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Thread: Sympathy for the Ignorant

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    Sympathy for the Ignorant

    This is something I've been thinking about lately - how to feel about people who aren't so aware of themselves or the world around them.

    In most cases ignorance is pretty benign, it means a person has a few misconceptions, and with a bit of courtesy everything goes on fine.

    But let's go through a thought experiment:

    We take the most extreme Trump supporter, racist, nationalist, malevolent towards certain groups.

    Is it possible to feel sympathy for a person like this? Do they deserve that sympathy? And if not, how should we treat someone like that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    This is something I've been thinking about lately - how to feel about people who aren't so aware of themselves or the world around them.

    In most cases ignorance is pretty benign, it means a person has a few misconceptions, and with a bit of courtesy everything goes on fine.

    But let's go through a thought experiment:

    We take the most extreme Trump supporter, racist, nationalist, malevolent towards certain groups.

    Is it possible to feel sympathy for a person like this? Do they deserve that sympathy? And if not, how should we treat someone like that?
    I don’t have a lot of sympathy for ignorance in general. But then there are large contingents of my family, genetic and by marriage. So I do know for some why they ended up as they have. I know the limits of their education and their experiences with the world outside of their narrow circumstances. And at least some think the same of me.

    The truth is that there are a lot of people who have worked very hard their whole lives, made do with next to nothing because no matter how hard they worked, that very little was all they were ever going to get. For at least some, seeing the gains that other people: blacks, women, gay people, Hispanics have made due to the enactment of the Civil rights legislation, they see them as having an unfair advantage and themselves as ignored and left behind unfairly. Instead of seeing that there were serious and egregious injustices and obstacles based on race that gender that held back decent hardworking people, they see how their own circumstances have held them back and it seems just not fair. They believe that simply saying that there is no more discrimination makes it so. They feel victimized.

    Trump sounds as uneducated and ill informed as they sometimes are. This, I’ve always believed, was the great appeal of Bush Jr. too. But trump gives voice to their anger and resentment and openly panders to their bigotry, vindicating their mindset.

    People always want to feel good about themselves and Trump allows them to feel good about their vocabulary, their education and their bigotry. If someone ‘like them’ can be POTUS, then there isn’t really anything wrong with how they think.

    Plus there’s a bunch of end timers out there.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    Recently I had a discussion with a person who believes as I do that there are too many of us. My own lifestyle, when calculated out based on my energy consumption/carbon footprint, means that people who live like me don't need any more earths. One is enough if we're good stewards. He, on the other hand, lives a lifestyle that requires six earths to support if all humans lived like him.

    Ignorance doesn't hurt the two of us because we're hard working and intelligent enough. We have the ability to find our niche in the ecosystem and the environment, like any organism that wants to survive. Lots of people lack that awareness and a basic skill set that allows them to make observations. The discussion the two of us had started out with observations about homelessness and how to solve the problem, and then progressed into exactly what we as a species should want, and what we're trying to do with our collective lives. Lot's of people can't have such conversations.

    Having sympathy is an emotional discussion. It really doesn't solve anything whether we have sympathy or not. It's good to see yourself in another person's place and then try to help them, sympathy or no sympathy, based on what is best for humans and earth.

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    I'd like to add this:

    I recognize very well that I am quite fortunate and always have been. My parents placed a high value in our education and pushed us to do well--and while I did not realize this until well into late middle age, apparently praised us rather relentlessly to the parents of some of these conservative relatives who are Trump supporters. Which did not help their parents pass along a lot of positive feelings about their offsprings' talents and prospects.

    Because of my parents' vision for their kids and because they never ever let us think there was anything we could not do, all my siblings and I managed to do pretty well for ourselves. In every case I'm thinking of, we're far better off economically than my Trump loving family. Some of it was luck in having parents who saw the best way for us to have a good economic future being through education and who taught us to always think for ourselves. Part of it is that risks we took really did work out for us in ways that did not necessarily work out for my Trumpster relatives--and part of that is luck and part of that is being smart about how we approached some things. That we were more fortunate in some respects does not make us better people than the others and it doesn't make us necessarily smarter. I spent some years when I was really poor, when a missed pay check or even a short one could have easily meant I was on the streets and almost did. Fortunately, this did not last long and by the time I had kids (please note: the first kid was not planned) things were a little more secure and looking up. I can only imagine living life with no economic security even when working your tail off. I've been there but only for a short while and not with kids.

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    Since I'm highly skeptical that there is such a thing as free will, it's usually very easy for me to feel sympathy for the ignorant. While Trump supporters are very disturbing, it doesn't help to judge them harshly. They are just like all of us, heavily influenced by our genetic and environmental backgrounds. That doesn't mean that they can't change when new environmental influences are offered to them, but it may be very difficult for someone who has always thought and believed one way to be open to new evidence or ideas. And, some people aren't intellectually capable of thinking outside the box, or being open to new ideas.

    For example, I have one friend who is a Trump supporter. She is a rather caring nurse. She was raised in a conservative Christian home and I imagine her family or her friends have always been Republicans. She gets all her news from Fox, so she's never really been exposed to any more factual sources of news. She's smart and educated when it comes to things related to her profession. She's very caring and has a lot of empathy for her patients. So, I admire her positive traits and wish there was a way to help her be better informed regarding some other things. I'm just not sure at this point in her life, that such changes are even possible.

    My brother in law, on the other hand has a doctorate degree in dentistry, so he's not ignorant when it comes to science. But, since he was a young child, he was obsessed with money, so he is a Trump supporter for one reason, "he put more money in my pocket" to quote him. He does have some positive traits. He raised and supported his two step children and employs both of them, despite being divorced from their mother. So, once again, I can admire his positive traits and despise his greediness, while realizing that he's had this trait since early childhood, assuming my husband is telling me the truth. Maybe his greed has made him ignorant of the many negative things that Trump is doing to the country. It's complicated.

    While I try not to judge others, I am not always able to do so. There are times, when I want to scream at certain people, so sometimes I'm guilty of using sarcasm and humor to make a point to someone who appears to be very ignorant. I can have both sympathy and disgust towards some people. After all, I don't have anymore free will than the next person. . ( And no, I don't want to enter into a discussion about free will. I'm just stating my own position on it )

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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    This is something I've been thinking about lately - how to feel about people who aren't so aware of themselves or the world around them.

    In most cases ignorance is pretty benign, it means a person has a few misconceptions, and with a bit of courtesy everything goes on fine.

    But let's go through a thought experiment:

    We take the most extreme Trump supporter, racist, nationalist, malevolent towards certain groups.

    Is it possible to feel sympathy for a person like this? Do they deserve that sympathy? And if not, how should we treat someone like that?
    In your example, no. Consider, these proud patriotic Americans were well aware of John McCain's service to his country, yet they disparaged him on command. The same could be said for Bill Taylor and Lt. Col. Vindman. How to treat someone like that? With a noncommittal nod of the head and all effort to close the conversation as quickly as possible.

    Beyond your example, carefully worded questions that hopefully causes them to question their position.
    Dwight

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    Seriously, an ignorant view.

    We are all ignorant. Try chanting 'I am not all knowing and wise' until it sinks in. Even the most aware see only a part of what is really going on across humanity.

    Do you know your neighbors and how they act and what they think?

    Anyone one who thinks they have it all figured out is foolish. Trump a prime example.

    The professional pundits in the last campaign thought they had it figured out, and were surprised when Trump won.

    Some people considered me smart. I have been fooled and been ignorant enough times to know I am not that smart.

    Most of us become aware of the environment we live in. We all have limits, the trick is seeing those limits.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    We all have limits, the trick is seeing those limits.
    That's what the OP is about. I don't think your typical trumpster understands this or even thinks about it.

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    The problem is willful ignorance. Closed-mindedness and indoctrination through fear. Simple ignorance is cured with education and inspiring curiosity through the joy of discovery.

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    i guess it depends on what you mean by the word "ignorant"

    a dictionary definition (and the one i use personally) means having a lack of knowledge or understanding about something.
    however, "ignorant" is often used synonymously with "stupid", which has more of a connotation of being mentally incapable of processing information or understanding something.

    prior to the internet, i was able to have some empathy for ignorant people because of the extent to which they simply lacked access to information, so it was understandable one would be ignorant on a given subject.
    after the last 10 years however it's pretty much inexcusable to be wrong about or unaware of the facts of a thing, and so i've come to view ignorance as an intentional form of lazy self delusion - or, at the least, the product of a personality that doesn't put any stock in being factually accurate.
    in either case, i find that pretty much deplorable and dismiss those people out of hand.

    as for how to treat them, i would say treat them the same way you would treat a 5 year old who demands that the fruit-filled cookie is called a "pig newton" - correct them once, and then shrug and ignore them and don't allow them to be part of any decision making process because they're incapable of keeping up.

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