Naiveté, Stupidity, and Ignorance
Let’s take a look at a few terms that get confused often. I will reference men and privileged people, but my end goal is to ask a question about religious goombas of all flavours.
Naiveté is a lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment. It implies innocence or a lack of sophistication about how the world works. It is a word that can usually be applied to children that have been fortunate enough to miss out on serious abuses of one sort or another.
Naiveté is neither good nor bad – it is just a typical stage people who have not yet had exposure to a wide range of experiences go through. But it often implies a value judgement when it is applied to girls and women. In this case, it blames or insults the person in question regardless of whether she is naive or she is not (i.e., a naive girl is a stupid girl, and a girl who is not naive is a slut or seductress). Girls and women, can never win in this world, and this is just one of many examples that show the damned if you do, damned if you don’t rule of ladyhood.
Nevertheless, with age and life experience, most people lose their naiveté and find themselves in another state of being.
Unfortunately for some, naiveté can morph into willful ignorance with age either as a coping mechanism (for women) or as a maintainer of privilege (with men). For example, regarding the latter, a good friend of mine is a 47-year-old man who was shocked to find out from some recent news story that a huge number of men use online dating sites advertising hot women in order to cheat on their wives. What appeared to be naiveté was really a willful ignorance (see below). How can a middle-aged American man not know that men are shitheads? Because he isn’t on the receiving end of misogynistic abuse every day of his life, and he has no reason to give a shit about what women experience. Because he hasn’t been forced to open his eyes, he is not responsible for anything. And that’s how men can look innocent/naive with looks of horror on their faces when really they just can’t be bothered to notice how they’re lives are better than women’s. Note that men, once eyes are opened (honestly, I do believe they know exactly what is going on in the world, but just feign innocence), still don’t do anything to end the hurt done to women.
Ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge or information. Every single one of us is ignorant about many things. It is impossible to know everything even if we devoted every waking moment to learning. Thus is cannot be a blameworthy state on its own. In certain contexts, however, it might be suspect. For example, it can be sometimes surprising when a young, supposedly educated adult or group of adults appears to lack basic information in a number of rather important and basic areas of knowledge. We’ve heard this said frequently of the current, young, American population – most university students can barely deal with a map of their own country, never mind a world map. The comment on their ignorance is one of blame, although how much of it is the fault of the young people rather than their government and education system that they are woefully ignorant of what is going on around them?
Stupidity is a lack of intelligence, understanding, or ability to reason. Some believe that stupidity is a biological limitation of the brain, much like height is a limitation of physical stature, that one is born with, and that cannot be overcome, even with great effort to learn or improve. Like with height, some believe that there is a range one is limited to at birth and that the conditions one lives in determine the point within that range that one will achieve.
While limited intelligence in and of itself is not blameworthy, when coupled with privilege and especially willful ignorance, it can be very dangerous. It doesn’t take great intelligence to be able to understand basic human rights for all, you see.
Some people use the term stupid to refer to behaviour, especially harmful (to self and others) and cruel behaviour, which of course invokes blame. Whether stupid behaviour results from privilege or from biological stupidity, I’m not sure. But note that most behaviour that could be categorized as stupid is committed by boys and men. There are tons of movies and television programs devoted to celebrating stupid male behaviour.
Willful ignorance is the decision to ignore evidence and information that contradicts one’s beliefs. This kind of behaviour or way of thinking/being often results from and maintains a state of privilege (e.g., being male, being religious, being straight, etc.) or as a coping mechanism in women who might find themselves in danger if they allow themselves to fully absorb the reality of their slavery.
To admit one is wrong or deliberately ignorant requires one to be humble, to take responsibility for one’s behaviour, and to give up things no human should do or have (e.g., control or ownership of another human). For women, to admit reality can be very difficult and requires some serious decision-making regarding one’s slave state as a woman.
Willful ignorance is the most blameworthy and shameful of states to be in, and it is a state occupied by a lot of men and by religious people (especially religious men of all races). Note that I place much less blame on women who are willfully ignorant of their slavery. Some women have little choice to escape without risk of death, rape, beatings and/or stalking/harassment, and pretending all is well is sometimes a necessary way of surviving. Yet, at the same time, there are plenty of women who don’t risk death, but who just don’t want to deal with reality or making hard decisions. Unfortunately, these women’s choices affect ALL women negatively. As someone who has rejected happy-fun-lies and made some hard grounded-in-reality choices (out of the limited choices men allow me as a woman), I do think the more privileged of us women need to start facing reality in order to help not only ourselves but women in general. Ultimately though, I blame the men and the shitty slavery system they created and maintain. Women shouldn’t have to escape reality and tell themselves lies just to exist.
Final note: one can be willfully ignorant and very stupid at the same time. And those folks are dangerous.
A question that often gets batted around both online and in the meat world is: Are religious people stupid? My knee-jerk reaction is a resounding ‘YES!’ But let’s consider a little.
I think religious people fall into all of the categories discussed here. The children are naive. The fact that they are brainwashed into the major religious cults is child abuse. I wish Dawkins wouldn’t back down when confronted by individual religious people when they ask him to stand by his comments on child abuse and indoctrination of children. I guess it’s hard to tell people to their faces that they are in fact doing something horrible to their children.
Many religious people are ignorant. And I blame this on their families, idiocy on the parts of certain governments, and dreadful education systems that place religious teaching higher or on par with the teaching of science, for example.
Many religious people are biologically stupid, and I think early religious training limits how far people can push their brains within our given personal ranges of intelligence. But don’t take my word for it. People are researching the link between religion and intelligence. For example, a meta-analysis of 63 studies does indeed show a strong correlation between religious beliefs and intelligence. Lower intelligence is related to higher religiosity. And smart people just tend not to be religious. Nevertheless, it isn’t news to me. These are obvious correlations, although having data to back them up is necessary, of course.
Religion is just magical thinking that preys on fear and reinforces fear-based misogyny. Intelligence allows us to work logically though fear and adjust our world views accordingly to become better people. With low intelligence, easy, bullshit non-answers are appealing and soothing. Hate is justified and requires no personal responsibility. No effort required.
Lastly, I think most, if not all, religious people are willfully ignorant. To see reality would be to reject religion for the hateful, backwards, dangerous nonsense that it is. Clear-thinking and humility are incompatible with religion. To be willfully ignorant, one has to feel that there is something to lose in accepting reality. Like men with their privilege over women, so too do the religious have the same things to lose – comfort, political power, money, sanctioned violence, and that smug sense of superiority that you see in most religious people. Give up the privilege and you just have to accept being… human.
Posted on September 16, 2015, in Education, Feminism, Male Privilege, Misogyny, Religion and tagged ignorance, labels, naiveté, stupidity. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Naiveté, Stupidity, and Ignorance.