Opinion/Editorial

YOU DON’T KNOW YOU DON’T KNOW

by James Strauss

An astronomical unit is the word used to describe the distance from the earth to the sun. That distance wasn’t known until a few hundred years ago, because until the size of the sun was determined it was impossible to calculate the distance from earth to the sun using the crude instrumentation of the times. Today, unless you are an astrophysicist, it doesn’t really matter how far the sun is away from the earth, even though the sun’s function and existence has everything to do with why and how we all are alive on this planet. Why physically, not philosophically, that is. A parsec is a measure of distance used by astrophysicists when discussing the distance between stars. A new word was devised because that distance is so great. The regular population might have heard the word, as misused by Han Solo in Star Wars as a measure of speed, but its not likely they remembered it, or knew it’s actual dimension (it’s 3.26 light years).

Of what importance is such seemingly esoteric information to everyday life?

Foundations. What makes up the foundations of a belief system? Fundamental to the Christian religions of the world is a belief in a passion play about one man/god being brutalized while trying to help downtrodden humans around him. His trial execution and rising from the dead comprise a collection of whispered, rumored and scribbled data that is more unlikely than any other belief system founded on physical properties. Political beliefs are based upon similar bodies of homogenized data, some of it factual (like the sun really is about ninety-two million miles away at earth’s closest approach in orbit), and some is not. Two humans are the finalists for the major parties running in the final days of the U.S. presidential race, and some of the beliefs circulating are conjectural (like Trump assaults women or Hillary used her charity to curry favor). What makes up the motivational foundations of active application of beliefs? In other words, what causes people to take action on their beliefs, especially when it comes to electing a president? Those questions are extremely difficult to answer because all humans have beliefs, and those beliefs skew the decision-making everyone, including the author of this article.

At an EST meeting many years ago, a salesman for the “training” program used a pie-shaped chart to show that all information could be described in only three ways: those things you know, those things you know you don’t know and those things you don’t know you don’t know. The EST organization had (supposedly) figured out a way for anyone who went on to attend the six hundred dollar course to “know those things they didn’t know they didn’t know”. Was it a scam? Of course, but the salesman sold many memberships anyway. The coming election is going to be all about the things that American’s don’t know they don’t know. Add, “don’t believe even if informed” to that last sentence.

EST Piechart

American’s will vote for a president based partially upon what that president promises to do while in office.

  • Things like how much money will be collected and from whom.
  • Things like how governmental monies will be spent.
  • Things like what countries will be bombed or not.
  • Things like whether a wall to keep out immigrants will be built or not.

Those are all things, by the way, that presidents traditionally – and on into the future – have no control over, other than trying to influence the real decision-makers about those issues in order to guide them one way or the other. Because the candidates both claim that they can control things that they cannot control, the public comes to believe that its vote is a vote for or against those things. Presidents have no control over the legality of abortion, or whether it is to be allowed or not. This is true for many other serious and highly contentious issues. And when it comes down to the other big feature on which prospective presidents are judged, and either gain or lose votes, and that’s called character, there’s even less hard data to found decision-making on. One candidate is recorded as having said he abuses women at every opportunity (but has he really done that). But is it only talk? His current defense is that he would not have done so because all the women (ten of them, so far), who have come forward claiming he inappropriately touched them, are not good looking enough for him to have groped. The other candidate kept private emails about everything, and hasn’t been exactly truthful about revealing what was in those emails. Admittedly, she’s been in government service for a long time and therefore (like John Kerry, and his Vietnam service) can be criticized for certain things done in that service, unlike opponents who avoided such service, but are not criticized for that avoidance. Were both John Kerry and Hillary heroic in their military service? Yes, by almost any definition of the word. Were their opponents cowardly in avoiding such service? Yes, by almost any definition of that word. But what does it matter since “facts” like that make up that part of the pie chart the salesman for EST failed to mention.

“The things that you don’t know that you don’t want to know” is a phrase that should take up a good chunk of that pie chart. Those include things like maybe some really awful porn, torture of animals and humans, graphic executions and stuff like that. That phrase also encompasses things that people will simply not put into their minds, like it’s reprehensible to insult war heroes about their service, or denigrate women about their appearance. How it’s awful to liken your opponent to a horse Putin is riding, or that the lives lost at Benghazi didn’t matter. Although I mention those revelations about both candidates please don’t get the idea that there’s any equality there. There’s not. Without a doubt or shred of evidence to prove otherwise, Donald Trump is the single worst candidate to run for presidential office in the United States, ever. If he were to win, and that’s unlikely given what so many people know they know, his win would be entirely based on the things people don’t know they don’t know, with the biggest voting bloc being those who never wanted to know what it was they didn’t know.

Ignorance is usually evident in every election, and beliefs based upon studied ignorance have thrived among all the members of the human species going all the way back to when we were swinging from branch to branch in those proverbial jungles. Ignorance is to be tolerated and worked with. Deliberate ignorance is to be stamped out at every opportunity, and wherever such appearances of slowly suicidal behavior are exhibited.

Go out and vote against ignorance, and never forget that you must do so with caution, for deliberate ignorance has a long established habit of stamping you, and people like you, out of existence.   Your vote will be kept secret for that very reason.
~ James Strauss

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