Sunday, November 16, 2003

Purposeful Ignorance 

Purposeful ignorance is a term that has not gained notoriety yet, but is a common practice, a way of life if you will, for a majority of our populace.

What does this term mean? My definition is this: Someone who practices purposeful ignorance is a person who ignores the facts on an issue or situation while knowing or having a good hunch that there is a darker side to the issue. They do this knowing that there is a possibility that knowing the facts will necessitate a lifestyle or habit change, thus causing an “inconvenience” in their life.

You may say that this is ok. That “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”. Personally, I think this act of cowardice is more worthy of scorn than knowing the facts and ignoring them. Here are a couple of examples:

It is a pretty well known fact that the meat industry practices are not very upstanding. The use of hormones, antibiotics, poor feed (animal parts, garbage, etc) are rampant among the larger producers, and these practices are harmful to people who consume this meat. Books have been written (I.e.-Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser) that highlight the poor practices in the industry. I have met many people who have an inkling that there are things that they don’t want to know, and many have said to me that they “would rather not know”. Why would they say this? Why would they not want to know more about something that directly affects their health? Well, becoming informed they may have to stop eating fast food, buy organic (more expensive) consumables, essentially change their lifestyle. It’s easier for them to just not know.

The diamond industry is a pretty shady industry. It’s controlled by a corporation that is a monopoly-the US government has laws prohibiting more than a certain number of executives of this country from being on US soil at any time. Prices are driven way up because this one corporation controls the supply. Many of these diamonds come from countries that have no worker rights, therefore mine working conditions are deplorable-and the miners do not see the profits that the corp. execs do. In fact, this trade has wrought many wars and conflicts on undeveloped countries as a result of the demand for these rocks. Mutilation, murder, and exploitation are common. Most people do not want to hear any of this because they like these shiny, pretty things. They want to avoid the guilt that would result from knowing the details about the industry.

These are just a coupe of examples, but there are countless issues whose details are avoided. This cowardice propagates the problems. What if, back in the day, everyone had turned a blind eye to the way women are treated in the workplace? What if all those who had the power decided that they didn’t want to look at what was going on outside of their little bubble? What if “the Man” had ignored all the injustices being acted out against women and minorities? This is still being done in many countries, and as a result the situation is still desperate for women.

What about sweatshops? We have all these activists that donate their time in an attempt to better the condition of workers in third world sweatshops. People who attempt to get American corporations to take responsibility for their use of these sweatshops. How come no one takes up the cause of the people in Sierra Leone who were mutilated by the rebels that cut off peoples’ arms (if they didn’t kill them outright) in an effort to keep control of diamond mines? Where is the media blitz decrying this type of atrocity?

It saddens me to see so many intelligent people purposely avoiding the facts of some situations that would directly affect their lifestyle while taking up the cause of other causes that have no affect on them.

As a country, we need to wake up and realize the influence we have over the rest of the world. We need to take responsibility for the “hidden” effects our actions have on other countries and peoples. We are the most influential country in the world. We acknowledge this. Now we have to start holding ourselves to a higher standard than we hold others. We have to lose the hypocrisy and try and rectify all atrocious situations instead of simply the ones that won’t “ruin” our lives.

I say, grow up people! If you are afraid of knowing the facts, you know you are doing something wrong. Let’s take responsibility, and try to make this world (not just our immediate, cloistered world) a better place.

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Name: Corey
Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I'm on a journey with no destination. The path is constantly changing direction but there are always adventures to be had. "Never" and "always" have left my lexicon.

WWW http:/www.jimspeak.blogspot.com