Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Era of the Ignoramus in The Age of Ignorance

My young grandson was watching me from the back seat of the car as I navigated through the streets. After some time he asked, “Grampa, why do you keep moving the steering wheel?” I explained that I had to do that to keep the car on the road; that the wheels were always being turned a tiny bit by bumps and unevenness in the road and I had to turn them back to keep a straight path. Furthermore, the road was not straight so I had to adjust continually to stay on it.

I’ve often thought that anytime we set out on a journey, on foot, by car, or in an airplane, we spend most of our trip off target; if we continued in the direction we are going at almost any particular moment we would miss our destination by a larger or smaller degree. We navigate by constant reassessment and adjustment. In the end, however, if we have made the necessary adjustments along the way, we arrive at the destination we desired. When asked how the trip went, we reply, “Perfect, I came straight here with no problem at all,” ignoring the thousand corrections it took to get us there.

It isn’t only in our physical travels that adjustments are required to get us to a correct destination. If we expect to arrive at the truth about anything, the “steering wheel” of our mind must also be constantly in motion, adjusting to changing conditions and new information. Refusal to make a correction in our thinking is just as disastrous as rigidly holding the steering wheel of the car or the rudder of the airplane in one position. Still, we all know those who take pride in the inflexibility of their opinion; who, in fact, ridicule those who take account of information not directly within their line of sight. “Broadminded,” they sneer at anyone who dares consider all the available information.

If we were omniscient, it would be a sin to doubt ourselves, but since we are not “all knowing,” it is a sin not to question our judgments, consider alternatives, entertain the opinions of others, weigh our conclusions, seek direction. Ignorantia juris non excusat. Ignorance of the law does not excuse. That is true whether the law being ignored is a statute on the law books, a law of nature, or simple common sense. Ignore the truth and it will bite you in the backside.

We are in the Era of the Ignoramus. Not just the stupid, or even the arrogant, both hard enough to endure, but the ignorant, who choose to ignore information that could correct their course and lead them to useful and true conclusions. Sadly, these are the men and women who lead our government, are the captains of our economy, the icons and idols of our social institutions, and yes, even the pastors, evangelists and theologians of our churches. They are ideologues and opportunists with their hands clenched tightly on the steering wheels of our society, willing to drive over the cliff rather than admit that they are off course; rather than make the adjustments needed to arrive at a good end.

We need to take away the keys from such as these. They are drunk on greed, power, and self-adulation. At the very least, we must cease to ride with them. Better still, refuse them the right to drive at all. We can do it; we can take away their keys by the choices we make individually, at the ballot box, in the market place, at the bookstore, at the theater, in front of the T.V., and in our choice of the faith community and faith leaders we associate with. If we allow the ignorant, the arrogant, the greedy, the self-promoting, self-congratulating, self-serving, self-rewarding, self-indulging, to stay in the driver’s seat, then we are ignoramuses ignoring ignoramuses, and the Age of Ignorance will go on.

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