Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Ignorance and Stupidity

This will be my 2000th blog. That, of itself, should tell you something about ignorance and stupidity. For something that started out as little more than a “lark,” it has proven to be remarkably enduring. All things must come to an end, but not quite yet.

It is, as you all probably know, possible to be ignorant, even extremely ignorant, but still not be stupid. The people I lived with for a time in the New Guinea Highlands in the 1960’s were incredibly ignorant when compared with most other people. In a culture in which there was no television, no magazines, no newspapers, no radio, and very limited contact with the outside world, how could they not have been ignorant? Ignorant, that is, of things that were commonplace to most Europeans, like manufacturing, automobiles, airplanes, history, literature, sociology, and whatever. They were not, of course, ignorant about those things they needed to know about their own environment, the flora and fauna they depended on, how to raise pigs and deal with their enemies, and so on. Even though they were in our terms ignorant, even remarkably so, except for a couple of rather extreme and pretty obvious cases, I did not think of them as being stupid. I must confess it was a challenge to try to explain to them that the U.S. (They were dimly aware of Australia, but the U.S. was not at all familiar to them) was about to launch a chimpanzee (there are no apes or monkeys in New Guinea) into space (into the sky above them!) on a rocket ship (they had seen and marveled at small airplanes, but of course had never seen Flash Gordon). I had to try this only because some friends had sent me Life magazines and, although none of them could read, they did look at the pictures. Needless to say, they thought I was absolutely crazy.

But just as it is possible to be ignorant but not stupid, it is equally possible to be both ignorant and stupid. Ignorance means you simply lack information about things, stupidity means something like obtuse, lacking good judgment, an inability to reason, or some such thing. It seems to me that in Wisconsin we have a case where there are individuals in power who are apparently both ignorant and stupid. Someone recently observed that Governor Walker seems not to have ever read a history book. I believe this may be true. In that case he is ignorant of past revolutions, and also ignorant of the history of labor relations in the U.S., and more specifically, in Wisconsin. But I find it difficult to understand what has happened in that unfortunate State unless it is a result of both ignorance and stupidity.

Consider the fact that of all the States in the Union Wisconsin has the longest and finest history when it comes to collective bargaining and union rights. Consider also the citizens of Wisconsin are pretty typical Americans. Typical American citizens, as far as I know, still believe in democracy, and believe both in the right to assemble and certainly in the right of free speech, and as a result of that they also believe in unions and collective bargaining. While Walker (and his supporters) might be able to claim ignorance of history, it is impossible to believe they were ignorant of the thousands upon thousands of Wisconsin citizens demonstrating against their policies, ignorant of the 14 Democrats who left the state in protest, and also ignorant of the rules of Wisconsin politics, as well as the situation they found themselves in. Thus for Governor Walker and his Republican cronies to think they could just arbitrarily, unilaterally, and dictatorially, take away the right of workers to participate in decisions having to do with their work, their lives, their right to collectively bargain, and, indeed, their very well-being, can only be seen as just plain stupid. Bubblehead’s blog, says what needs to be said, “The Stupid Shall be Punished.” They will.

Republican stupidity goes far beyond what is happening in Wisconsin (and other States that are attempting much the same thing). That is, if their goal is to see a Republican President in 2012 and get themselves re-elected, they are acting pretty stupidly. While they are supposed to be trying to create jobs they are actually proposing measures that will eliminate even more jobs. While they rant and rave incessantly about the national debt, they are proposing measures that will obviously increase it. While Roe vs Wade is the law of the land, and is certainly favored by a majority of American women, they are trying to repeal it once again. While claiming to not want government interference in our affairs they are attempting to interfere in the lives of women and how they control their bodies, and while they moan about the lack of bipartisanship they refuse to cooperate on even the most vital of our current needs. They are in favor of doing things that are demonstrably environmentally harmful, and they are opposed to virtually anything that will better the lives of the middle class. If they want to promote their ideology at any cost, let them, but if they want to get re-elected and defeat President Obama, what they are doing is just plain stupid. I hope they will persist.

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