Monday, November 18, 2013

Ignorance isn't Bliss; it's Carlisle

Clara: Say we actually find her. What do we say?
The Doctor: We ask her how she came to be. Whatever she is.
Clara: Why?
The Doctor: Because I don't know. And ignorance is... What's the opposite of bliss?
Clara: Carlisle.
The Doctor: Yes! Carlisle. Ignorance is Carlisle. 

In the 2013 Doctor Who episode "Hide", we are gifted with this charming exchange, in which the Doctor is very much annoyed about his ignorance over a matter that affects him nary a bit. (Since this blog has primarily an American audience, I would mention that Carlisle is a city in Cumbria, which apparently Clara and the Doctor don't like. Hmmmmm...)

Yet in America today, we seem far too content, even pleased, with our ignorance of areas that could drastically impact our everyday lives.  

For example, a few months ago, as I was preparing a speech about the Human Scavenging problem (by this, I mean the use of aborted fetal cells to manufacture commercial products) for my last year of competition, one of my club members (who will remain nameless to protect the guilty) distressed over how she "hoped it didn't advance" because it was "depressing." Admittedly, this practice is very depressing, but we can't turn a blind eye to the atrocities in our world. Rather, we must do something about it. To be entirely fair to her, when I said this, she did back down and say that "Ignorance isn't bliss."

But how is it we thought this way in the first place? How have we been programmed not to care about how little we actually know?

This isn't just an isolated problem. This is a problem rooted in our entire culture. We can get more interested in upcoming movies than the Obamacare fiasco. Our political awareness might be limited to nothing more than being willing to read a few political memes that usually just sprout rhetoric with no actual facts (or worse, downright lies). Indeed, I wrote this article starting with a quotation from Doctor Who because I knew I would be far more likely to get hits for an article about a fantastic television series than an article about politics.

This isn't just my circle of friends, who I believe to probably be better than most of America in this area. No, it is a widespread problem ingrained into our entire culture.

Michael Lofti over at has twice compared Google analytics to show how America has reacted to recent shifts in pop culture vs. developments in crucial politics areas, (see here and here). Although admittedly, this is not a perfect means to study how people view the world, it is still an accurate measure to determine American involvement and to paint a credible picture of what that looks like. It's not a pretty picture either. In the first circumstance, when analyzing the reactions to Miley Cyrus' twerk compared to the impending threat of a military intervention in Syria, Lofti found that,
"On August 25th after Miley’s VMA performance her Google peak rating went from 67 to 100 in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, during the same period of time... the peak search value for chemical attacks in Syria actually fell to a value of 3, which is down from a value of 4 only 24 hours earlier. The term “Syria” is valued at 56- averaging flat over the past few days."
Similarly, when contrasting how America responded to the finale of Breaking Bad versus the government shutdown, Lofti found simply,
"With so many lives being touched by a federal government shutdown, one would expect Americans to be alarmed and search for content related to the shutdown. On this evening Breaking Bad’s internet search volume (25) is 5x higher than government shutdown’s search volume (5). The next day (September, 30th) the letter from Obama’s executive office announcing the shutdown made headlines. However, Breaking Bad’s record setting traffic from the previous night also made headlines. Breaking Bad’s search volume (65) is 3x higher than 'government shut down' (21)."

So, our culture is evidently not very politically aware, but is that really a bad thing? Is there a reason why we can't just continue singing kumbaya and enjoy our daily dose of mindless entertainment? Sure, you can still enjoy your dose of pop culture, but it would be wise to take some time to become informed of the political processes that can threaten your liberties and the way you live your life (and even that entertainment you hold so dear).

A quotation attributed to Edward Murrow goes,
"A nation of sheep will soon have a government of wolves." 

This, my friends, is why we must be aware of the politics in our world. If we remain ignorant, we will be easily manipulated and tricked, and we will watch as our government is destroyed through political processes.

Controlling the media is the way that many different villains in the Doctor Who series I previously mentioned take over the world. This isn't just the fictional route to power though. In almost every authoritarian government, free speech is one of the first rights attacked.

We must stay informed. I don't mean keeping ourselves informed by watching the news. Unfortunately, there are problems in the media about reporting all the facts in an unbiased manner. Whether this is because they are intentionally pushing their own agenda or just trying to find a more entertaining story, we may never know. Regardless, we should doubt everything that any news source tells us (yes, even Fox News) and validate it with our own independent research and other news sources. Receiving well-balanced information from multiple sources is paramount to being informed.

We must realize that ignorance of important political moves in our day can be as the Doctor calls it, "Carlisle," no offense to the residents of that city (unless you're upset at the BBC). It makes us vulnerable to government lies and intrusion in our everyday life.

No comments:

Post a Comment