You Don’t Know Diddly! I Know Diddly

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
– Erin Majors

The ignorant work for their own profit; the wise work for the welfare of the world.
– Bhagavad-Gita, Hindu Song of God, about 200 BCE

These two quotes go well together because they demonstrate that the same kind of people-helping-people concept of the right way of conducting our lives has existed for thousands of years and all over the planet.

In the earliest days of our species–characterized by clans of between a handful and 20 members–our ancestors depended on the best that each member of the clan could give for their very survival. The loss of one member–a specialist tool-maker, a woman of child-bearing age, a warrior–could spell the end of the clan because that person’s abilities could not be replaced.

Today in the western world we teach children to be islands, especially islands of strength that have command of everything they need, with the ability to do whatever they must do in their jobs and their personal lives. More important even than having these skills is giving the appearance of having them without needing to use them.

Yet as the total amount of information rises at a staggering rate–too great for anyone to keep up with–we are all as ignorant as a grade school dropout on many topics, lacking both knowledge and skills in many areas that affect our lives.

Many people have little idea what a healthy diet is, what exercise their bodies need, what supplements they may need to take to their food intake to keep their immune systems in good health, even how much sleep they need to be alert and at their best throughout the day.

The “throw-away society” did not come about because we wanted to be wasteful but because we wanted things cheap enough that we could throw them away when they broke because we no longer had the skills to repair what we broke. Throw-away tools and appliances, in turn, put enough skilled repair people out of work that few wanted to enter the field.

In general, we don’t buy much that is not mass produced. Most of what is mass produced cannot be repaired. Indeed we have become so ignorant about most of what is around us, essential information that we need, that seemingly absurd warning labels must be attached to appliances. Don’t use your hair dryer when you are asleep. Don’t take electric appliances into the bathtub. Don’t drive your car without fuel or oil.

(Don’t these warnings defy natural selection?)

People of marriageable age should carry their own warning labels: Don’t marry me if you have no idea what it takes to make a good marriage. Most people don’t. At least more than half of those who get married don’t. The marriage failure rate is dropping slightly, but only because fewer people are getting married, preferring to avoid some of the costs associated with divorce when they split. At least some people know they won’t be together for long, forever.

All of this, at a fundamental level, results from the fact that we do not want help from others. That would mean that we must learn from others, which puts us in an inferior position in business terms. We pretend to know, then take the bricks when we fail. Unless we can find someone else to blame our failures on.

The only way around this problem is for mothers and fathers of young children to teach them that learning must be a lifelong pursuit and they will need to constantly learn from others–ask others for help when they need it–or they will eventually find themselves in trouble because they won’t know enough.

Today nobody knows enough. We all need to learn from each other or we will fall behind. We all know people older than ourselves that we call dinosaurs because they haven’t kept up with new knowledge and skills, though they may act as if they have.

If we all must learn, then that means we all must teach others when the opportunity arises. It’s what we owe to our society as a member of it.

The alternative is a progression into a deeper well of ignorance. There is nothing good about ignorance, unless you are a power seeker who needs ignorant people among your supporters so that you can gain more power. We have all seen that too, whether we realize it or not.

For a society to succeed and thrive, every adult member must be a teacher. Those who know must be prepared to teach those who don’t know but want to know.

Those who don’t know have an obligation to learn, to ask those who know.

It’s not hard, just different from the way we have been doing things.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us through the tougher problems of life.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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