Ignorance is bliss.
When you hold onto what you believe, you can dismiss anything comfortably. This comfort is the heart of ignorance.
But it is that comfort that stagnates life.
Climate Change? Discomfort, therefore it isn’t real.
Globalization? Discomfort, therefore it must be stopped.
Privilege? Nah, if that were true then I did not earn my space in life, and that is discomforting.
Systemic Inequity? The Constitution says we are equal, so I don’t have to feel guilty when outcomes are not equal. It’s pretty uncomfortable winning a rigged game, but winning is good, so the game can’t be rigged. I mean, who wants to feel bad? I’m a good person, therefore what I do must be from a good place.
Perhaps this explains why so many people enjoy ignorance: they would prefer to hold their beliefs rather than be correct. More specifically, they would prefer to think of themselves as correct than to actually be correct.
And for a while, information was contextualized by environment. You likely knew the same things your neighbors did, and few things beyond that. A sort of “common sense” that unfortunately still pervades our culture.
Yet now we live in a world where information has few ideological gatekeepers. The Internet has allowed younger generations to question the beliefs forced on them.
Millennials embrace many of the taboos of the past because they have engaged in a form of life-long learning not available to previous generations. Today, children can question their upbringing and surroundings by checking the super computer in their pockets. My father relied on the collective beliefs of his community. His information was funneled through his community. It was easy to have a simple life with simple things: a predictable life. You knew what you knew and it would always be what you knew. But now? You have to prove it. You have to answer “why?” And many non-millennials struggle to answer that question, especially managers and executives. “That’s just how we do it” doesn’t hold up in a learning-driven world with open sourced information.
Learning helps us to answer why. It gives us the opportunity to check our starting points. See what we think of the world and our place in it.
As I reflect on my recent graduation from Graduate School, I realize how powerful learning is, and how necessary it will be for our culture to embrace learning over beliefs and truth over opinion.
Unfortunately it can take a lifetime of learning to figure out the difference.