Welcome to the “society of ignorance.” Op-ed

I’m sure that all of us from our 30s and above, never imagined that we would have access to almost unlimited information just a click away.  Today, mankind has information at its fingertips like never before. From the classics of literature and poetry, philosophy, science, to manuals and thousands of ways to make or assemble or fix anything you want. Not even Jules Verne imagined that human beings would have this accumulation of information and knowledge for themselves. 

However, despite all this knowledge at our fingertips, we are extremely indoctrinated. We ignore that we are ignoring, and we are going into obscure sources and choosing disinformation. We have gone so far as to silence that voice that allowed our survival throughout history. That voice called “common sense,” which, by the way, has become the least common of the senses. 

The pandemic has affected us all. Above all, in the way, how we perceive our environment. Some of us to a greater or lesser extent, but it has affected us all. Every day scientists around the world publish their advances, their discoveries against the coronavirus. Still, we continue to hear cases of those who prefer to drink chlorine dioxide, who are convinced that the vaccines are to put a microchip in them, that thermometers emit radiation or that someone wants to steal the liquid from their knees. The worst-case scenario: People share this misinformation like it’s the word of God. 

Today, it is not for governments, philosophers, or religion to explain what is happening and what is happening to us. It is time for science. While understanding is not the solution to problems, I dare say it is the beginning of the solution. Our ability to understand the world is limited, but it is imperative to push that limit as far as possible. Unless we prefer to live a passive and meaningless life without questioning, reasoning, analyzing, interpreting what is going on around us.

During my time as a university professor, my students frequently questioned me about the importance of reading the classics of literature. “What good is that going to do me?” It was perhaps one of the most frequent questions.

 Since our thinking tends to be linear, and we find it challenging to face the complexity of what we are living in, the past is an excellent starting point.  The pandemic we are suffering from is an example of that disorder: we do not understand the scope and seriousness of the situation because many do not have an apparent reference. If we read about the Byzantine Empire and the “Justinian Plague,” we can put into proportion how this event ended up with no more than 40% of the population surviving. The same if we know more about the “Black Death” that decimated 60% of the people of Europe or closer in time, the so-called “Spanish Flu” between 1914 and 1919 that ended with more than 50 million human beings in the world, and like those: the “Asian Flu” H2N2, the “Hong Kong Flu” H3N2 or the Acquired Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, better known as AIDS.

Instead of learning from the past, we chose to ignore it. They ask us not to go out, and we go out. We are asked to wear face masks, and many refuse to do so, arguing that “it is their right” not to, forgetting that their right ends where another human being’s right to live begins. 

I reiterate, our way of thinking is not up to the complexity of the world we live in. Some consider the pandemic a “war” – which it is not – just as health personnel are not “heroes” of war, and this is not to diminish these professionals whose lives are on the line. It is merely a matter of measuring everything in the best possible way.

Today, we know for sure that our political systems and worse, our politicians, are very ill-prepared to identify and address latent crises, so it is up to us, and us alone, to make a difference.

The information is at hand. It is a matter of taking it. Disinformation generates ignorance, and this ignorance is as contagious and dangerous as the virus we face. In an unstable world, it makes us all more vulnerable and more fragile. That vulnerability and fragility is a consequence not of who we are but of what we do or what we fail to do.

In a world where we all see each other, compare ourselves, and have the capacity to interact with others, the boundaries of respect and tolerance have been lost. Today, the intolerant are crying out for respect and tolerance. They insult and point fingers at those who do not think and feel as they do until many succumb to the pressure and adopt positions or ways of thinking that they would never otherwise accept.

The time has come to manage the “not knowing” in our lives, starting with the humble acceptance that “we don’t know” to migrate to a knowledgable society. We must face these uncertainties, which, although we can never eliminate them, we can gradually transform them into learning.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is, among other things, the value of our freedom. Of our affections, of our routines, but, above all, three things:

Governments, and more so populists, like the United States, Mexico, and Brazil, missed something that should have been taken very seriously. This short-sightedness and deceit have resulted in millions of infections and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The human being has to revalue the role of science. Thanks to science, we have managed to live longer. In the Middle Ages, life expectancy was 32 years, in the 1800s it rose to 45 years, in the 1900s to 55 and in the 20th century to 77.

Human beings have to fight ignorance and misinformation. This is achieved through analysis, logic, and common sense. Today we live in a global village, facing constant ideological battles that, in the end, tend to be put aside when crises reach us.

As the philosopher, Slavoj Žižek says: “catastrophes are responsible for making a revolution that we would not be capable of.” How sad it is to arrive at this conclusion when we are capable of anything with only shaking of our intellectual laziness.

For The Yucatan Times / Times Media Mexico
José E. Urioste Palomeque
Merida Yucatan, Mexico
August 03 2020
Facebook – @JoseUrioste
Twitter – @PipoUrioste



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