Ignorance is not a straight forward concept or should we say state of mind. The word ‘ignorant’ is often used to describe a person lacking knowledge or awareness. However, it can also be used to describe persons who deliberately ignore or disregard known important facts, data and information. ‘Indifference’ (or apathy) refers to lack of interest, sympathy, concern or emotion. Being indifferent can mean you know but you do not care. Ignorance can be passive or active – you may not know or know. So which one is worst?
In many cases, the statement ‘I didn’t know’ is not good enough. Ignorance is no excuse. If you break the law and you try to avoid penalty saying you did not know for sure that is not good enough – any citizen of a state is obliged to make themselves familiar with relevant laws. Another scenario; you know that your neighbour is beating up his wife but you do nothing to stop it because you do not want any trouble. Are you ignorant or indifferent? Most probably you are ignorant, in fact this would mean being active ignorant. You ignore the fact that a person is beaten up, saying to yourself, it is none of my business, but is that really the case?
Active ignorance is worse than passive ignorance. Very often ignorance becomes the choice of a conscious mind, especially if own comfort is at stake. We are careful meddling into people’s affairs (when we should) whether this is of private or work-related character. Not only do we not perceive other people’s problems our business, we are also careful invading other people’s private space. Most of all however, are we perhaps careful avoiding creating problems for ourselves. How loud do you raise your voice when you see someone being unfair treated? Not very loud, I guess.
We should care more. Ignorance makes the world cold, talking about the type of ignorance not stemming from lack of opportunity, motivation, health or finances. No, we are talking about active ignorance – the simple ability to show compassion and humanity and to reach out a hand when you see someone needing it. It is more difficult to deal with indifference which is more a psychological state, so yes, one could perhaps say that ignorance is worse than indifference or apathy. Knowing and not caring.