy even at the expense of personal harm, it is their prerogative to do so. However, the cost of being ignorant is not limited to the individual. There are circumstances where the lack of knowledge and information has detrimental effects on others, and on a larger scale, leads to dysfunction and exploitation in a society. This is best exemplified in a democracy, where the people are given agency to choose and vote for government legislations and parties on the assumption that people know what is best for themselves. In such a situation, citizens would reap the most benefits from the system by being well-informed and well-educated so that they choose people who can best represent their interests. On the other hand, ignorance may lead to exploitation and manipulation by those who are in power. For example, political parties could incite racial divide through false rhetoric in order to gain supporters and political influence.
Furthermore, ignorance of those who are in power can also be highly damaging to a society. If a society is governed or led by people who are misinformed, uninformed and ignorant, the people would suffer under ill-advised and under-researched administrative decisions and regulations. In the same vein, parents who are ignorant could cause serious harm to their children. The anti-vaccination movement is one such example of how the rejection of scientific facts over one’s religious beliefs due to ignorance can take a toll, not just on their own children, but also on the general public by triggering a rise in diseases that have otherwise been eradicated.
Source: The Straits Times
3. It hinders self-development
We can choose to be ignorant in order to be happy, but this happiness is most likely to be short-lived with potentially devastating consequences. Being ignorant does not stop an undesirable event from happening; it just takes away any possibility of solving the problem and the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. It might temporarily bring some false sense of relief and comfort, but ultimately, one is bereft of true satisfaction and self-development. Personal growth is hindered by the lack of exposure to or the deliberate evasion of problems as well as the self-deprivation of knowledge. Ignorance in an age where information and knowledge is so widespread and readily available is a form of self-handicapping; it is to rob oneself of a tool that is important for self-preservation and improvement.
That is not to say that the phrase has no truth to it. Ignorance is bliss is true when the situation is unalterable and the conclusion is inevitable. Take, for example, the case of a mortally wounded patient. Further medical intervention is unlikely to be able to reverse the damage and the patient is most certainly going to die. Perhaps then it would be kinder and more compassionate to hide the direness of his circumstance to avoid causing him unnecessary pain and suffering.
Thus, ignorance is not always bliss, and as Immanuel Kant articulated in his essay ‘What is Enlightenment’, sapere aude, dare to know or dare to be wise. Have the courage to seek knowledge and understanding, and have the wisdom to make opinions and decisions based on truths and information.
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