I heard a commentator make a statement recently that the biggest problem in the world today was the C.I.A. I thought, well that’s a little controversial, not to say a little conspiratorial. Maybe he had seen an early viewing of the new Jason Bourne film with Matt Damon. But no, what he meant was that the real problem in the world right now is Cynicism, Ignorance and Arrogance.
We get the name Cynics from a branch of Greek philosophy, though it means something different today than it did then. In modern terms it is largely seen as being distrustful of others motives and generally pessimistic about the potentialities of humanity. Though we all do well to engender a sense of “healthy” scepticism, we need to guard against this sliding into an overly negative world view. I know that this can seem tough when we are faced with politicians who seem on the one hand to be charismatic and “for the people” and then on the other hand we see that their long term actions belie their words and their own agenda of personal improvement, at the expense of others, is laid bare. That is why it is all the more important to retain our belief in the potential for humanity, whilst questioning and holding to account all those who hold power, be that in politics, business or spirituality.
Many of us are quick to label others as being ignorant, in the way that the commentator that I am quoting is doing in the first place. We like to laugh at people who make silly statements based on a small amount of knowledge, particularly if we think that we are the ones that possess greater knowledge. We all still carry a personal responsibility to understand the environment that we live in, be that in relation to current affairs, health, politics, science or history. If we are being asked to make decisions or choices about our lives, then we do well to be informed about the topic. This is our responsibility, no one else’s. According to Google “What is the EU?” was the second highest search in the UK on the day after the Brexit vote. One cannot know everything about everything though, and surely what one needs to know is a matter of opinion or a matter for professional educators, you might say. Well I am a professional educator and what I would say is that your process of learning should never end, and remember that ignorance of the law is not a viable defence in court.
A companion of ignorance is arrogance, thinking that we know it all and that the opinion of others isn’t as important as our own opinion. The certainty with which we hold onto our views and discount any evidence to the contrary, can be outwardly displayed in our arrogant and dismissive treatment of others. If you are allowed to have an opinion then so are other people. For centuries people thought the earth was the centre of the universe, until Copernicus showed that it was the Sun and then Einstein showed that the universe has no centre, as such. What we know right now is just that, what we know right now, and that might change in the future. Allow space in your mind for the opinion of others, at the very least they offer you an alternative view, which then allows you to see your own thinking more clearly. People that you disagree with are doing you a service.
There is a fine line to walk here, we must educate ourselves sufficiently to know that we know much but that we do not know everything. We need to question, we really do, even more than we are currently doing. Yet, at the same time, we need to retain enough positivity of outlook that our reasonable questioning can lead us to positive action, and thereby assist us in avoiding slipping into cynical fist waving from the couch. And together with all of this we need to make sure that our self-awareness of our own thinking, enables us to be open to the views and ideas of others; that our discussions are of an elevated form, so that we can use our knowledge, such as it is, to educate rather than using it for low name calling and finger pointing.
These are our responsibilities, embrace them do not let the C.I.A. prevail.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela