Ignorance is Not Bliss

Zoey Greenwald

More stories from Zoey Greenwald

May 9, 2019

  I’ve never quite understood the phrase “ignorance is bliss”, but recent mornings have made the adage ever more seductive — in turning from pillow to Twitter along with the arc of the sunrise, I encounter more horrors than your regularly scheduled programming can imagine.

  By the time I’ve trudged downstairs, the six o’clock morning news can hardly compete. People all over the world have been flung to their knees without mercy from hurricanes as well as human hate — natural disasters as well as those which I pray are hardly natural.

  “Why don’t you delete Twitter?”

  Ignorance is Bliss.

  “Athletes need not be political,”

  Ignorance is Bliss.

  “Now is not the time for discussions about gun laws,”

   Ignorance is ignorance: stemming from the word “ignore,” or to refuse to know. And to ignore problems only feels blissful because said problems do not directly affect you.

  I have a hard time believing that ignorance is bliss because I have grown up in a world wherein the problems I see around me are the fault of ignorance, and to ignore such problems is to perpetuate this cycle, thereby ensuring that they are not solved.

  Despite the terrifying tweets and the spectacle that government has become, it is our responsibility as citizens to remain aware. This aspect of spectacle may even be helpful. Don’t get me wrong— it shouldn’t be some sick form of entertainment. Our government should not be a reality show— but even if that is what it needs to be at the moment, I feel compelled to remind you that even Survivor has a writers’ room.

  We the People are the vehicles of change. We live in a democratic republic: not only do we have the power to speak our minds and influence society, but we have done just that in the past.

  We are not helpless spectators, and to escape these imagined chains is ignorant. It is ignorant of the responsibility we have to stay informed, it is ignorant of the voice that we have been granted by each other and by our government, and it is ultimately ignorant of the problems we have in our society.

  Problems we mustn’t ignore.

  On Oct. 1 at 10:08 p.m in Las Vegas, NV, a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. Many saw this as a symptom of a system, calling for stricter gun regulations to prevent such a tragedy in the future. Others were mortified— even disgusted— by this reaction. They say that to make this tragedy “political” is disrespectful in times of mourning and grief.

  While the nation writhes in both a pale sorrow as well as a nearly paralyzing fear, is it not ignorant to suppress such emotions rather than try to make peace with them? If such reactions and feelings are swept under a psychological rug, then they only remain to sit and stew and simmer into a dilapidated, anxious, and cynical being.

  Just as this process is dangerous on a personal, psychological level, it is even more so both socially and politically. We don’t want to believe that something like this has happened. We want to believe that this event was an outlier— a fluke— and that this isn’t a recurring trend in our society.

  And if there is no problem, then we don’t have to worry about fixing it.

  But this simply isn’t true. Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Newtown (just to name a few) have all shown us that this is a real problem that will continue to exist until we fix it.  The conclusion that this is something to be sad about and move on is the product of ignorance. The emotions that gripped America on the night of Oct. 1 are not accessories to be worn on occasion. They should rather be fuel to make a change. We can’t put them back in their boxes and pull them out next time. This can’t be put aside. This can’t be ignored. This needs to be discussed.

  The American Attitude of Ignorance is not something exclusive to great tragedies. It is applied to everyday occurrences as well. We must keep open ears and open eyes. In our suburban bubble, we are not separated from ignorance. In fact, we may be most affected.

  While living in the privileged neighborhood that we do provides us with relative safety and security, it also perpetuates a general leeway for being aware. If something is wrong, somebody will take care of it. If something is dangerous, somebody will protect me. We aren’t aware of problems because, day-to-day, we don’t have to be.

  But looking a little closer, we see police cars racing around and we see people struggling. A drug crisis growing to horrendous heights and people being targeted based on religion or ethnicity.

  We must look a little closer. Ignorance can be both personal and institutional. Both nationwide and local. Anything that we sweep under our rug is by way of the same broom as these “bigger” political issues that seem so far away. They are not. And that broom is in our hands.