Ignorance, arrogance, narrowness of mind, incomplete knowledge and counterfeit knowledge are of concern to us because they are dangerous; when united with great power, they cause great destruction.
Our damages to watersheds and ecosystems will have to be corrected one farm, one forest, one acre at a time. The aftermath of a bombing has to be dealt with one corpse, one wound at a time [...] If we find the consequences of our arrogant ignorance to be humbling, and we are humbled, then we have the first fact of hope: We can change ourselves. We, each of us severally, can remove our minds from the corporate ignorance and arrogance that is leading the world to destruction.
In his essay, The Idea of a Local Economy, Berry presents his understanding of the assumptions made by the free market, or total, economy:
1. That stable and preserving relationships among people, places, and things do not matter and are of no worth.
2. That cultures and religions have no legitimate practical or economic concerns.
3. That there is no conflict between the "free market" and political freedom, and no connection between political democracy and economic democracy.
4. That there can be no conflict between economic advantage and economic justice.
5. That there is no conflict between greed and ecological or bodily health.
6. That there is no conflict between self-interest and public service.
7. That the loss or destruction of the capacity anywhere to produce necessary goods does not matter and involves no cost.
8. That it is all right for a nation's or a region's subsistence to be foreign based, dependent on long-distance transport, and entirely controlled by corporations.
9. That, therefore, wars over commodities — our recent Gulf War, for example — are legitimate and permanent economic functions.
10. That this sort of sanctioned violence is justified also by the predominance of centralized systems of production supply, communications, and transportation, which are extremely vulnerable not only to acts of war between nations, but also to sabotage and terrorism.
11. That it is all right for poor people in poor countries to work at poor wages to produce goods for export to affluent people in rich countries.
12. That there is no danger and no cost in the proliferation of exotic pests, weeds, and diseases that accompany international trade and that increase with the volume of trade.
13. That an economy is a machine, of which people are merely the interchangeable parts. One has no choice but to do the work (if any) that the economy prescribes, and to accept the prescribed wage.
14. That, therefore, vocation is a dead issue. One does not do the work that one chooses to do because one is called to it by Heaven or by one's natural or god-given abilities, but does instead the work that is determined and imposed by the economy. Any work is all right as long as one gets paid for it.
The importance of knowledge and its effective communication — in terms of the simple sharing of facts, skills development, or the changing of established behaviours, in both actual and virtual environments — is a topic I've focussed on before in this blog. In "The Way of Ignorance", Berry presents his "taxonomy" of the types of human ignorance and knowledge:
Varieties of ignorance --
Inherent ignorance: Ignorance that stems from the limitations of the human brain.
Ignorance of history: Due to our unawareness of what we have forgotten, and never learned.
Materialist ignorance: Wilful refusal to recognize what cannot be empirically proved (narrow-mindedness).
Moral ignorance: Wilful refusal to come to a moral conclusion on the basis it may not be 'objective'.
Polymathic ignorance: The false confidence of knowledge of the past and future.
Self-righteous ignorance: Ignorance arising from our failure to know ourselves and our weaknesses.
Fearful ignorance: Stemming from the lack of courage to believe and accept knowledge that is unpopular, unpleasant or tragic.
Lazy ignorance: Stemming from not being willing to make the effort to understand what is complex.
For-profit and for-power ignorance: Deliberate obscuring or withholding of knowledge (e.g. advertising, propaganda).
Varieties of knowledge --
Empirical knowledge: That which can be empirically proved to be true or factual.
Experiential knowledge: That which comes from personal experience.
Traditional 'common' knowledge: The collective experiential knowledge of a community or culture, handed down, by those who have lived in the same place for a long time.
Religious knowledge: Those who premise the falsehood of such knowledge of course don't have it and their opinion of it is worthless.
Instinctive and intuitive knowledge: That which need not be learned, which is known without the need for proof.
Conscience or moral knowledge: The knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behaviours.
Inspiration and imagination: Knowledge that comes from sources that cannot be empirically located.
Sympathy and affection: The intimate knowledge of others that comes by relating to and connecting with them.
Bodily knowledge: The ability to apply skillfully what is conceptually known.
Counterfeit knowledge: Falsehoods that are known to be such but are nonetheless plausible.
• Learning and knowledge require diversity of opinions to present the whole and to permit selection of best approach.
• Learning is a network-formation process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
• Knowledge rests in networks.
• Knowledge may reside in non-human appliances, and learning is enabled/facilitated by technology.
• Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
• Learning and knowing are constant, on-going processes (not end states or products).
• Ability to see connections and recognize patterns and make sense between fields, ideas, and concepts is the core skill for individuals today.
• Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
• Decision-making is learning. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.
• While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
Given the consequences of ignorance or Berry's "counterfeit knowledge", it is important, then, that people get it. One of the most succinct approaches I've found — and one which I've utilized when trying to foster awareness and stimulate response to environmental issues in communities — is Dave Pollard's post on How To Change Hearts, Minds & Behaviours. Of course, the sharing of knowledge is only the first step. And even then, as Pollard has commented repeatedly:
We do what we must, then we do what's easy, and then we do what's fun.
And finally, a consideration from George Siemens:
We seem to feel that it is our structuring of knowledge that gives birth to learning, not the innate curiosity and aptitude for learning. In a sense, we believe students will not arrive at "c" if they don't first go through "a" and "b". This may be true in certain instances, but there are times where "a" and "b" are acquired in the doing of "c". It's contextual (as always). I've had times in my life where I would have appreciated theoretical background before moving to action. Other times, the theory was an impediment. It's difficult to frame learning too precisely without consideration of context.