Some say money is the root of all evil, while others say power. Some say God is the source of all good, others say humanity is. In reality, all of these are mere obfuscations, unintentional scapegoats which hide the true cause, the true root of all evil: ignorance.
Money is not by itself evil, nor is power. It is the misuse of money, of power and of any other tool which causes evil, and the misuse of these tools is the result of ignorance in one of a number of forms.
It has long been acknowledged that human beings are maybe not the best decision makers, and that in order to make the best decision we need lots of knowledge concerning the topic at hand. At its core, ignorance is the lack of this highly necessary knowledge.
When people lack enough knowledge to make the proper decision or hold the correct belief they don’t usually stop and withhold judgement. Instead, we humans have a tendency to jump to conclusions, making up evidence to support our belief if we don’t have enough real evidence.
What’s worse, we tend to jump to the conclusions that are easiest and most beneficial to us, rather than more challenging but perhaps better ones.
Intelligence is no defense against ignorance, by the way. Just because someone is smart doesn’t mean they aren’t also quite ignorant. Indeed, intelligent people are some of the worst when it comes to being ignorant, because they are so capable of rationalizing their own position.
This ability to rationalize a belief even in the face of new evidence or the lack of existing evidence is ignorance’s greatest defense.
Even after being given new and powerful evidence which contradicts their belief, people are prone to holding fast, or even doubling down. All of these assertions are psychological facts, tested and demonstrated in numerous psychological studies.
Nor is ignorance only about facts. Lack of compassion is attributable to ignorance of how others feel and sometimes even the fact that others are as emotionally robust as you are.
Human conflict tends to be the result of cultural ignorance, where neither side truly understands the viewpoint and values of the other.
If we as a species can overcome the massive amounts of ignorance which pervades the world today, we will be able to overcome a number of the challenges humanity faces today. Better understanding of the issues at hand, from cultural disagreements to economic debates and social policies, on all sides will lead to faster, cleaner and more effective solutions. Rather than facing gridlock, we would progress unimpeded, since policy makers would make decisions based on all of the evidence rather than conclusions only supported by false or biased evidence.
How, though, could we possibly reach that goal. Such a thing sounds and, in some respects, is utopian and unreachable. We will never, of course, fully eliminate ignorance, and thereby prejudice and conflict. We can, however, severely minimize it through the judicious application of ignorance’s eternal enemy: education.
Education is the solution to the scourge of ignorance, defeating ignorance by imparting knowledge and evidence. Education produces critical thinkers who are capable of recognizing their own ignorance and working to remedy it.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the modern era is the conception of public education as a key aspect of good governance.
Public education provides the means to combat ignorance throughout the population, raising the whole country up and away from ignorance.
Thus, we should embrace public education as a cornerstone of modern democracy. Most other developed nations have. Countries like Finland, South Korea and Japan can proudly hail their public education systems as huge successes, topping the charts globally. The U.S., however, lags far behind, coming in 17th globally.
That’s not so bad, but we can do better. We have the greatest economy in the world, surely we can invest some of that into education. Why should we allow ignorance to prosper and grow, when other countries are taking strides to rid themselves of it?