Every year the good people at dictionary.com choose one word that best captures, summarizes, and emulates the essence of the previous year. For 2017, they chose ‘Complicit’ to be Word of the Year and we agree wholeheartedly with their decision. It’s not just because it is in alignment with ShortLifeLongRoad’s ideology, but because we think complicity hinders society’s ability to make positive change in a more timely manner. Eventually we’ll discuss the subject of complicity in more depth, but we decided to select our own word to represent 2017: ignorance.
According to the dictionary, ignorance is defined as a lack of knowledge or information. This word has been thrown around a lot in the last year and has become the word of choice when describing someone, or a group of people, who don’t share the same understanding of the world as ourselves.
We chose this word because we noticed that many people have begun weaponizing it. Instead of using it as a tool to help people come to understand new information or carefully using it to describe how someone may be misinformed, it has become a verbal weapon used to belittle, demean and hurt people’s feelings. Ignorance, or to be called ignorant, has become synonymous to being called an idiot, moron, or stupid but its malicious underlying intent has become stronger than all three of those words combined.
Ignorance has become a word used to describe a state of perceived superior intelligence over someone else. It has become commonplace, even in my inner circles, to claim to have greater knowledge or understanding of any subject matter than those who have a different point-of-view or “know less” than ourselves. People have begun to believe they are better than others because they think they know more…that is not the case.
Those people, no matter what side you’re on or what you believe, don’t necessarily know less than the person shouting “ignorance!” They simply have a different set of knowledge available to them and probably know a lot more in other areas.
The point is: in one way or another, no one knows everything about anything, making us all ignorant.
We all have our opinions and beliefs but when it comes right down to it, unless we are experts in something, we don’t know shit. Sure we can be informed about current political policies or issues the world is facing but we generally get our “knowledge” or information from indirect or third-party sources that do most of the heavy thinking for us (i.e. the news often highlights pieces of information but doesn’t go line-by-line interpreting a new tax bill-they give us the gist they think we should know). Our understanding is developed by our influences, communities, and personal tastes and desires…all of which are different for every household.
We don’t think people should be attacked or labeled as ignorant because the word has become too strong. When someone calls another that word, it is meant to ridicule and stick them with a label that means they are unfit to be part of our society or influence decision-making. That is wrong. They may be ignorant in some ways, but so are the rest of us.
Let’s take for example, driving a car. Even though I ride in one almost every day, I am completely ignorant to its inner mechanisms. I am ignorant to most of cars’ history, driving a manual shift vehicle, and some of the rules of the roads (especially in other countries). That is the way we should view other people’s ignorance. Imagine if our car broke down and we took it to the mechanic and instead of helping, he/she called us an ignorant idiot that shouldn’t be allowed to operate the vehicle and refused to help. A lot of us would either be stranded or have to learn a new trade.
In reality, the mechanic is willing to explain to us in terms we’d understand what the problem is and how they intend to fix it. Society needs to operate like this.
Ultimately what we’re trying to say is that we can still recognize ignorance when it is there but don’t write someone off as being completely ignorant and incapable of learning & change. We need to be aware of our own ignorance and what causes other people’s so we can combat those who have different knowledge bases with patience and understanding, while slowly helping them grow into a foreign way of thinking–just as we would hope the more enlightened mechanic would for us.
Lastly, before we judge someone else’s ignorance we must have a firm grasp on our own and understand we experience life in infinitely different ways, and no one set of knowledge is necessarily better than the other so long as we aren’t hurting each other.
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