Lately it seems like we have plenty to fear. The Corona Virus has supplied plenty of things to worry about, and politicians have played on fear like it is a game. Others have tried to pretend facts were fabrications and don’t exist.
There is something I fear that has really shown itself: ignorance. It is ignorance that has compounded the problems we face and made them more deadly.
Let me note there is a difference between stupidity and ignorance. Stupidity means the individual does not have the capacity to understand a situation. We’re all somewhat stupid about some things. Just give me a musical instrument and I’ll prove it for myself.
Ignorance reflects an unwillingness to perceive and understand what is going on. A lot of the ignorance we’ve seen has come from smart people who simply will not accept the reality that is right in front of them or choose to deny the science behind what is happening. They also may manipulate reality into something that suit their purposes.
For example, the Governor of Georgia this week was dispensing misinformation about the virus and its spread. He then capped it off by reopening the beaches, inviting more people to congregate and spread the virus. The result can be confusion and misunderstanding about what his citizens need to do to stay safe.
Not to be outdone, the Governor of Florida, after refusing to issue a stay-at-home order, decided that he should exempt religious services from his eventual mandate. Does he honestly believe a virus cannot spread in a church, where social distancing is not likely? In this case, his ignorance could have deadly results.
Politicians have regularly demonstrated their ignorance. Whether it’s the President and his family with their constantly changing interpretations of what is happening or those who still want to downplay the reality we face that end up hurting people.
How about the train engineer in California who intentionally derailed his locomotive in a failed attempt to ram the hospital ship that had just docked. His excuse was he did not believe the reasons given about why it was there. A friend posted “information” about how New York was hiding a thousand respirators to make the administration look bad. This, along with the myriad of other conspiracy theories only get in the way of dealing with the reality of the situation and reestablishing public trust.
We also need to realize that ignorance can breed stupid actions. For example, the death threats against Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been a hero for basing his statements on scientific reality even if it meant disagreeing with those in power, show the depths of stupidity with which good people must deal.
As we mentioned two weeks ago, we have seen increasing levels of disrespect for workers during this time. Last week, unemployment applications in my home county were up over 3,000%. Even so, congress was very reluctant to provide extended paid family leave, sick leave or extended unemployment benefits. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went so far as to claim providing better unemployment benefits would make nurses lazy and not want to return to work. He stated nurses making $15 per hour would quit their jobs to collect unemployment benefits that would be around $24 per hour.
This presented three immediate failures in reasoning. 1) Nurses (LPN and RN) make more than $15 per hour unless they are grossly underpaid. 2) You can’t quit your job and collect unemployment. 3) Apparently the Senator has not been paying attention to the tremendous, dangerous work being done by nurses during this crisis. His willingness to demean these professionals, particularly now, shows the lack of respect he and many of his colleagues have for workers.
It is said that ignorance is bliss. If that is true, there are a lot of happy people out there. Unfortunately too many of them are in charge. That’s what I fear.