The Dangers of Ignorance
In his ascendence to President, Bush ushered in a new era of fashionable ignorance. Educated, intelligent people became "elites," and the so-called "reality-based community" is now seen as worse at analyzing and making policy than the "faith-based community" who make decisions with their "gut" and wallow in their lack of qualifications or knowledge.
The perils in setting the course of the most powerful nation on Earth in willful ignorance are manifest.
The recent tsunami gives us an excellent example of the dangers of ignorance. You see, as noted on NPR the other day, when the water on the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives, etc., suddenly retreated far beyond normal even for low tide, many inhabitants and tourists ran down onto the beach in amazement. Locals in many places began gathering up the fish lying around, left behind by the water's sudden retreat.
At the same time, wild animals were fleeing the coastal areas in droves. Why? They knew something the people didn't.
Had the inhabitants known that a sudden, large-scale retreat of the ocean from the coast is a sign of an incoming tsunami, many of them would have lived. Very few wild animals were caught in the tsunami because, through instinct or whatnot, they knew. And, through whatever wisdom passed down from generation to generation, native hunter-gatherer tribes on many of the small islands in the Indian Ocean survived, to the great surprise of the authorities.
What most disturbed me about this story was that I know the signs of a tsunami, from my time living in Alaska where tsunamis are a big worry, but that the people living on the coasts of these tsunami-vulnerable countries didn't. I couldn't help thinking that I could have saved some of those people had I been there...
But here we see where ignorance leads. Ignorance leads us down onto the beach, our eyes dazzled by the odd sight of the retreated ocean and multitudes of fish for easy taking. Knowledge, on the other hand, tells us to run from the beach as fast as we can before the tsunami arrives.
The Bush regime, in its decision to invade Iraq, was the people running down onto the beach. They saw an easy target, a bad guy who they could topple, control of vast reserves of oil, and revenge for Saddam's attempted assassination of the Bush the elder. Critics of the march to war were the people running inland. They warned of insurgency, protracted nation-building, and creating a breeding ground for terrorists.
Someone needs to take Bush and the rest of his regime to a local elementary school and reacquaint them with what every fifth-grader knows: Knowledge is power.
Because the unspoken corollary is: Power without knowledge leads to folly.