One of my greatest frustrations in life is the astounding lack of autonomy in society.
For a country of citizens who toast to individuality, we seem to heavily depend on government intervention in almost everything- roads, postal service, public education, food and health regulations, building permits, police forces, and printing money, just to name a few.
People say things like: “That’s just the way it is” and “I would rather not think about it” all the time, sometimes in the same breath. And how can one blame them when political speeches contain nothing other than false hope and large vocabulary?
The information is far too complicated for us to understand anyway; it’s best to just give it to the big guys we voted for.
Well, I have some bad news for those who choose to outsource information to the government: there is evidence that a method of public manipulation is the encouragement of ignorance in a population.
It seems unlikely that ignorance would even be a political issue, since information is more easily available to the general population than it has ever been.
The brand name Google even plays a secondary role as a verb because search engines are used so frequently to answer everyday questions, hence the term, “Google it”.
It’s baffling that so many people are deterred from learning about important information in a time of incredibly accessible knowledge.
Before we analyze the causes and implications of motivated ignorance, I would like to touch on the beauty of logic.
Logic, as its name suggests, is a rational tool of computation that the human mind uses to develop its conceptual reality.
Our brains function more efficiently when we are able to connect point A and point B in a straight, unobstructed line.
Philosophy says we come to conclusions by the means of premises, the building blocks of an argument, and we use multiple premises to come to a conclusion.
But, if the premises are fallacious, then the logical nature of the statement is irrelevant.
One example of such an argument would be: all things drop when there is nothing to support them; all things drop when they are unsupported because we expect them to; therefore, all things drop because we expect them to.
In reality, we know that all things drop because of gravity, not because we expect them to, but think of the arguments used before an apple fell on Newton’s head.
God was the only explanation for the unknown.
Even today, concepts like the soul, morals, and faith are justified through mystical means, unperceived and immeasurable by bodily senses. Why?
Why do I care about logic? Because logic is how we progressively utilize knowledge to understand reality.
First, we see things and apply meaning to them (bottle, mom, dad, etc.).
Eventually, these meanings extend beyond our first understandings, and the word table suddenly covers a variety of tables (coffee table, dining table, etc.).
Thus, we sacrifice reality if the fundamental building blocks of our perceptual reality are based on falsehoods.
It is not God who makes things fall, it is the gravitational pull of our planet’s center of mass to the objects around it.
Ayn Rand once said, “To maintain contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and evict one’s self from the realm of reality” (The Lexicon, location 5348 of 10692).
Abstaining from making decisions is just as bad as accepting ones that you know are wrong.
There is a correlation between value and the amount of psychological investment placed in a specific thing.
You or someone you know may have experienced a relationship where this is true.
“We’ve been together for so long” and “I can’t imagine life without them” are only two examples of why some choose to stay in relationships that no longer satisfy their needs or make them happy.
This mentality is often adapted in extremely abusive relationships, no matter the nature of the abuse.
Even though they may have a list of reasons for breaking up and moving on, they will place that logic aside to avoid psychological discomfort, forcing themselves to compensate their happiness so that they can live otherwise blissfully.
Similar trends can be seen when observing the nature of the government-citizen relationship.
Authors Steven Shepherd and Aaron C. Kay studied the relationship between complex information, government dependence, and avoidance of unfamiliar topics.
They found that when their subjects were given complex information on topics such as energy sources or the economy, they were more likely to be discouraged from learning more about the topic and to outsource the information to the government.
This was not true for the subjects who received information about the same topics put in simple terms, who felt that they had a sufficient understanding of what they read.
This creates a relationship where the citizen depends on the government more, and in turn, will avoid behaviors that go against their faith in the government.
Wouldn’t a government that wanted their citizens informed make it as easy as possible to spread valuable knowledge, instead of changing history in textbooks and making grandiose speeches? And when they don’t, when will more people be more interested in truth than in comfort?
Our ignorance is being extorted for power. The less we know about what is going on, the moRe opportunities for control we give to those in office.
You want change? Start collecting mental ammunition. Empower yourself with verified information.
Don’t ignore contradictory information about the government making mistakes, because the government does not always know what is best.
Stop justifying Caltrans when you see three men doing a one-man job, just because that’s the way it’s always been; don’t ignore serious questions about genetically modified food because you don’t know what GMOs are; instead of worrying over grades, question the reason behind making children learn more information than their brains are capable of handling and putting them through the unnecessary stress of a classroom.
Is this where you wish to see the human species go? Are we evolving from mindful to mindless?
I beg you to not let this be true, but, more importantly, to put a little more faith in your ability to perceive and think.
Don’t wait until the next election and cross your fingers or just give up your right as an individual to understand the world.
Start being human and distinguish fact from fiction to rationalize reality, not to hide behind avoided answers. It’s what humans do.