By Martins Chiedozie
Socrates is a Greek philosopher, who had a basic philosophy and dialectical style of debate which was anchored on the pursuit of truth through questions, answers, and more questions. Reports show this had a lot of influence on Plato who in 387 founded the Academy in Athens, which is often described as the first European University. Socrates refused to accept payment for his teachings, maintaining that he had no positive knowledge to offer except the awareness of the need for more knowledge. He believed that ignorance was the only source of evil, and that it is improper to act out of ignorance or to accept moral instruction from those who have not proven their own wisdom. Instead of relying blindly on any established norm or tradition, people should unceasingly question their own beliefs and that of others in order to get genuine wisdom.
It is often said that “the evil that is in the world always comes from ignorance, and the understanding that even good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence is an informed mind. The most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right of absolute truth. The soul of the unenlightened is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness which only comes from a richly informed soul.”
Certainly, the use of the internet and related digital media has exploded globally in the last few decades due to advancement in technology. Despite the positive values of the internet and these digital media, especially in the areas of providing access to information resources over geographical distances without barriers; critical thinking and reading which have been identified as an academic or intellectual exercise for knowledge transfer and innovations, are presently stifled by the persistent use of the Internet; and the culture of reading and thinking are fast fading away into the thin air due to this fray.
Critical thinking being the ability to think clearly and reasonably about what to do or believe also, requires the capacity to think critically and independently. It involves the use of creative thought to construct an argument, solve problems, or reach a conclusion in the most basic sense than just believing everything you hear or read especially on the Internet. Every enlightened person’s path to enlightenment begins with self-awareness. And one of the most fundamental purposes of education is to produce well-informed minds, which implies that students must be able to grasp significant, useful, beautiful, as well as powerful ideas and information not only about their course of study but life in general about the inner and outer connection of current events as they concern life.
Ignorance has been identified as a silent killer that slowly destroys a nation from within. It’s like a disease that spreads through the minds of people, affecting their decisions, actions, and ultimately, the fate of the entire people in a given society. It is a dangerous force that can destroy the social harmony of a people in a given society. Our knowledge of history and realities of life has been patchy for some time. In 2012, a survey found that two thirds of those aged 16-30 didn’t know what year the First World War ended, over half didn’t know what year it began or what actually caused the war. To some, the highest and only book they read or can explain is the Bible or Quran. outside these, nothing else makes much sense or worth giving attention and that alone remains the foundation of our every expanding problem in Africa.
I firmly believe that anyone who draws the conclusion before viewing the evidence is operating from ignorance. The problem is, if you already believe you know the answer before you look for any information, then you will ignore any information that does not support your conclusion because you are not looking for that information. It is not, and can never be, science.
The enlightened person is insightful and open-minded. He is able to see the world with great clarity, without attachment to preconceived ideas about people, places, and things. This enables him to observe the world without jumping to conclusions. Belief and intuition are replaced with clarity of vision and understanding. The enlightened person has great inner strength. He has learned healthy ways of connecting with the sources of spiritual nourishment — through healthy interactions with people, and within. He no longer has a need for the power struggles that most of us engage in. Overall, the enlightened person is mindful of himself, and the world around him. Furthermore, he is curious and willing to continue learning. He is aware that even though he can see with great clarity, developing an understanding of the true nature of our existence takes time to observe and investigate.
The psychological phenomenon known as “social proof” leads people to imitate the actions of others in an effort to reflect seemingly appropriate behavior. People who lack awareness struggle to put themselves in other people’s shoes or view issues from the opposing side. They are more comfortable with the position of the crowd or the established norm than questioning facts and figures that brought the result. This defect has not only lead to dearth of creative innovation among this generation, the greatest danger is the mass breeding of ignorance generation with no single sense of their own. The expected result is not only mind-boggling, it is very scary to imagine a generation who believes everything they read or told.
Martins Chiedozie Ugwu
Secretary General of Africa Thinkers Union.