Ignorance and Fear

Socrates famously said the ignorance brings about evil in the world. He put it otherwise. He said knowledge invariably leads to goodness. I stress the obverse, but in either form he was a bit off the mark, it seems to me. I would say that ignorance leads to fear which quite often leads to violence. It is not ignorance, per se, that leads to what Socrates would call “evil.” It leads there through fear. And we are learning all we need to know about fear these days, thanks to the media, prodded by the frenzied right-wing, who have discovered that fear is an excellent way to control the population, to reject any attempts to control the sale of guns, and get such things as increased defense spending in Congress.

In a previous blog I quoted the Hanlon’s Razor that tells us “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” This is a profound adage, if you think about it. It is indeed stupidity that leads to the fear that, in turn, leads to violence. Think about it. Imagine you are in a dark house alone and you hear something drop in the kitchen. You immediately are afraid and you reach for a poker (if you are near the fireplace) or a make-shift weapon of some kind. Then you find out it was the cat who knocked over the sugar bowl and you breathe easier. Your heart stops racing and you calm down. But think about the direct and immediate connection between your ignorance of the cause of the noise and the fear you feel as a direct result of your ignorance. And one can expand on these examples endlessly and continue to imagine what might happen if you had a real weapon, say a hand gun or an automatic rifle in the drawer next to you. You might have shot the poor cat! Or your nephew. Or a neighbor who was watching television in his living room next door. Absurd, you say? Not really. It simply explains how so many violent acts are committed each day by frightened people who shoot first and think later. I say again, ignorance leads to fear which leads to violence. Not always, to be sure. But often.

And when we consider the widespread ignorance in this country fed by the fear-mongers who feed off it, we might want to pause and reflect. Consider, for example, the self-appointed guardians of our southern boundaries who are armed and ready to protect us from the hated immigrants, children though they be, who (they think) will their jobs away and cripple our economy. I have blogged about this, as I have about their conviction that theirs is a right guaranteed by the Constitution to carry those weapons and be ever-prepared to use them — even though (as I have noted in past blogs) the Bill of Rights guarantees the militia the right to carry weapons, not frightened and stupid thugs. But because many choose to read the Constitution through glasses tinted by fear and suspicion, their right is insisted upon even though it is a fiction.

As F.D.R. said long ago: we have nothing to fear but fear itself. Indeed. And its first cousin, stupidity.

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3 thoughts on “Ignorance and Fear

  1. Hugh, great post. The campaign commercials, politicians and biased news sources rely on an uninformed public. They use names or labels to evoke fear – Obamacare is akin to Nazism, e.g. Tree hugger means you don’t care about jobs. Anything you disagree with is either conservative or liberal. It unnerves people when I say I am an Independent as it does not sit well when I say I disagree with their point. I have to be labeled, so they can gain comfort that I must be wrong or misguided.

    On the gun issue, the CDC just reported the number one reason for gun deaths is suicide (of the top ten states with gun deaths, only one had more homicides than suicides). Suicides rates are 3X as great in homes with guns than in homes without. You add in the accidental shootings by kids or teens who get a hold of the guns, and I ask you who are you trying to protect against by having a gun? The CDC also noted that in the states with the most lax gun laws, violent crime rates are higher. That is the inverse of what the NRA touts.

    So, fear is a powerful sales force. And, the less informed the customers, they will buy that fear hook, line and sinker. Thanks bro, BTG

  2. nice post, hugh, and i am glad to read it via inbox, which loads better than wp pages.   i was 100 percent transported into your story and relived the night that i heard the bump in the night and was sure it was the thieves returning to steal tires or something after they had stolen the battery a few evenings before.   very slowly i came down the steps to the kitchen area… tip-toed across to the back counter.  the trooper was parked just outside the kitchen window, which was shuttered and locked.  i slowly reached for the light switch, flicked on the light… and screamed.

    a spotted skunk was on the counter, surely no more than three feet away… and yes, i scared it more than it scared me…

    surely no thief would come near my rancho for another few days!

    on a serious note, yes, you are so right.  the imagination plays tricks on us, and we often think of the worst scenario.

    ________________________________

    • I hope you (and the skunk) have recovered from the shock! Things do go “bump” in the night and we all experience moments of fear. The problem is when that fear is unfounded and especially when it is encouraged by those unscrupulous people who would dictate our behavior! Thanks, Z!!

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