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A discussion on one of my favorite forums brought up the recent Swiss plebiscite banning the construction of future minarets in that country. This, in turn, reminded me how pissed off I have been about radical Islam, particularly since 2001. Looking at a website like www.thereligionofpeace.com, it's easy to get whipped into a lather and fall into the trap of deciding that Islam itself is the greatest enemy to global security that the world has ever known. That's the easy road, and history tells a different story.

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm no fan of Islamic theology, because I think it tends to be narrow-minded, exclusionary and oppressive. That said, people have the right to believe and live as they choose. But from a perspective of a thousand years, Christianity has probably been guilty of just as much terrorism as Islam... they just called it the Crusades.

There have been centuries of relative peace and coexistence between the world's great religions. But every now and then, men and women lose touch with their basic humanity, and just seem to go crazy. The enemy is not a particular faith, doctrine or ideology... the enemy is ignorance.

Ignorance breeds radicalism, intolerance, insecurity, hate, segregation and oppression. It fosters an us-versus-them mentality, and leads people to treat one another as objects rather than fellow sojourners on this tiny globe we call our home. The result is wars, want, crime, poverty, and increased susceptibility to disease.

There is no way off this pale blue dot, not for centuries at least. With incredible good fortune, and enough time, we might manage to terraform Mars and Luna, but even that wouldn't solve the root cause of human misery; the only way to avoid sinking back into the barbarism of the darkest times in history is to continue the fight against ignorance.

There's an old bit of doggerel, repeated in many forms over time, which says

He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a fool: Shun him.
He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a child: Teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep: Awaken him.
He who knows and knows that he knows, is wise: Follow him.


Ignorance falls into the first category. It is not the same as uneducation, which can be remedied - it's more insidious, a willful closure of the human spirit to growth and expansion. Interestingly enough, each of us tend to move through all of these categories many times in the course of our lives; indeed, I can be a genius in the morning, in a stupor at lunch, an ass at dinnertime and a world leader in the evening.

Ignorance is our unexamined belief systems, developed in our earliest days, whispering to us that we're not enough, that we're not capable, that we have no value, and that the only way to remedy this is to snatch what we can in life, to the exclusion of those around us. Ignorance tells us that it's not enough for us to win - it tells us that everyone else has to lose.

For humanity to reach its ultimate destiny, whether that be here on our home planet, or somewhere out amongst the stars, each of us must come to a point where we understand that we are enough, just the way we are. Utopia is not unlimited wealth for everyone or freedom from disease, or a perfect climate year-round, not that these things wouldn't be lovely... it comes from people living in a society where they are at peace with themselves and with one another, regardless of their surroundings, people who understand that suffering is optional.

In the autumn of my life, I have chosen to adopt Richard Buckminster Fuller's dream, of a world that works "for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone." Defeating individual and societal ignorance is the key to the "spontaneous cooperation" part - there's no way we can achieve the dream if everyone tunes their spiritual radios to WIFM (what's in it for me).

We are not human havings, or human doings. We are human beings. What we are, how we behave, how we interact with our fellow travelers is what propels us upward towards the light, or drags us down into darkness.

Ignorance is the enemy. Let us fight it for as long as we have breath.

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Comments

r_caton
Nov. 29th, 2009 11:33 pm (UTC)
They are the children of man...
the boy is Ignorance, the girl is Want
Beware them both. But the boy most of all.

Dang it, I should check out the actual quotes....
ccdesan
Nov. 29th, 2009 11:42 pm (UTC)
And of course I thought of that at once, having just seen that heart-thumping ride - but as I was composing this little essay, the quote just didn't happen to come out.

Close 'nough for me to know what you were referring to... and wuzn't those little beasties terrifying, though?
dhlawrence
Nov. 30th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
A conservative blogger with the Daily Telegraph I follow commented on it, warning of the after effects it would lead to. You would be amazed at some of the comments to his post (I really need to stop reading those).

I can understand zoning regulations against it, but doing it just because it's Islam is just sad--especially for Switzerland!
torakiyoshi
Nov. 30th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
I rather agree, though, with Socrates, that the beginning of widsom is an understanding of one's ignorance. He was put to death for telling the wise men of Athens that they knew nothing-- because they chose to remain in ignorance. And I think that's where you separate the wise from the foolish. He who knows naught, and knows that he knows naught-- and chooses to do nothing about it, that is the fool. He who knows naught and knows that he knows naught and fights to learn more, that is the one who is truly wise. On the contrary, he who knows, and knows that he knows, is often just as foolish as the one who remains ignorant, because he is arrogant and does not use what he knows to anyone's advantage save his own. Socrates knew that, and yet he willingly drank the hemlock because he knew he could not win against the ignorance of the intelligent.

-=TK
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
Ignorance?
Unfortunately, what one person believes is ignorance may differ from what another person believes is ignorant: hence, the battle lines are drawn.
secoh
Nov. 30th, 2009 06:20 am (UTC)
Try and build a pub in Egypt and tell me about intolerance and ignorance.

While I agree with the post in regards to ignorance, when one is talking about very old countries with their own traditions, it becomes less about religion and more about keeping with that country's way of life.

One would not go to Swizerland and expect to see wall to wall (roof to roof?) minarets, as one would not go to Egypt to see wall to wall strip clubs and drinking houses. And if you lived in either place, you would be upset to see the landscape radically changing.

They haven't said they have to pull any down, only that they cannot build more.

Someone drew a cartoon of Mohammed and the muslim world exploded in shock and disgust.
Some muslims bashed a Sydney surf lifesaver trying to rescue someone, and the Muslim world exploded in shock and disgust because Australia exploded in shock and disgust.

Tolerance is all good and well, but it doesn't work if only one of you is practicing it.
ccdesan
Nov. 30th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
You'll notice my post is not about tolerance... or if it is, only peripherally. Ignorance comes in many forms, and operates on many levels, regardless of the reason - religion, tradition, economic hardship, oppression, you name it.

Before I continue, I concede that Colin Tunrbull's researh is not as scientifically accurate as it was once accepted to be. That said, his observations about the Ik tribe of northern DRC were handily used by biologist Lewis Thomas in The Lives of a Cell.
Speaking of the Ik's social behavior, Thomas writes, "Now everything falls into place. This is precisely the way groups of one size or another, ranging from committees to nations, behave... In his absolute selfishness, his incapacity to give anything away, no matter what, [the individual Ik] is a successful committee. When he stands at the door of his hut, shouting insults at his neighbours in a loud harangue, he is a city addressing another city.
"Cities have all the Ik characteristics. They defecate on doorsteps, in rivers and lakes, their own or anyone else’s. They leave rubbish. They detest all neighbouring cities, give nothing away...
"Nations are the most Iklike of all. No wonder the Ik seem familiar. For total greed, rapacity, heartlessness, and irresponsibility there is nothing to match a nation. Nations, by law, are solitary, self-centred, withdrawn into themselves…. They bawl insults from their doorsteps, defecate into whole oceans, snatch all the food, survive by detestation, take joy in the bad luck of others..."

Still, Thomas is only describing symptoms, whereas my own essay is an attempt to examine causes. The society I hope for only works if everyone gets on board, and will be the work of centuries to create. It's interesting that even in the fictional 24th century of TNG, humanity didn't get from here to there without some nuclear holocausts in the middle.

I don't advocate being tolerant of bullies or morons. But in the meantime, I'll be working to put things in place that will make a difference, small contributions to the continuing evolution of humanity.
secoh
Nov. 30th, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
ahh, yeah, that was me off on a mental tangent as usual...sorry!

r_caton
Nov. 30th, 2009 05:17 pm (UTC)
Tangents you say?

Ik Ik Pah Boo!

Goo Goo Pah Nunck! (actually ick ick pah boo, goo goo pah nunc)

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