What would be the outcome if we were able to personify Ignorance and Stupidity into the form of two WWE wrestlers and throw them in an arena for a serious Smack-Down match? To answer this question properly begs a thorough definition and differentiation between our two characters, because the negative attributes of “stupidity” should never be confused with those of “ignorance”, a totally different and curable malady. The defining characteristic of ignorance is the absence of the specific information necessary to make the correct, or best, decision. As children, we are, of course, ignorant of just about everything. We know that food is good, the discomfort of a poopy diaper is bad, and the large purple dinosaur on the TV has yet to be determined as frightening or simply annoying. As we grow, under the watchful eyes of competent adults, our forgivable ignorance is supplanted by new, and sometimes useful, information. Such admonitions as: “don’t run with sharp objects”, “don’t eat sand” and “don’t stick your tongue in the light socket” provide us with some of the information necessary to help us survive, at least to adolescence.
If we are lucky, we are assisted along our path of life by a trustworthy inner circle of family and friends totally devoted to our best interests. It is at this point where the choo choo train of intellect can become derailed. Many of us continue to accept information imparted to us by our trusted cadre and ask no questions in return. This faith is extended as we mature and our circle of trust may come to include entities that do not necessarily have our best interests at heart.
We see examples of these unreliable entities everyday:
- The smiling guy in the sun costume on TV, who is trying to convince you to chow down on grease-infused tubes of anonymous animal parts.
- The clean-cut State Assemblyman who swears that continuing tax breaks to the wealthy (particularly the wealthy that contribute to his campaign) will create new and better paying jobs for the little guy. Money will just stream out of the overstuffed pockets of the wealthy and trickle down like a sunny shaft of gold onto our heads. (You may notice that the golden trickle-down from above is moister than expected and smells a little like ammonia.)
- The American Educational System, which despite the sincere best efforts of the large majority of teachers, is hampered by corporate billionaires who think throwing money at charter schools gives them the right to dictate methodology. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Bill Gates.) Also,we need to face the fact that we live in a country that prioritizes the production of Stealth Bombers that go for over $737 million a piece (on sale!) over creating a nation of citizens who can actually think past the intellectual ability of a Third grader.
- The proponents of Fundamentalism, whose theologies, at their best, have still not gotten beyond the idea that Copernicus might have been right about that “earth-spinnin’-’round-the-sun thing”, not to mention the notion that dinosaurs died out during a 4000-year-old flood. I may seem unfeeling, but I find the picture of the mammoth heads of Mr. and Mrs. Tyrannosaurus barely above water, their teeny-tiny arms flailing away as they try to close the gap between them and an uncaring arc, pretty freaking funny. At their worst Fundamentalists use their various books to support misogyny, child abuse, intolerance and (although not the mainstream in America) lopping off the heads of blasphemes, infidels, and dangerous archeologists.
Although the ones we identify as Ignorant might allow themselves to be manipulated by these Four Horseman of the Bamboozle, if supplied with new enlightening information, there is a least a chance that they can start to see though the charade and maybe even begin to ask questions. Whereas Stupid’s tendency is to dismiss any “scientific claptrap” or “elitist ideas” in favor of the easier course: a smooth, straight road free of intellectual clutter. The path might lead directly over a bubbling volcano, but at least Stupid can step into that deadly chasm with a smile on his face and the unshakable faith that Adam and Eve, Fox News, the Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Defense and the Politico-Corporate elite in general are all working in unison to make America great again.
However, let us return to our “Ignorance versus Stupid Smack-Down”. I am quite confident that if Ignorance and Stupidity could indeed be personified for a wrestling match that, even if Stupid had the swiftness of Rey Mysterio, the size of Andre the Giant and the muscles of The Rock himself, I would still bet all my money on Ignorance to win. The thing Ignorance has going for him is that with Ignorance anything is possible. He’s not ruling anything out, because he is simply not aware of what he doesn’t know! Where Stupid may get irrevocably tangled in the wrestling ring’s ropes, Ignorance might take a while to find his way into the ring, but there’s a good chance he’ll get there eventually. Where Stupid will try all sorts of India-Rubber-Man kind of moves to pin his adversary and end up a discombobulated human pretzel, Ignorance is the kind of wrestler that picks up a folding chair, bashes his opponent in the head and then shrugs his shoulders and says. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t know there was a rule about that sort of thing.”
Remember, anything Ignorance does can’t be held against him… He’s Ignorant! It’s his Raison D’etre . Whereas Stupid? Well, to quote one of the great fictitious Ignorant Americans of all time, Forrest Gump: “Stupid is as Stupid does.”
With Ignorance there is always hope,
…but there ain’t no cure for Stupid.