of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Where Ignorance is Bliss

In his “Ode to a Distant Prospect of Eaton College” (1742), Thomas Gray informs us that “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”  While some might be content to languish in comfortable ignorance, a worldview constructed on ignorance can not sustain comfort.

I believe that this meme which I saw published in Facebook caused such a strong reaction for me was the fact that I am trained as an historian and know that there are distinct differences between communists, socialists, democrats, and progressives; that it is not a simple name change.  I am also aware that the same label can mean different things at different points in history.  Adopting a world view based on the extreme ignorance on which this meme is based prevents someone from entering into any rational discussion that could lead to understanding and an improved world.

I do not know who created this meme so cannot speculate on his/her motivation.  However, I have seen similar memes that I am sure were created by individuals who knew that what they were publishing was deceitful; that their aim was to fool others into acting in ways that would please the creator of the meme; acting in ways that were not consistent with the other people’s own best interests.

The individuals who choose to deceive rely on the fact that too often others will not take the time to independently vet the information provided to them.  This is especially true when the information provided is consistent with someone’s preexisting viewpoint.  Too often, articles I have seen cited in Facebook come from extremely partisan sources that unabashedly put their own spin on the news.  Too often, when I do research on the subject, I find that the news has been slanted in such a way that truth has disappeared.  Just because there might be a kernel of truth in a story does not make it true.

Last week, I was teaching a lesson on “What is Truth” in two of my history classes.  I was surprised at how many students thought that omitting information was acceptable even if the intent is to deceive.  Because everything said was the truth, the deceit was not a lie.




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