Ignorance & How To Tackle It

Ignorance

A lot of people see ignorance as an insult, a word with negative connotations.

I don’t.

I see ignorance as something perfectly natural.

We are ignorant before we are educated about something.

Before knowledge comes ignorance.

In other words, the solution to ignorance is fairly simple, it is knowledge usually best achieved via education.

The reason I feel this simple truth is worth harping on about is that a lot of problems in life, I believe, are mis-understood as problems when in fact they are just examples of ignorance (which we’ve already established is nothing negative, it’s just a state we’re in before we have educated ourselves about something).

Examples of Problems Caused By (or Made Worse by) Ignorance

  • Prejudices: A lot of the time, I believe prejudices such as racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, islamophobia and xenophobia are either 100% ignorance (meaning the prejudice can be removed completely if the ignorance is addressed) or are made a lot worse by ignorance.
  • Financial Problems: A lot of financial problems (e.g. debt problems, overspending, lost or poorly performing savings, bad investments, financial cons) are a direct result of ignorance (or lack of/poor financial education).
  • Buying Things You Don’t Need: Sales and Marketing these days is big business. Often people don’t even need a human salesperson to sell them something new – think of how many products these days come with a version number (and how many people as a result are constantly itching to stay up to date with the latest version). Getting the latest version of something may be something you know you don’t need but simply want so not particularly ignorance, but people are often mis-sold, up-sold or even blatantly lied to about a product or service that they really don’t need.
  • Paying Too Much for Things (e.g. Contracted Work): By definition if you’re ignorant about a certain type of work, then you won’t know without research or comparing prices what a good price is for that work. Without this due diligence (which in itself is a process tackling ignorance) you are at risk of being over-charged.
  • Needing Others to Do Things You Could Do Yourself: The list here is endless. You would be amazed how much you can actually do yourself. Isabelle and I have taught ourselves lots of things which we would previously have paid people for, and not in a flimsy way either – to a really good level. Things such as plastering, plumbing, floor-laying, building, lime pointing, joinery, painting & decorating, electrics, skills with particular specialist tools and more specific jobs as needed (such as recently when I repaired my son’s broken laptop by replacing the screen, something which turned out to be quite complex due to having to take the computer completely to pieces but which I managed quite easily in the end with the help of a few YouTube videos – this would have cost me £100 + parts if I took it to a computer shop for the same repair, instead it cost me £30 for the replacement screen which I’m sure also would have cost more if bought via the computer shop with the repair).
“If you think education is expensive, try estimating the cost of ignorance.” — Howard Gardner

Ignorance vs Any Given Problem

So actually a way we can look at solving ANYTHING, whether cultural, philosophical, financial or practical is to identify, accept and acknowledge the ignorance to start with and then to simply replace that ignorance with sufficient knowledge or experience.

Sounds easy?

To keep things simple and non-contentious, just think about something practical for the moment (anything at all, from putting up a shelf to building a house).

These days we have enough resources to learn just about anything. You would be amazed what you can learn if you put your mind to it, particularly with the internet and forums and youtube videos on just about anything you could possibly need to know.

If you’ve wondered how it’s done or how to tackle any given problem, chances are that someone else has too and you can probably find out exactly how.

The process is this:

Step 1 (Ignorance): I don’t know enough about x (I need to find out)
Step 2 (Learning): I find out as much as I can about x until I feel I’ve learned enough
Step 3 (Knowledge): I now know everything I need to know about x

Yes, it’s that simple.

… and if the task seems too big, break it down into smaller pieces.

The Tricks in Each Step

The trick in step 1 is in correctly identifying (or even sometimes admitting) the ignorance or the level of ignorance in the first place.

The trick in step 2 is in finding the appropriate resources, experience or exposure to address the problem.

The trick in step 3 is in testing the knowledge, skills, experience or new outlook and once again admitting if more of step 2 is needed. Nothing wrong with that by the way and with some things in life we never stop learning, nor should we.

Conclusion

Ignorance is no bad thing at all and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Given that ignorance is something completely natural, I believe it is something we should face up to more readily and a lot of the mis-understood major problems we have in this world at least have a chance to be solved by addressing and overcoming the associated ignorance.

In addition a lot can be achieved by acknowledging that we are ignorant in certain areas and not accepting that as something that can not be changed – i.e. the trick is in doing something about it.

We can choose to identify and address ignorance in any part of our lives, whether cultural, practical, financial or any other type of ignorance.

We can choose to identify and address ignorance.

It’s perfectly natural to be ignorant but there is always something you can do about it.

Human beings are amazing learning machines – it’s astonishing what we can achieve philosophically and practically when we have the will and the energy to do so.


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