They say ignorance is bliss. Ignorance generally means a lack of knowledge or belief about the world around us. According to the dictionary definition, it is a “lack of knowledge or information”. People who cherish ignorance are called ignorant individuals.
If you don’t know much or don’t care much about anything, it can be a kind of happiness. But as Alexander Pope said, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. An ignorant person can make irrational decisions that can harm not only himself, but also the whole society.
Ignorance can be very damaging in the long run, as evidenced by the saying “fools rush where angels fear to tread”. It is because those who are ignorant will not think twice before committing an act, even murder. Ignorance blurs the thought process to the point where you tend to make rash decisions.
The Buddha and all the other Great Masters of Religion have warned against ignorance. Ignorance, though difficult to quantify, can lead to a life that makes no difference between good and evil.
This is why they warned against ignorance and urged their followers to practice mindfulness.
The greatest danger of ignorance is that it can lead people down the rabbit hole of superstition. The world is very advanced today, but most people ignore basic scientific facts and the facts of life.
They will believe that a distant star or planet can influence your life and will try to adjust their life according to these planetary movements. It’s been completely debunked by the scientific community, but many people still consult their horoscope or astrologer for everything from their nuptials to their housewarming party. This addiction to superstition has become a boon to many con artists and charlatans who prey on gullible and ignorant individuals.
Surprisingly, people can also be highly educated and yet ignorant of many other aspects of life. Sri Lanka has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia, but many people believe in the weirdest superstitions that have absolutely no basis. This probably means that they did not use education to the maximum. It is also a question of education, but not of wisdom in itself. Logical explanations and reasoning are not their strengths. Indeed, they will fall in love with all snake oil sellers who pass through their ignorance and belief in various superstitions.
One would think that the widespread availability of the Internet would dispel ignorance. On the other hand, it thrives on and thanks to the Internet.
There are a number of sites and scammers on the internet who will deftly extract money from the ignorant, promising everything from an inheritance from a dead Nigerian prince to a huge Spanish lottery win.
Many people, even the most educated, fall for these scams due to sheer ignorance. You have to be witty when you surf the Internet, otherwise it is difficult to guess where you are going in cyberspace.
The education system and schools must play a greater role in eradicating ignorance. If, after 70 years of free education, many of us still believe in everything from hooniyams to horoscopes, there is something radically wrong. Virtually everyone learns science until at least grade 10 in school, but these same individuals will always fall into the most unscientific trap. Unfortunately, many teachers ignore many problems themselves. Many of them are known to tell parents to get a yanthare (talisman) for students who are late to class. It is difficult to think that they will show the right path to their charges.
Religious leaders must take more responsibility for leading their followers out of the darkness of ignorance. Today, ignorance and superstition are prevalent among Sri Lankans, regardless of community or religion. Some of the practices they indulge in due to their ignorance are totally contrary to the teachings of the Great Masters. The religious sermon should be used to dispel myths and superstitions and to lift people from the abyss of ignorance. If someone says it is a sin to engage in such practices, they may listen and stop such practices.
Ignorance can also affect the health of a society. For example, many people are completely unaware of the health consequences of Covid-19. Now that the disease has receded somewhat, they move around in crowded places as if there is no such disease called Covid. This long weekend, thousands of Sri Lankans are going on a trip without worrying about health instructions.
They will walk around without a mask without any social distancing or hand sanitizing. The public must realize that Covid still represents a clear and present danger and that they must take every precaution to avoid it.
It is in the face of this type of ignorance of the facts that the media can and must play a greater role. They should act as beacons against ignorance.
Unfortunately, the media are very guilty of spreading ignorance and superstition in this country. If you take any newspaper, there are plenty of advertisements for a number of superstitious deeds and services. Sometimes there are radio and TV shows and entire articles about these superstitious acts. This is not a healthy situation at all. The media must base their reporting on confirmed facts without interfering with messages that may actually increase ignorance in society at large.
We have to turn the search light inward and see if we ourselves are ignorant or superstitious. If so, we must put an end to these practices, however entrenched they may be among others in society. If at least a few people come out of ignorance at once, it will be a victory for science and knowledge. Ignorance is not part of the vocabulary of countries that have reached the status of developed countries. We too must give it up if we are to achieve this lofty goal of being a developed nation.