This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Ignorance isn't Bliss


Or, is it better to be poor and knowledgeable or an illiterate billionaire?

I’m sure you all must have come across these characters who love to jeer at anything approaching the search for knowledge for its own sake. I’ve been told that anyone doing pure research is “jobless” and their efforts are useless because nobody can make money out of it.

Back in the days when I still used to go on chat, in a Bombay chat room (and you haven’t even begun to plumb the depths of deliberate and wilful ignorance till you interact with Bombayites) I was informed, by someone, who also authoritatively pronounced that Saddam Hussein was a Pakistani, that nobody needs to know history and that he was proud never to have studied a word on the subject.

Proud.

I’m sure you know where I stand on this particular question. I’ve met plenty of rich, or ultra-rich, people who wouldn’t be able to state whether the earth revolves round the sun or vice-versa, but who can afford vacations in Hawaii or London. The owner of the building where I have my clinic is a pretty good example of one (in his defence, he at least doesn’t make a virtue of his ignorance on virtually any topic not involving money). I’ve met – hell, I have people in my extended family – people who hardly have enough funds to make ends meet, but who can tell you the mathematics of black holes.

I’m sure you know which side of the debate I stand on, and by the very fact that you’re online on a site like Multiply where you generally need to spend a bit of time thinking, unlike some, I’m sure you’re on the same side of the fence.

Still, it would be nice if we lived back in the days where governments gave grants to scholars so they could do their search for knowledge without worrying where the next meal was coming from.

But until then, all power to those who dig out dinosaur bones and study the radiation from the stars.

You are the past, the future, and all that will ever be.

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