1. Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.
2. Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular: “ignorant of astronomy”.
I am KaylaJo O’Lone-Hahn. I am a pansexual female, gender-nonconformist, radical queer, feminist/intersectionalist, nihilist, rape survivor, and anarchist-communist. My political and philosophical outlooks make up an enormous part of who I am, define where my character lies, and help determine what my actions consist of. I am also white and middle class. Because of this, I come from an intersection of great economic and social privilege, but have also faced other social oppressions. I have only come to any of these outlooks on life because of plenty of research and luck in knowing people who held these and other views. I am on a constant hunt for knowledge, and the knowledge I have gleaned from circumstance and understanding makes me who I am.
Because of my privilege being white and middle class, my constant search for knowledge leads me down many paths that makes me ashamed of my ancestors. To also know that I am lucky enough to live the way I do, while many of my friends and comrades barely get by, makes me ashamed of myself and my privilege. Now, there are a few ways to go with this shame. I can stop seeking knowledge that may make me understand the lowest, cruelest parts of my ancestry and the world I live in so that I don’t feel bad. I can try and justify the actions of many before me. I can tell myself that my mother’s side of the family was all poor Whites. I can bring up the tiny bit of my Cherokee ancestry (which, because of time-frame reasons, I do not go touting around, because the historical significance suggests a white male member of my family raped a Native American woman and made her pregnant) so that I can tell myself, with the poor White ancestry of Ireland and Eastern Europe, combined with Cherokee ancestry, my family has been oppressed. And that’s not entirely untrue. Poor whites and Native Americans have suffered oppression in American society. But as an individual, I have not suffered oppression because of my race.
My final option is to continue seeking knowledge about the past so I can try and help to discontinue the oppression in the future. Sometimes, I will feel bad. But it really doesn’t matter if I feel bad, because the oppression that thousands upon thousands of people face today is the more pressing and meaningful issue than my individual feelings. Therefore, I must go on seeking knowledge to better the world, and that’s it.
Not everyone wants to do this, and that’s where ignorance comes in. Everyone is ignorant of something, no one could ever possibly know everything about the world. Even if we all spent every moment of our lives researching every topic we can, we will not know everything. Because of my views, I like to consider myself less ignorant than most, but I am still young and have a long ways of learning to go.
Still, ignorance plays a major role in politics. Some kinds of ignorance are benign, some are neutral, and others are malevolent. The most benign kind of ignorance is the one associated with not knowing, and not having thought up the topic to do adequate research. Some people genuinely have never thought of environmental politics, the plight of the poor in a certain area, or how Monsanto has monopolized and corrupted the food industry. In some cases, people have genuinely never thought of a topic and therefore know nothing about it. Now, if these people are involved in politics and have no knowledge of these or other things (it’s happened with me and a lot of people I know, everything is a learning process) I don’t feel like it should be held against them nor should any kind of interpersonal harm come to them. People should not be treated poorly because certain information has never come their way. But the requirement for me to feel this way is that the person in question must want to know. No matter how idiotic their lack of knowledge may seem, I won’t hold it against anyone so long as when they recognize their ignorance on a topic and they want to know more.
Beyond the genuine unknowing, a person can choose whether or not to pursue knowledge or not as it is placed in front of them. If they choose not to, they have an immoral ignorance. Those who do not seek to learn, especially within political communities, are normally what I see as being the weakest links in the chain, if they are even upstanding enough to be a part of the chain in the first place.
Then, there are the people who do know, but if they do not choose to ignore it, they do nothing about it. I know plenty of people from all backgrounds who refuse to recognize the plights of others, mostly because it makes them feel antagonized or guilty. To have knowledge and then refuse it for your own personal benefit is immoral in and of itself, but to have the knowledge, ignore it, and then refuse to accept it or do anything about it is a malevolent, willful ignorance.
There is also a right way to go. There are the people who don’t know everything, accept knowledge when it is offered to them, apply it to themselves no matter the emotional significance, and pursue actions as applies to the knowledge. If you know someone is getting beaten, stop it. Don’t just sit around pretending it doesn’t apply to you. If someone is riddled in addiction, help them, no matter how much precious time it takes out of your day. If someone is being oppressed, do whatever you can to stop it, rather than ignoring it or trying to justify it because the oppressors may be people you’re grouped with. Within the politics of ignorance, people should not be punished or ridiculed or what-have-you for a lack of knowledge. However, if they do have knowledge and either ignore it or do not pursue it further, they are a weakness within the movement and a stain on progression.
This also applies to people outside of movements. Sometimes, people genuinely have no knowledge that what they are doing is wrong, and it’s willfully ignorant to refuse that fact and go on hating, beating, or shaming people. I think we should all pursue knowledge, but some people are flat-out ignorant that something they do may be oppressive, racist, sexist, or a myriad of other things. If they don’t know, and have never thought of this, the focus should be on educating them rather than demonizing them. The demonizing should only come in once they have knowledge and refuse it or don’t take any action on it. I feel like ignorance is a large but subtle facet of political movements and should be taken very seriously both for those within and outside of the movements at hand. No movement will have true success without some kind of understanding, education, and fighting back against the wrongs of the world.