Saturday, 3 May 2014

Ignorance is evil

As a subscriber and believer of the Judeo-Christian faith, I'm always dismayed by the fascist abusers of the title. I'm talking about the various strands of the so-called "religious right" of American politics and social conservatism.

At its core it is an erroneous take on postmodern critique with a "gotcha" thrown in for good measure. It is anti-intellectual, nay, anti-knowledge. It is motivated by a severe inferiority complex that welds a syllogism thus:

-the world is evil;
-the world is heterogeneous, permissive and unruly;
-hegemony is good.

There is a TV show on the History Channel called, America Unearthed. It begins with a premise that conventional wisdom has been lying to us. It is very formulaic, but never ends conclusively; it is a "wild goose chase" pure and simple. Much like "creationism", the show tries and double-binds the unwary: if questions arise in your subjective mind there is something wrong with you (ie, not with the argument).

As children, my cousin and I decided we'd go searching for monkeys. Not even with the best "auto-magical" monkey-finder would we have ever found a monkey. Monkeys do exist, to be sure. But the Arctic is not where they live.

The other day I found a link to The Atlantic website:
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/04/plato-to-plumbers/361373/

The author of the article, Scott Samuelson, makes a very interesting observation of the rise of Weberian (the venerable Max Weber, 21 April 1864 – 14 June 1920) "disenchantment of the world":

...I fear in my bones that the supremacy of a certain kind of economic-bureaucratic logic—one of “outcomes,” “assessment,” and “the bottom-line”—is eroding the values that undergird not just our society’s commitment to the humanities, but to democracy itself. (Samuelson, Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers)

Samuelson basically outlines a case that education systems driven by purely economical considerations (ie, the whole Western world) diminishes a society into a hive:

Why should anyone but hobbyists and the occasional specialist take courses in astronomy, human evolution, or economic history? So, what good, if any, is the study of the liberal arts, particularly subjects like philosophy?  Why, in short, should plumbers study Plato? [] My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. (ibid)

I would go further and say that the rejection of the humanities among the economic and political "elites" is the root cause of our growing, expanding contemporary social unrest. Unmitigated greed coupled with wearing ignorance like a badge of honour have far-reaching ripples even unto the future of humanity and the sustainability of our civil societies. Whatever the tipping point is, Russia making blatant military excursions into Ukraine's sovereignty is a very disturbing sign indeed.

St Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
...

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4: 1-3 and 14-15)

The term "love" as used by the translators of the Bible is better understood in the context of Aristotelian "phronesis". In the Wikipedia entry on agape (ie, the word St Paul uses), it says:

Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as "an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape)

An unrealistic insistence upon the literal interpretation of the Bible is a monkey-quest in the Arctic: it is to miss the central message: pride and folly (selfishness and (willful) ignorance) beget a violent downfall (for the innocent and the culpable alike). The fulfillment of biblical prophesy and the Law, Jesus Christ and His gospel, "is subtle but malicious it is not".

Jay

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