As Lord Acton noted: “There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion”.
Having quoted that very useful piece of advice, it is also useful to note that ‘ignorance” and ‘narrow-mindedness’ are comparative things. We could also quote that epitome of evil and narrowmindedness Donald Rumsfield , ex-U.S. Secretary of Defence: Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones..
What we don’t know , we don’t know how to find, let alone know it when we see it!. Our human brains are re-wired from birth to only see those things that are acceptable and useful at a given moment in time. Those things that don’t fit our schema of the world are ‘unsee-able” . Combine that with homo sapiens’ endless proclivity for self-delusion, and we have billions of animals wandering this planet in a complex state of complete ignorance; all with the capacity to kill and ‘de-humanise’ many of their fellow human being and destroy countless other numbers of non-human species. The most ‘wonderful’ extreme example of that delusion is the majority of the population of the United States and its so-called ‘leaders”.
The endless cycle of myth-making in the United States starts with the hype that the United States was founded by their so-called “Founding Fathers’ to espouse justice and freedom from oppression. In reality it was founded to ensure that those who had money in the new American colony , retained and expanded that wealth. The genocide against the indigenous population of North America and the exploitation of black people, first as slaves and then as second class citizens, and the ongoing institutionalized process to keep poor people poor with the bare minimum of state support, puts the lie to those noble statements of the Founding Fathers.
Finian Cunnginham’s elegant summary of the United States’ brutal colonial policy makes it clear that the United States’ wealthy have never limited themselves to extracting profit from those less fortunate in their own populations, but has conducted a centuries’ long endeavour to extract wealth by war and terror from any country unable to defend itself from the United States’ predations.
We should note however that the United States is simply emulating its previous colonial oppressor , “Great” Britain, who in turn emulated their European neighbours’ brutal colonial drives, and which in turn , go back to the empires of Rome and beyond. Exploitation and the brutalising of those more vulnerable (and especially other species) appears to be one of those characteristics of mankind that is contagious. For the sake of the planet , we now have to eliminate that contagion.
However, as Lord Acton noted, confronting that ignorance and narrow-mindedness will not be the answer . To ensure the survival of this planet we must now work to build a world that makes it impossible for human beings to not only exploit each other- but to exploit other living entities . For living things to survive on this planet, we must all learn to co-exist.
It is now very fashionable to talk about George Orwell’s ‘1984’ promulgations from the Oceania government to its population that ‘War is peace / freedom is slavery [and] ignorance is strength.” And it would appear governments are increasingly actively engaging in this double -speak, whether using terms such as “fake news” to undermine the capacity of people to explore and understand the world, or simply through the relentless pumping out of extreme banal “news” to numb the population.
However it is important to note, that if we examine closely, we can see that all ideologies engage in this double-speak. Ideologies destroy our direct understanding of the world – our capacity as individual human beings to directly experience the joy and sanctity of other living things, of all of our glorious living world.