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Ignorance is bliss, or is it?

By Nancy Salvato
web posted August 6, 2007

If there is one thing for certain in this world, it is when Jack Nicholson plays the male protagonist in a film, his performance will be outstanding. As McMurphy, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, his impression on me is as compelling today –as it was over 30 years ago when I first watched him bring to consciousness the minds of assorted inmates staying on Nurse Ratched's ward of the mental institution. The message I took away while watching McMurphy undermine Nurse Ratched's authority over her unit -until she has him lobotomized, stands the test of time. Power hungry people will resort to any means necessary to maintain control. Although Nurse Ratched's actions were extreme, her display taught me just how vulnerable people are if they are labeled mentally unstable or forfeit the responsibility of making decisions on their own behalf. Those placed in their charge are not necessarily looking out for them.

Inherent in writing and exposing one's own ideas about terrorism (or the war against radical Islamism), the border threat, or political correctness, is the likelihood of being branded a right wing nut. Being labeled as such isn't personally offensive (I've begun to grow my Alligator Skin) but there is the danger that being branded as such could chip away at my credibility, which is the whole idea behind such mudslinging. This is why it's so important to be able to back up an argument with facts. This is extremely difficult in the face of a movement doing everything it can to shut down ideas which run counter to their own.

For example, let's look at the Fairness Doctrine. In an editorial titled the Unfairness Doctrine , the editors of the National Review Online point out that even though Fairness Doctrine was not passed into law this time around, other forms of legislation could equally serve to stifle free speech. The liberal think tank "Center for American Progress," founded and run by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, has proposed there be new national and local limits on the number of radio stations one company can own, a de facto quota system to ensure that more women and minorities own radio stations, and that the government should require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting.

By choice, people tune in to hear his or her views, or those of guests on the show. By the same choice, people can tune out. These folks are not a captured audience like school children required to sit in public classrooms where liberal thought permeates 90% of the curriculum. Yes, it should be made clear to any audience what is considered commentary from what is news (which should only consist of facts, not speculation or opinion) Listeners can choose to agree with commentary or not. To require stations to offer shows which historically fail due to lack of listeners, or change the content of their successful shows is destructive to the ideas of free speech and free market. The market bears what the market will bear. If there is money to be made, that in itself will be enough to stimulate station owners to provide programs which might not suit everyone's tastes. It's this simple; sponsors will not offer financial backing if no one is listening. Sponsors have the right to put their money behind ideas or people of their own choosing.

The religion of Political Correctness attempts to crush free speech. Adherents to this dogma are forced to phrase their thoughts in a socially acceptable manner and censor what they truly believe, for fear they'll be accused of hate speech. Counter to this movement is Judeo/Christian doctrine. For thousands of years, adherents have lived their lives according to the laws and principles that make up these religions. No one has ever been forced to join a congregation in this country, but many people choose to be part of these communities and share these ideas by which to live. Every Christmas, there is a fight to disallow public display of these beliefs. It's a striking contrast to public schools exposing our school children to Islamic ideas, even forcing them to practice them in classrooms as part of the curriculum. Although I've never liked it, the Nazis have a right to march through Skokie, but I don't have to watch their parade. Beliefs are a choice. This is why we have free will.

The more ignorant a people, the less they are able to recognize the erosion of their rights. The founders of this country understood the importance of an educated populace and the likelihood of factions grouping to promote their interests. The spectrum of where people group themselves is dynamic, always changing. Labels are useful only in that it can be understood where others are aligned at any given point. When a person is labeled for his or her ideas, it confuses the message with the messenger. Understanding the reasons for beliefs is much more important than placing people or ideas in a box. Ideas are meant to be debated, to come to greater understanding. There is no room for name calling or labeling people in debate.

If there is no allowance for debating beliefs or ideas, we will soon be left in the dark. People will become ignorant of the possibilities or other ways of seeing things. True understanding of each other or how to exist side by side as a community will be gone. We will have forfeited our freedom by giving up free will and what makes each of us individuals.

A good education, - an education that exposes people to facts and a balance of opinion, as well as the tools to formulate their own ideas- has always been the ticket to being able to succeed in any field. It also allows us to exercise choice. In essence, knowledge equals freedom. And freedom allows us to become whoever we want to be. Societies in which people are not allowed to exercise choice or receive a balanced education do not promote freedom. In these societies, one group usually exercises control over another, by any means necessary. Usually fear and ignorance plays a large role in how people behave.

I've never understood the expression ignorance is bliss. Is any one of us in a position to know when another person truly can't feel or comprehend what is going on around him? Does nothingness equate to happiness? On the flip side, can any one of us know with absolutely certainty what another feels or believes without establishing the trust that there will be no penalties for disclosing?

Once a society tastes freedom, it can never go back. Think about it. Could Adam and Eve truly return to the Garden of Eden once they were enlightened? Would a fully functioning individual want to return to the womb? My guess is this could only be satisfactory if people were too ignorant to imagine any other possibilities for themselves. ESR

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2007


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