April 06, 2010

The Desire to Be Ignorant

Once at my old job, we found out our janitor had been throwing away our recycling with the garbage. Shocked, we started telling people, and quite a few immediately responded with "Don't tell me that!"

Why is our first course of action to protect our ignorance? As if doing something to change the situation is not an option.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

because being stupid is better than being wrong?

Eric Olsen said...

hmm, so I'm reading a book called "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" right now. It basically shows us how statistically insane we are. And it makes me initially like your statement, but I'm wondering exactly what the difference between the two is?

Meghan said...

"Ignorance is bliss" - It reminds me of when I was a kid and all the things I didn't know. I think people are happier when they live in a little bubble of ignorance. Maybe it's just natural to want to avoid knowledge that destroys our ideals because sometimes there's nothing that can be done to change the way things are, so it's better not to know at all. The recycling thing is something that could be changed though, but think of something bigger and worse like a deep dark secret about a close friend or your favorite family member. Sometimes knowing the truth is harder and more painful...

LizM said...

I tend to agree with Meghan. If it's not going to do any good, if it's only going to cause pain, why go there?

Eric Olsen said...

The deep dark secret thing is interesting. Isn't it better for the person with the secret to be free from it?

And the person who's dumbstruck at finding out - over the long haul, aren't they better off having learned something about human nature? While extraordinarily difficult and possibly regrettable, aren't they better off?

Meghan said...

Eric, you bring up a good point. Immanuel Kant believed that one should always tell the truth, regardless of consequences. It's a very interesting topic in ethics.

I agree with you that in the long-term, the "dumbstruck" person is probably better off, more knowledgeable about the world and human nature, but not necessarily happier. I think one facet of human nature is the desire to avoid pain, whether physical or emotional, so it's only natural to want to avoid hearing something (like the recycling not being actually recycled) that is difficult to think about. I can't say what is right or wrong, and given the choice of knowing something painful or living in a fantasy land, I would probably choose to know. In my experience, I have been more hurt by secrets being kept from me than by the secrets themselves (I think!)

And to go back to the original topic, I WOULD want to know about the recycling because then I would either 1) call to complain, or 2) not bother rinsing my recyclables and putting them in the bin. We have suspected the same thing at my work and I would very angry to learn that I'm wasting my time with this if it's getting thrown in the trash!

Eric Olsen said...

yeah ok, getting back to the original topic...was i wrong to tell everyone and burst their bubble?

i think i only did it because misery loves.