I Dunno LOL Dept.

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2016-04-19 14:00:00 No comments

A big part of the freedom that comes with living in an open society is the freedom to say "I don't know" and not be punished for it.

In the early days of his career, horror director Dario Argento worked on an Italian TV show called (if memory serves) Are You For Or Against?, where the premise was (again, if memory serves) to buttonhole people on the street about issues of the day and see what their responses were like, off the cuff.

That was fun as TV, but inflated to the size of a whole culture, it becomes horrible. Nobody should have to be able to deliver a firm position on absolutely any subject on a moment's notice in order to be taken seriously as a social participant. All that leads to is the need to show off, and a great deal of falling-back on canned positions that function (inadvertently, but function all the same) as thought-stopping.

Aside from trivializing the positions involved, this attitude also seems to put more emphasis on saying things instead of doing things. I say this knowing full well that speech is a kind of action, but it is not a substitute for other, sometimes far more important, kinds of action. There comes a time in most everyone's life when the smart thing to do is keep you mouth closed, listen to the other guy, and then think about how what he says can be translated into something in your own life. There are better things to do in this life than to always try and have the last word.

Note that I am not defending the unalloyed right to say "I don't care," which is not the same thing as "I don't know". "I don't know" means "I don't have command of the facts to make an informed statement"; "I don't care" means "I'm not motivated to have command of the facts". The former is about finding the right things to care about; it's about picking your battles wisely. The latter is about deserting the battlefield.

Tags: intellectualism philosophy politics society sociology