Ignorance is no bliss
A recent survey conducted to test the level of general awareness among adult Americans revealed an alarmingly high degree of ignorance, ignorance of a few basic facts that even a primary school kid is expected to know. When asked to name a country that starts with the letter “U”, very many could not name the obvious – United States. While a few said “Yugoslavia” assuming that it might be starting with “U”, blissfully unaware that the country has long ceased to exist, many confidently gave the answer as “Utopia”! Rhyming with Ethiopia, they cannot be possibly faulted for presuming it as a country ducked somewhere in remote Africa and thus exhibiting the zenith of ignorance which is almost “Utopian” in perfection. Indians are the natives of Indiana, the number of sides a triangle could have is one or possibly none and the main religion of Israel is Israeli – these are some of the gems of profound knowledge that the well-educated, urbane Americans displayed. But if there was a prize for the bizarre answer, it would go to the youngster who, when asked as to tell the exact date of 9/11 incident, smartly and confidently replied “2nd October”!
And if a similar exercise is conducted among the educated and the upwardly mobile Indians, there would be startling revelations of the heights of ignorance we are capable of scaling that could make even the most absurd American answer, very insightful! While for large section of the population living in the Gangetic plain the language of South India is just one Madrasi, for many, there isn’t any geographical distinction between Andhra and Kerala. This ignorance easily extents from geography to national history and when a young man was asked to name the great grandfather of Rahul Gandhi, he quickly gave the most logical answer, Mahatma Gandhi !. The commonality of the surname could have prompted such a confident reply and again it is the commonality of sounds that makes communism and communalism inter-changeable and nationalism something as sweet as payasam. An Aryan is, at the best, the name of a feature film and Mohenjodaro, a rhyming word the super-star throws to woo “Ash” in the film “Robot”. All this at an age where sources like the Wikipedia provide instant and encyclopaedic information of any subject on earth!
Such a high level of ignorance borne out of total indifference towards acquiring a common standard of general awareness, which may not be of immediate relevance to every day existence, smacks at a larger malady which the societies the world-over are succumbing to. One may be highly proficient in one’s chosen field of activity and possess the skills to eke out a decent living, yet not to be informed enough about the country and the world one lives in, endangers the freedom and liberty that citizens the world over have gained through centuries of struggle. A lack of general awareness among the population can easily be manipulated by the powers that be to misrepresent facts and unleash a campaign of misinformation directed towards perpetuating an authoritarian regime or to fashion the public opinion that favours draconian laws. Large number of Americans, for instance, believed that it was Iraq who made the 11/9 attack thus legitimising the American invasion of that country in the public mind.
An informed and enlightened public is the surest guarantee to safeguard the time honoured values of freedom, liberty and justice and societies the world over have paid heavy prices for not conducting informed discourses that affect their lives and their futures. Any disinterestedness in the nation’s affairs could mortgage our fundamental rights leading to years of suppression and subjugation in the hands of unscrupulous rulers and would call for violent struggles to regain them. The recent events in many countries only point to this truth.
Entry filed under: To reflect.