A Relative State of Ignorance

A friend texted me yesterday after reading my blog post. She seemed to take exception to my final sentence (Besides, nothing in this new world is more redundant than an old woman, no matter how perspicacious her thoughts might be) and sent me information about Maggie Kuhn, the woman who started the Gray Panthers, as an example of how important an old woman’s ideas can be.

My response? “And yet here we are, still redundant.”

I went on to say, “Actually, I should have qualified my half-facetious closing remark to refer to what’s going on today. In a war for the hearts and minds of the young, the old don’t matter. By the time their brave new world is operational, I’ll be dead.” Though, come to think of it, with the way things are changing so rapidly, I might still be alive enough to be affected by that world. Not a pleasant thought!

I also told my friend: “I have a hard time dealing with things today that I thought were taken care of in my youth, like civil rights, women’s rights, elder rights, environmental issues, and Russian conflicts. It was really a shock after living in the cocoon of Jeff’s illness and death and my grief to come out of it into a world that seems to have regressed tremendously. Russia an enemy? Really? What happened to Glasnost? And civil rights riots? Really? I thought that things had improved, but according to some sources, it’s even worse now than in our younger days.”

She responded: “I couldn’t agree more. The cultural information is not being passed down, I have felt for some time. And each newly read or watched program feels like another piece of who I thought we were as a country and any good memories I do have are taken away. So very hard to put it into words. And never have so many marched for so long in my memory and then I realize they can — because of the pandemic they are unemployed.”

My response: “Funny. I just came to that very same realization yesterday about protests and the pandemic. It’s hard for me to try to refrain from putting a conspiratorial slant on things.”

Her brilliant comment: “Isn’t it? The only thing that saves me is the thought that if we could work together to put on a worldwide pandemic successfully, SURELY we would have made a better world.”

Me again: “What worries me is that this is exactly the world we (they) want.”

The more I think about it, the more some sort of conspiracy seems to be a real possibility, and that the riots (oh, excuse me, the “mostly peaceful protests”) were spontaneously on purpose scheduled for this very time.

Beyond that, it’s not just about the information not being handed down or being unheeded. It’s not just that we thought things were progressing on all the various “rights” fronts and so we forgot about it.

There’s something more at work, and the only thing I can think of is that social progress was not just stalled but undone. Apparently, it’s hard to keep building a power base on the backs of the oppressed if the oppressed are no longer oppressed. So the plan seems to have been to re-oppress people so they can be re-unoppressed. Hence the déjà vu times we are living in. (Déjà vu to us older folks. Something brand new and radical to younger ones.)

Whether I’m right or way, way wrong, I’m beginning to see a bigger picture, big enough maybe, that I can stop thinking about all this, put it to rest in my mind, and go back to my relative state of ignorance, which isn’t as bad as it sounds.

Benjamin Hardy PhD believes that selective ignorance is a good thing. “It’s not the avoidance of learning. It’s also not the avoidance of getting feedback. It’s simply the intelligence of knowing that with certain things and people, the juice will never be worth the squeeze. It’s knowing what to avoid.”

And to me, a lot of what is going on the world today is best avoided even in my thoughts.

I just hope I can act on this resolve for ignorance!


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

9 Responses to “A Relative State of Ignorance”

  1. Estragon Says:

    I’m of two minds on the thinking behind your thought (i.e. that things have changed such that discussion is useless, or even dangerous).

    No doubt, we can be exposed to more points of view than ever before, and those views (including reactions to our own views) are less subject to filtration than ever before. What I don’t know is whether the views have really become more extreme, or whether it’s just that they get through to us in such greater number and so less filtered that it seems the views are more extreme. I’m leaning toward the latter, though there certainly seem to be more echo chambers amplifying the extremes.

    In your previous post, you suggest nothing anyone can say in a gale will rock the boat further. I assert this ignores the notion that despite the rocking, the ship remains afloat. An order to bear off the wind a few degrees, putting the craft broadside to the waves, could make a bad situation much worse. The crew has to rely on the skill and experience of the captain to correctly assess the relative dangers. In squally conditions, subtle shifts in winds can be extremely important – maybe brand new and radical to the newer crew, but hopefully “deja vu” to the experienced captain or at least to an old salt with the ear of the captain.

    All of which is to say… yeah, we may feel like we’ve seen this movie before. In a sense, we have. Maybe not exactly – the cast has changed, the plot points a bit different, but still a remake of some old classic. Having seen the original, us oldies can still serve a purpose in seeing the similarities; warning of a repeat of past mistakes, and serving as evidence that this is a survivable storm.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      You make good points. Leave it to a sailor to put the lie to my boat metaphor!

      Your comment about being exposed to more points of view than ever before is in agreement with Dr. Benjamin Hardy’s belief in selective ignorance. It’s because of all that input that we need to be more selective of what we pay attention to and what we ignore. He said, “Strategic ignorance is about purposefully ignoring or shielding yourself from what you already know is a distraction or an enemy to your future self. It’s your filter for ensuring that only the right new things reach you.”

      You make a good case for us oldies to speak out, and I can see the necessity for speaking out, but I can also see the necessity for being ignorant and not speaking out.

      What a world!

  2. Uthayanan Says:

    Dear Pat,
    The later blogs it is difficult to fallow for me as English as a third language.
    Simply I can say that I believe in you and way of your thinking and writing. I try to avoid the subjects which you try to avoid for shake of of you and your blog.
    At the moment i am afraid of America and Americans people.
    Please continue your journey as you intend to be for lot of people

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I am awed by anyone who can speak three languages. Your grasp of English is amazing to me. I hate to admit that English is my only language. I too am afraid of American people right now, but the truth is, we are not all the way we are portrayed in the news. Most of us are peace-loving and kind, grateful for what we have and willing to help where we can.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words.

  3. Sam Sattler Says:

    Pat, it is not just “old women” who are feeling redundant these days. Old men like me are feeling the same, believe me. I actually had a twenty-something young woman tell me on facebook the other day that my opinion did not matter because going by the picture I am using there to identify myself, I’m going to be dead in five years anyway. (Little did she know I was in the process of burying my 98-year-old father and that I’m hoping for a few more than five years for myself.)

    You are right about everything we grew up with and cherished, including our pride in how far things have generally changed for the better, being snatched from us. We are being made to feel like failures who are leaving behind such a terrible world that our grandchildren are going to have to protest in the streets to fix it all up the way it should be. Well, baloney!

    As a Southerner, I resent being shamed by these twits because my ancestors fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. What in hell did they expect? If they were from the South, the same would be true about them, for the most part. I’ve been doing some family tree digging in recent weeks, and just last night turned up a Great Great grandfather of German descent who fought for the Union as a sergeant in a calvary unit. I already new of another Great Great grandfather of French descent who fought for the Confederacy as a private in an infantry unit. So, it’s all way more complicated than these children believe it is. And they don’t want to hear the truth from people like us.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I knew as I was writing this piece I should have included men, too.

      I know it’s not funny, but I couldn’t help laughing. Dead in five years? What a nasty piece of work she is. Or just young and full of herself.

      As a second generation American, I resent being held responsible for slavery.

      Sheesh, my grandparents weren’t even in this country until much later. My grandfather, a legal immigrant to this country, died of black lung, a slave to the company-store policies of the owners of the Pennsylvania coal mines. Admittedly, this is not the same as the bought and sold sort of slavery that other groups have endured (including many of the early Irish immigrants) but it was a huge injustice. Even before they came here, my progenitors were fighting their own servitude in a far-off country years after the end of the Civil War ended. And yet, some of these anarchists want me to pay reparations to people who were never slaves, who aren’t even descendants of slaves. (A growing percentage of blacks in the USA, as many as 33% in some urban communities, 9% overall, are recent immigrants.)

      The whole thing is so complicated (or not, if the past is left in the past) that a single slogan or single agenda won’t help matters at all.

      This conflagration today makes me think we’re in the middle of an Ayn Rand novel with no satisfying ending in sight.

  4. Carol Says:

    I don’t think we ‘old’ women (and I’m much older than you) are redundant, but I do sometimes feel awash in a sea of sightless humanity, invisible to a generation of restless youth and egocentric politicians. And, like Sam, I resent having my generation held responsible for all that is currently wrong with our world.

    I don’t watch as much of the news as I used to because the magnitude of hate and violence would overwhelm me. Instead, I rather like the concept of an old Sunday School hymn: “Jesus bids us shine with a pure, clear light, like a little candle shining in the night. He looks down from heaven to see us shine, you in your small corner and I in mine.” Even without any religious overtones, the concept of doing what we can in whatever small way we may be able, wherever we are, is enough. I have a fridge magnet that says, “Bloom where you’re planted”. Suits me well. 🙂

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t think I’m redundant in general, just in the particular political climate I referred to in the blog. In my own life, in my own way, in the world of people I know and the place I live, I am non-redundant. Essential even. Blooming where I’m planted!

  5. Judy Galyon Says:

    I don’t like what’s going on in the world either!!!!!

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