Another dot in the blogosphere?

Stupid distance

Posted on: May 3, 2021

I am going to conclude with this: It is relatively easy to overcome ignorance. It is practically impossible to solve stupid.

How did I arrive at that conclusion? 

Over the weekend, a message declaring that people will be fined or even jailed for not keeping 1m apart made the social media and messaging rounds. 

I did not get any notification because I have been keeping a distance from stupid (aka stupid distance) by staying away as much as possible from Facebook and WhatsApp. I treat these platforms like COVID-19 clusters.

Unfortunately, my wife received this message from a colleague and that triggered this reflection. 

As @mrbrown pointed out, the warning was from a news article published on 27 March 2020. The warning was from more than a year ago when strict policies were put into place and right before our lockdown.

My issue is not with the rule because it is still an offence to flout physical distancing rules. The problem is people spreading the “warning” without first checking the source. It is basic information literacy to do this.

Simply forwarding a message without first reading and evaluating its source (if it even has one) is not ignorant, it is stupid.

Ignorance is forgivable and can be overcome. It is the default state of not knowing about something because you simply do not know about it. For example, I have a Ph.D., but I am ignorant about appreciating jazz. I can learn how to do this if I need or want to, then I am no longer ignorant in this respect.

But wilful ignorance is stupid. This is knowing better but still going ahead with an uninformed action. In this case, it is forwarding a source without first checking its relevance, context, or intent.

If I had to give some benefit of doubt to whoever started the spread, it might be that they were simply trying to remind people to work together to keep COVID-19 at bay. This is in the context of the recent hospital cluster and our Prime Minister’s hope to avoid a second lockdown (aka Circuit Breaker 2).

But this does not mean relying on old habits to deal with new problems. It is old habits that create or perpetuate problems in the first place, e.g., misinformation and fluid vectors of disease.

Old habits can be comforting and they persist because we refuse to change even though we might know better. A small change could mean checking the source (published date of article) of your claim (jail/fine for not being 1m apart). This change would mean this text chain would not start, or if it did, be stopped quickly by those who practice this change.

Sadly, some choose to stay in their comfort zone even if the cognitive dissonance is small and the inconvenience is minor. We collectively look stupid if we choose to ignore better habits of mind and practice.

Photo by Plato Terentev on

It is relatively easy to overcome ignorance. It is practically impossible to solve stupid. This is why I immerse myself in the business of education and maintain a wide stupid distance.

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