Two Reasons for Public Ignorance

As I see it, there are two reasons why so many in the general public come across as “low-information”, often appearing to ignore or even deny what seems clear to those who are more knowledgeable.

First, many of us have what I call an ahistorical view. This means that if  you were born in a certain year, like 1969 in my case, anything that happened before that is irrelevant to you and may be ignored. That is why you see so many white people argue, “I had nothing to do with slavery before the Civil War! Don’t blame me for that!” Or, “I did not kill all those Native Americans back then and take their land, it’s not my responsibility for them now!” See this earlier blog entry for an expression of that ignorance by an actual celebrity:

PLAYBOY: Indians on reservations are more neglected than cared for. Even if you accept the principle of expropriation, don’t you think a more humane solution to the Indian problem could have been devised?

WAYNE: This may come as a surprise to you, but I wasn’t alive when reservations were created — even if I do look that old. I have no idea what the best method of dealing with the Indians in the 1800s would have been. Our forefathers evidently thought they were doing the right thing.

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about the government grant for a university and cultural center that these Indians [occupying Alcatraz] have demanded as “reparations”?

WAYNE: What happened between their forefathers and our forefathers is so far back — right, wrong or indifferent — that I don’t see why we owe them anything. I don’t know why the government should give them something that it wouldn’t give me.

The second problem, related to the first, is what I call self-centeredness, the idea of only YOUR personal issues being important to you because you lack empathy for others, past and present. This may also be known as anti-holism, when you are focused on your immediate and personal concerns so much that you never think of how society as a whole may be affected by what you want as opposed to what others want. Instead of seeking “win-win” solutions, you only want to win and make others lose!

We delude ourselves into thinking that if having a million dollars is good, having ten million must be better, so we strive for that while never thinking of anyone who considers himself lucky to even have $100,000. Or never gets even close to having that much.

The United States is the richest nation in the world. Case in point, we have toilets everywhere, including in nearly all of our homes. But there are millions of people in other parts of the world that are so impoverished that they do not even have toilets. Instead, they practice open defecation, often in the same lakes and rivers they must bathe in and drink from, resulting in exposure to any number of diseases.

Meanwhile, in that supposedly rich country I live in:

#3. The Rural Areas Have Been Beaten To Shit

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Don’t message me saying all those things I listed are wrong. I know they’re wrong. Or rather, I think they’re wrong, because I now live in a blue county and work for a blue industry. I know the Good Old Days of the past were built on slavery and segregation, I know that entire categories of humanity experienced religion only as a boot on their neck. I know that those “traditional families” involved millions of women trapped in kitchens and bad marriages. I know gays lived in fear and abortions were back-alley affairs.

I know the changes were for the best.

Try telling that to anybody who lives in Trump country.

Mark Makela/Getty Images
Hard to be thrilled about Clinton when your Trump sign is the most valuable thing you own.

They’re getting the shit kicked out of them. I know, I was there. Step outside of the city, and the suicide rate among young people fucking doubles. The recession pounded rural communities, but all the recovery went to the cities. The rate of new businesses opening in rural areas has utterly collapsed.

Economic Innovation Group
They could all move to Vegas, but then there’s that whole “decadence and apocalypse” thing.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

I totally get that! But I am willing to bet that the people in the so-called Third World that practice shitting in their own water supply because they have to would trade places with those impoverished rural Americans in a heartbeat. Because rural Americans only see their own poverty (and remember that poverty is a relative thing, because the white corporate rulers in the big cities are far richer than them), they feel miserable. But they still have toilets.

There is a reason why I call Africa the Cursed Continent. It was almost entirely taken over and beaten down by European imperialism around the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries:


And even after the Europeans gave up control of those areas after World War II, they mostly left the Africans to fend for themselves. The results were horrific. The following cartograms, representing different territories in the world by size according to various statistics, show what Africans are suffering:

Malaria Deaths
In 2003, 92% of malaria cases and 94% of malarial deaths were recorded as being in African territories. The other 6% of deaths were mainly in Asia Pacific and Southern Asia. The total deaths recorded were 0.15% of the total cases. Whilst there were most malaria cases in Southeastern Africa, there were most deaths in Central Africa. Symptoms of malaria include fever and vomiting. Most deaths occur in cerebral malaria.The term ‘malaria’ comes from the medieval Italian ‘mala aria’ meaning ‘bad air’. The term was coined at a time before the mosquito had been identified as the carrier of the parasite.

Cholera Deaths

Cholera deaths result from severe dehydration caused by diarrhoea. This is treatable: in 2004 the number of cholera deaths was only 2.5% of the number of cholera cases that year. Distributions of cholera cases and deaths differ due to differing availability of treatments.

In 1962, in Papua New Guinea, 36% of cholera cases, which was 464 people, died. In 2004, in the Central African Republic, 15% of cholera cases, which was 48 people, died.

In contrast, there were 73 territories where nobody died from cholera, because of good sanitation, clean water and available treatment. These territories have no area on this map.

Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a disease that is spread by mosquitoes. Unlike malaria, also carried by mosquitoes, yellow fever is not found in Southern Asia. This disease is almost exclusively found in Northern Africa (68% of cases) and South America (31% of cases).

Yellow fever is also known as black vomit (vomit negro in Spanish). Both of these names describe some of the more severe symptoms. “Yellow fever” due to the fever and jaundice that can occur. “Black vomit” because of the congealed blood in the sick of its victims.

A vaccine against yellow fever exists, but not everyone has access to this. 1 in 10 yellow fever cases lead to death.

HIV Prevalence

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection, attacks the immune system. It eventually causes AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. With cases first recognised in the United States in 1981, AIDS increases the risk of many infections and tumours.In 2003, the highest HIV prevalence was Swaziland, where 38%, or almost 4 in every 10 people aged 15 to 49 years, were HIV positive. All ten territories with the highest prevalence of HIV are in Central and Southeastern Africa.Transmission of HIV is through sex, using infected needles and in the womb. Infected children are not shown here. HIV/AIDS often has an acquired social stigma.

Despite Africa being the most disease ridden continent, it also has the fewest doctors to treat those diseases.

Physicians Working

A physician can also be called a medical doctor. Physicians may be general practitioners or may specialise. The Caribbean island of Cuba has the most physicians per person working there; the fewest physicians per person are in the Southeastern African territory of Malawi.In 2004 there were 7.7 million physicians working around the world. The largest number were in China, which is the largest territory on the map. If physicians were distributed according to population, there would be 124 physicians to every 100,000 people. The most concentrated 50% of physicians live in territories with less than a fifth of the world population. The worst off fifth are served by only 2% of the world’s physicians.

Wealth Year 2015

The projected wealth of China in 2015 could mean it producing 27% of all the wealth in the world, if the economic trends established between 1975 and 2002 continue for another 13 years. In year 1 of the current era China produced 26% of the wealth in the world, but very slowly declined to generating only 5% of the world total in 1960.

Whilst China is predicted to recover its former position within the world economy, this time instead of the Americas having a very small percentage of world wealth, as in year 1, now it is African territories that are predicted to remain small on the international financial stage. Eastern European territories are also predicted to have decreasing proportions of world wealth.

(Emphasis mine)

That is why I have little sympathy for those Trump supporters who say they are not racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted but hope that Donald Trump as President can help them get jobs. The simple fact that Trump’s expressions of racism, sexism and other examples of just plain RUDENESS to others did not deter them from voting for him means they have no business claiming to be enlightened. And if they are not enlightened, I do not respect them, period. More to the point, people wanting Donald Trump to get them back jobs they lost are delusional; that can only happen if Trump establishes a form of socialism, which most conservatives seem to be deathly afraid of. In a free market global economy, when labor costs are less in other parts of the world than here, the manufacturing jobs will go there and not remain here. Also, do American coal miners and manufacturers really want to compete with Chinese ones, for example? Then they will have to take a massive pay cut and abandon all safety regulations…..and end up poor and dying due to accidents anyway. Slapping a trade embargo on China carries with that its own national security risks; the Chinese could retaliate any number of ways later.

These issues of ahistoricality and lack of holism also explain the appeal of the claims of anti-vaxxers. People today simply have no idea how horrible epidemics were before vaccines came along. And in the (very few) cases in which defective vaccines DO cause diseases or disorders of some kind, people tend to ignore that public health issues in the distant past were still far worse for societies as a whole and focus on the plight of those few individuals today. Want to bet anti-vaxxism is not very popular in Africa now? Even there, people no longer suffer from smallpox, which was wiped out in the 20th Century, thanks to vaccines.

6 thoughts on “Two Reasons for Public Ignorance

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