Ignorance is Bliss
Can we pretend the world isn’t burning?
I’ve switched off the news.
There. I said it. I’m no longer seeing hate crimes and watching the evening scuffle of politicians attempting to outdo each other with their sense of worth. I’ve switched off. My social media notifications are no longer blinking. I have turned my private space into a cavernous pit of emptiness. Only my thoughts echo in this chamber.
Is this a positive move? Am I feeling better by feeling uninformed? What good has all that information done for me anyway? My Twitter feed is full of rage. People screaming of injustice with every shade of agenda. I get trolled for expressing an opinion about art and the need not to grab a pitchfork when a mob assembles. My own face is captured in a tweet and slung back at me. Even now, I’m confused as to what that all meant.
Can anyone help?
All around me, the constant cries of anguish and deflated hope. People screaming for attention. I’m in too deep. I can’t think straight. My mind is ablaze with every turn. Each radical opinion makes perfect sense. A debate from all sides and I can no longer cope with truth recognition. What’s the real story? Who is telling the truth? What angle are they coming at?
It reminds me of an old philosophical debate. One that centered on true inner peace by not knowing anything. Knowledge and bliss lay in between the spaces of knowing nothing. Reality doesn’t matter if you’re blind to it all.
The scenario spoke of a woman who worked tirelessly as a nurse. Each night, after every long double-hour shift, she would treat herself to a latte. Not just any old latte, but a special double-shot, almond milk with beans squeezed through the butt of a virginal child whose beauty bequeathed a thousand poems. Yes. It was a very special latte.
Then one night, a charity collector appeared and begged her for money. He presented a strong case for saving a child’s eyesight. For the price of one latte, she could help a small orphaned child suffering from trachoma. She could help her see again.
The nurse hands over her latte money and smiles the smile of the righteous and just. She has a moment of regret missing out on her treat, but she feels good. She’s done a blessing. She’s saved a child’s sight. What, after all, is her fleeting pleasure against the loss of another person’s sight?
The next night, the charity collector is gone. Our heroic nurse recalls the exchange, the sacrifice she made, the choice of a latte to save another’s eyes. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to enjoy her latte again.
Ignorance is bliss.
Not knowing about the children dying and crying and suffering and weeping and generally not living life to their fullest, makes us happier. Of course, we’re all aware of the world suffering. We all know of at least one person to endure the pain of cancer. We know, deep down, that there are children conscripted into armies and paying the price for religious dogma. We know there are immigrants dying in small boats attempting to leave countries torn apart from war. And we all know that millions have already died from an invisible disease that has robbed us all of our freedom.
Do you feel better knowing this? Do you have enough empathy to share with the world? Do you have a moral duty to reduce poverty because you’re more affluent?
It’s a reasonable argument, isn’t it? If it’s within your power to alleviate significant suffering at a comparatively little cost, then why aren’t you? At what point do you stop? What price are you willing to pay?
Me? I’ve chosen to switch off.
I can no longer help. I’m pretty sure I didn’t do much to begin with. I did my bit every now and then. Helped an old lady across the road. Slipped a few coins to a beggar. Cried a river at the unethical behavior of certain politicians. Pinpointed the ugliness of human nature on a social media platform. Called out the bigots and the racists and the half-breed morons whose dumbness would shine at a rally for the Ill-Equipped and Hard to Think brigade’s Annual Meeting of Stupid. And lots more. But who have I helped? What tangible benefit can I show?
I’m trying not to care. I’m trying to be me. To simply be. To ignore the divides that are sweeping the nation. Should I feel guilty for self-help? In an age where we’re advised to talk to others, to share our emotional state, to express our feelings to stave off the madness of mental health, am I right in choosing this path?
Middle-class guilt gnaws away at me. How can I simply do nothing? How can anyone? The world’s on fire and everybody is doing something…aren’t they?
Everyone that is except me. I’ve switched off.
I’ve yet to decide if this will be permanent.
My ignorance, for now, is indeed bliss.