One of my little epiphanies, while pondering the fact that our society seems to be sinking like the Titanic in the frigid sea of stupidity, and the amazing ignorance of the simplest of facts…like where to find the lifeboats… was to realize that stupidity is simply ignorance ignored. An old saying came to mind: “He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is stupid: shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is ignorant: teach him. But he who knows and knows he knows, he is wise: follow him.”
There are outstanding exceptions to the stupidity factor, of course, but it does seem that the ratio of stupidity to ignorance is growing steadily in favor of stupidity. We all are ignorant of so very many things, and technology is giving us more and more things we really must know how to handle in order to stay afloat. But this is, again ignorance, and can be overcome if we have the time and feel the effort is worth it. The problem is that fewer and fewer people think it is.
I remember seeing a TV ad (without remembering what it was for) about a young woman who is grateful to some company or other because people there help her father read his mail “because he never learned how.” This is, on the surface, touching. However, I fear my reaction each time I saw it was always: “For God sakes, man, if you can’t read, learn!” There was no indication of any mental impairment to keep him from learning.
I have heard a common objection illiterate adults make to the prospect of learning is that it is embarrassing. I can certainly understand this…but less embarrassing than having to rely on others to read things to them.
Having thus said, I just remembered that when I first moved to L.A. I met a nice young guy whom I started seeing. One time we were going somewhere and got lost. I pulled up to a phone booth and asked him to go look up the address. He went into the booth and came out five minutes later saying he couldn’t find it. There were a couple other similar incidents until I realized that he could not read! I was shocked. The poor kid was excruciatingly embarrassed by his inability, but he said he didn’t want to learn now because he was too ashamed. Dear Lord!!
Ignorance is correctable. Stupidity is not. The fact that our educational system (“Children is our future,” as our beloved ex-leader once said) is failing miserably and teeters dangerously on the brink of being a gigantic stupidity factory. And it is a frighteningly slippery slope. Parents who were not themselves properly educated produce children (“Be fruitful and multiply” seems to be one of the few biblical instructions most people pay any real attention to) who are, if possible, even more stupid than their parents.
Ignorance is frustrating. Stupidity is frightening. There is precious little we, as individuals, can do to halt the relentless advance of stupidity, but there is one thing any one of us can do: read, and do whatever we can to encourage others to do the same. For a child, one of the most effective tools in combating ignorance is a library card. But it is equally important for adults, and each of us can help keep ignorance from morphing into stupidity by the simple act of giving books for every occasion calling for a gift. When you finish a book, do everything you can to pass it on to someone, or donate it to a library, a hospital, a nursing home, anywhere there is a chance someone else may share your pleasure.
Of course, as a writer, I have a vested interest in people reading. But whether you read my books or not, please read. When you hold a book, the future is, indeed, in your hands.
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