Tuesday, August 17, 2010


A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR who’d lived in Chico for nearly two decades, held on to a lilting Australian accent even after all those years. As a young teen, I figured his affectation helped win the hearts of co-eds in the classroom, later adding to that thought, “and perhaps other places.” My mother felt his voice should have assimilated into the melting pot long ago. “Oh, he works at keeping it. He just has a cultivated accent.”

AT A COMMISSION MEETING for a rural California county, members were asked to approve actions that would support “Smart Growth.” The idea revolves around building communities with more efficient transportation networks, walking paths, bike trails; encouraging use of recycled and renewable materials; and encouraging the development of “Green” industries. The commission was unanimous. They voted it down. “Too much bureaucracy,” one stated. “Loss of local control,” stated another. “Global warming is a myth,” said a third.

It can be argued that it was prudent for these guys to be wary of change. Too frequently our legislative bodies respond what's couched as an urgent need only to end up with a solution that is worse than the problem. That said, however, it is not okay, in the face of mounting evidence, for a public representative to make decisions based upon cultivated ignorance. i.e.: "Global warming is a myth."

CULTIVATED IGNORANCE is something one ‘works at’ by being selective about that which the individual allows to influence his thinking. It breeds in people who are unwilling to change the radio dial, pick up a book or read a newspaper. Folks who get all of their news and information from the Internet are easily infected, too. Typically, folks suffering from C I aren’t in too great a rush to hear the other side of the argument.

Individuals and companies that benefit from the status quo are fans of Cultivated Ignorance. These entities know that if they can convince Joe the Plumber that climate change is a myth, regulation is bad, universal health care will kill grandma, and that tax money is always wasted, Joe will vote against his own and his community’s own best interest. And the wealth will continue to flow.

Just not to Joe. Joe will develop cancer or diabetes. His kid: asthma. Gas will continue to get more expensive. The summer droughts longer; the winter weather weirder and more severe. And the cops may not show up when Joe needs ‘em.

THE CURE FOR CULTIVATED IGNORANCE comes to a well-educated society in the form of scientific research; thoughtful, reasoned discussion; personal introspection absent – if just for moments – those influences that stand to gain from maintenance of the status quo; and a willingness to see change as opportunity.

We do need to take actions locally to stem the impact of our way of life on the planet’s natural systems. Such actions may not be beneficial to those to whom the wealth currently flows, but the eco-system doesn't really give a crap about who has money and who does not. Neither should we, because that’s one thing that probably isn't going to change.

But we should collectively care for our eco-system, which will change. And is.


  1. D H writes: There's a difference between a skeptic and a denier. A skeptic wants proof, evidence, argument. And a skeptic is open to being persuaded. A denier has already made up their minds and only wants reinforcement of their prejudice. No amount of facts, evidence or expert testimony will change their minds. America's trend towards anti-intellectualism feeds this trend of denial. I see it at all levels of government, not just local.

  2. Issues to quickly deteriorate to either/or when yes/and may be a richer discussion with a more positive outcome.

    Good post Mr. B.

  3. Yes, the dumbing down of our culture is an insidious modus apparandi we see all too often. A grand waste of precious opinion power, if you ask me.
    I must say, Mr Brilliant, I was sidetracked by your opening paragraph. Claiming said Australian professor should have cultivated an "American" accent after living here...why, pray tell, is that necessary? It is not a natural affect of moving from your native land to loose your accent. You actually have to work at it. And why is that necessary? To prove assimilation? Now, this does smack of cultivated ignorance...just sayin...keep growing, we must!

    1. Regrets that you missed the point of that opening paragraph. Well, maybe, you didn't.

      Had the Australian actually been cultivating something, it would have been an "American" accent - something I was, as a kid, always rather pleased he never did. If only because it irritated mom so; then later, because his voice was part of who he was - certainly a wonderful, colorful thread to add to the fabric of our nation.

      Thanks for reading and for the suggestion to "keep growing." Words to live by indeed.

      Best to you...