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When Ignorance Rules

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Message Charles Sullivan
The other day I had lunch with my ultra conservative sister, who not only thinks that George Bush is a Christian""she acts as if he is the second coming of Christ. Believe it or not, in spite of this apparent lapse of insight on her part (perhaps it is a genetic defect; or one of us was switched at birth), I know my sister is both intelligent and kind. We grew up together, I know her. But she has a propensity for uttering things that truly astound me. On this day she informed me that she "does not like unions because union workers make more money and have better benefits" than she does in her non-union job. Of course, I pointed out the obvious fallacies and consequences of her clouded thinking. After all, what are brothers for?

I always walk away from these encounters scratching my head in wonderment. I feel as if I had just conversed with a being from another planet far beyond the realms of our solar system, whose perceptions are, understandably, quite different from my own. I have to remind myself that Vickie and I inhabit the same planet. I wonder how she arrived at her rather delusional conclusions.

I recall times long ago when my Grandfather on my father's side used to say, "What's the use of having ignorance if you don't show it?" I laugh every time I think of this. Granddaddy had a humorous way of making a point. But there are times when ignorance, especially when it occurs on a national level, is no laughing matter. The present time of crises is one of those times.

Ignorance serves as blinders to vision and hope. It makes us susceptible to the most fantastic lies that inevitably lead to self deception. It makes us look like fools in the eyes of the rest of the world. It allows us to live in denial; to ignore reality. It fosters fear even as it shuns understanding. The truly ignorant are made to believe the most fantastic lies. They are led astray to feverishly work against not only their own interests, but also against the interest of the Commonwealth of which they are a part.

Ignorance in such inexhaustible abundance is a dangerous thing. It fosters the perversion of language and distorts truth into grotesque monstrosities. It alters meanings in ways that renders truth virtually unrecognizable to the unsuspecting masses. It substitutes opposites. Up becomes down, and down becomes up. Political novelist George Orwell referred to this manipulation of language as 'Newspeak.' Thus war is peace. Foreign invaders and occupiers become the apostles of democracy and freedom. Those who defend their homes against occupation morph into terrorists or insurgents. The cold blooded murderer of thousands of Palestinians can be called "A man of peace." Injustice becomes justice. Lies become truth. Hate is called love. This is the language of empire; a language that does not serve people of justice. The results produced by this co-option of language goes far beyond tragic.

When this happens we lose our grounding in reality. Our perspective is distorted, as fantasy supplants reality. In a very real sense we are no longer of this world.

The decline of America could not have happened had the way not been prepared by producing an ignorant public. Understand that in this context ignorance does not infer a lack of intelligence. It infers a pathological unwillingness to confront the evidence and thus the inability to come to rational decisions based upon verifiable facts. Ignorance allows the grossest injustice to flourish with indifference. It allows the roots of fascism to grow deep into the bedrock of society. It happened in Nazi Germany in the prelude to World War Two, and it is happening now in America. This kind of ignorance produces a faith in corrupt leadership that is not only blind; it is deaf and dumb. Only the ignorant can be so easily misled by the disingenuous leadership of empire.

The remedy to our national malaise should be obvious. There is an abundance of information out there that could set us free. Knowledge is power in that it frees us from the constraints of blinding ignorance. However, it requires critical thinking skills to see things as they really are. It requires a will to uncover hidden truth; to weigh the evidence and to make rational decisions about what that evidence tells us. It requires that we not allow ourselves to be programmed by our tormentors; but to think for ourselves. One wonders if critical thinking is becoming a lost art, like making hand cut dovetail joints for a chest of drawers.

The criminal cabal that is running the country could have little power over an informed and active citizenry. They would be forced to invent new methods of control, perhaps more coercive than the ones now in vogue.

Millions of people set mesmerized hour after hour before their television sets and their radios, hungrily absorbing the propaganda that oozes into their minds. These people are not being informed, as they think; they are being programmed. Programmed to act against their own interest, and that of the Commonwealth. They are programmed to serve empire even as they betray democracy. Sadly, the masses can no longer recognize the difference. The helpless sheep will always do what they are told by those who hold the reins of power. This ignorance dooms them to be ever the servants of power.

In the parlance of computer technology there is a saying""GIGO. That is, garbage in, garbage out. The computer spews out a result that is programmed into it. That is the kind of citizenry we have produced in this country; a citizenry whose minds are filled with garbage; a citizenry that cannot think for itself, and act in its own defense.

Some time in the hazy future, anthropologists and historians may examine the wreckage and rubble of the American empire, and puzzle over how the people could have allowed it to happen. Long asleep in our graves within the mantle of the nurturing soil that gave us life, some of us will know that we tried to stop this. There is a peace of mind that can only come from struggle for just causes.
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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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