Monday, June 30, 2008

Ignorance Still High in Popularity

In a day when we are inundated with absolutely endless wells of information, it seems like human nature still wants to limit us to picking information that suits us, and avoiding the rest.

I don't care if you think 9/11 was a conspiracy, if you think the Church is wrong for speaking out against gay marriage, if you think the Iraq war is a worthy cause, if you think the minimum wage should be $10/hr. There are certainly valid arguments to be made for and against each position. Yet jump in the middle of a debate between sides, and you inevitably find one side demonizing the other - usually for being ignorant, bigoted, old-fashioned, moronic, evil, etc, etc.

The result usually ends up finding us just as ignorant as people in other times who were not blessed with information at their fingertips like we have currently at ours. Taking a side, and then only trumpeting the virtues of your beliefs, while attacking those who have opposing views may make us feel more comfortable. But saying we are more enlightened and knowledgeable than our progenitors is more than likely going to be untrue.

The sad difference is that many of the ancients probably had no way to know any better. Lack of understanding because it is unavailable is one issue. Lack of understanding because of a refusal to see multiple sides of an argument, when they are right in front of you, is a more reprehensible type of ignorance.

Take the issue of gay marriage in California. The supporters of same-sex marriage seem to overemphasize their virtuous tolerance for those that are different than them. That is, unless you oppose gay marriage. The tired, trite phrase may follow - "but we cannot tolerate intolerance." And on the one hand, they are right - only they fail to recognize the intolerance on both sides.

Just as those who oppose gay marriage can be ugly, hateful, and bitter, so can those who support the embattled group of same-sex couples. But not tolerating hate is one thing. Not tolerating someone's position
even, and maybe especially, just because someone disagrees with you ends up being the same intolerance condemned in one side, but not in the other.

What I say on this issue, could probably be extended to any other: just because you oppose gay marriage does not mean there are not valid arguments to be made that gay marriage is okay, that it is a good thing. However, the converse is also true: just because you support same-sex marriage does not mean there are not intelligent arguments to be made against the issue.

These words - intolerance, bigotry, tolerance, love, marriage, and so forth, all tend to shield the real problem that is hiding in the background: we refuse to acknowledge the virtues of the other side, whichever side that may be. And it is not because there is no virtue on the other side, it is because we choose to be ignorant. And of all the ignorance, that is the worst degree possible. Human nature is a powerful force.

Driving the point home one other way: ignorance is probably just another symptom of a very corrosive characteristic that destroys people, families, and nations - pride.

"Compare the world in which we live with ancient Jerusalem and with Sodom and Gomorrah. Our world is filled with abundance and pride and haughtiness. Many people today are filled with so much pride and arrogance that it becomes almost impossible to reason with them. Hate has become so contagious among nations and individuals that reconciliation seems an impossible goal."
------Theodore M. Burton, “A Disease Called Pride,” Ensign, Mar 1971, 26------

Unfortunately, pride leads to ignorance, and not many of the "warriors" on the political battlefield are looking for reconciliation. But it is certainly not a conservative defect - it is a malady besetting too many on both sides. Until we recognize this is true, and acknowledge this is the root of any real change we might seek, the destructive influences of pride and ignorance will continue to tear us all down.

But hey, whatever's popular, right?

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