“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High (Psalm 82:5,6).”
Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.
I think we all agree in this day and age that those proverbs are not true. Not knowing something may keep us from worry or discomfort, but the chickens do indeed come home to roost (an idea used by poets since the Middle Ages, beginning with Chaucer).
Everyone knows that our government didn’t connect the dots on the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001. Just surfing the Internet with the phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” will bring many examples of published material that seeks to disprove this notion:
* “The American”, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, reports that the less education you have, the more back pain you will suffer later in life.
” Mercola.com, a health webzine, notes that aspartame, a common sweetener in soft drinks and other products, is the most dangerous food additive in the marketplace.
* Nat Hentoff of USA Today worries that the lack of civics teaching in the American classroom today is producing ignorance among young people that will endanger our liberties.
” The Australia Institute even has a paper that tells me that I may have not found the most suitable examples in my search! The report explains that the monopoly power of search engines and their methods of prioritizing the results could kill off one of the biggest advantages of today’s Internet: diversity in knowledge and products.
The flip side of all of this is Francis Bacon’s statement that “knowledge is power”. The Soviets knew this in World War II and implemented their understanding in a dastardly way.
Movie director Andrzej Wajda documents the murder of thousands and thousands of Polish officers in his movie Katyn, which was nominated for a “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award. It is the story of the mass executions that took place in the Katyn forest in 1940.
Anne Applebaum explains the reason for this atrocity:
The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland’s best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union’s plans to absorb and “Sovietize” Poland’s eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.
While unofficially most knew that the Soviets did the deed, the Russians themselved blamed the act on the Nazis. As Applebaum says, the episode has been the source of mistrust between Russia and Poland for decades.
In the last part of the last century, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russians admitted their role in the massacre. This had led to some healing between the two countries.
Applebaum explains Wajda’s reason for making the film now, in the new century:
Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”
A couple of scoundrels in the Bible learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that what you don’t know can hurt you in a big way. Their names were Baanah and Rekab.
These two men served the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, who inherited the kingdom of Israel, save Judah, which was in the hands of Saul’s enemy David. Baanah and Rekab were leaders of some commandos who fought against Judah.
These commanders began to see the handwriting on the wall when Ish-Bosheth’s primary general was murdered in a diplomatic mission to Judah. It was only a matter of time before David became the king of a united Israel. After all, even God was on David’s side, and all the people knew it.
One day when Ish-Bosheth’s guard fell asleep on duty, Baanah and Rekab snuck into his house, where their king was also taking a nap, and murdered him. They cut off his head as a souvenir.
Taking the head to David, they expected to get rewarded. Baanah and Rekab even invoked God’s work in the whole scheme.
They should have checked with David first. David, with the two men present, said:
“As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. (II Samuel 4:9-12).
Had Baanah and Rekab done a little research and intelligence gathering instead of going on in ignorance, things may have turned out differently for them. Instead, they acted without knowledge and paid for it with their lives.
What troubles me most about the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” falsehood is not that I in truth can be harmed by my ignorance. What bothers me is that my cluelessness can due major damage to my loved ones and others.
For example, if I do not know how to be a good husband or father, disaster is at hand. My wife and my children will suffer due to my lack of instruction and scholarship in the area of family.
The good news is that my awareness of my ignorance and it harmful effects is a positive development. It is the beginning of solving the problems I have created due to my callowness.
It is time to ditch the hubris and become a little more sophisticated in some things. It is time to begin the process of learning.
As Benjamin Disraeli, the great British prime minister of the 19th century said, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.“