I have been a firm believer of the famous quote by Thomas Gray: “Ignorance is bliss.” It is a very convenient belief—you don’t know what’s happening, so you wouldn’t ever be affected by whatever it entails. The downright laziness to even read on weight loss led sixteen-year-old me to think that, of course, I didn’t need to watch how much I ate as long as I exercised. I held on to this principle, as I packed on pound after pound from the belief that I didn’t have to care about how much calories I intake as I sweat it out.
A few years and twenty pounds later, I decided to ask my doctor about it, only to find out that exercise is only 25 percent of weight loss, the bigger percentage of it comes from your diet. This is how I learned about the disadvantage of ignorance. If I only had known about it earlier, I wouldn’t have had such a hard time becoming healthy again.
From a larger perspective, there is an evident danger by having confidence that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance can cause a big number of our people to become apathetic towards pressing issues in our society simply because they’re lucky enough to not feel its repercussions (and therefore think that their actions won’t affect anything).
For example, 80 percent of marine life depletion is caused by our plastic waste entangling creatures to their death. Unsurprisingly, I have seen friends shrug off appalling news about it. One of my friends told me that “it’s the whole world’s fault anyway, should Filipinos even care?” It only occurred to him that this was not the case when I showed him that the Philippines is listed as the fifth largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution in the world.
In the case of local and national politics, a lot of people choose not to participate in the discourse, believing that it is too messy and stressful to think about. Of course, one wouldn’t care about the elections or who wins the seats in our government if he is privileged enough to be independent of the state and not feel the impact of its decisions. Unfortunately, this is the exact thinking that has caused countless cases of corruption and injustices to go unpunished. Who cares how our politicians and lawmakers behave when you can just relax at home and watch your favorite Netflix series?
I cannot immediately blame these people, though. I was in the same place not long ago, not caring about the repercussions of my actions (or, in my case, inaction). I remained silent in political and intellectual discourse, refusing to take a stand on social issues because it was too much work. How was a person like me to know that I had to say something when I was never really affected by any of it?
It is because it’s hard to imagine that individuals such as myself can create enough change in the world, more so when I visualize how I’m basically a speck of dust in the billions alive today. However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that I wasn’t simply confined to myself. I’m lucky enough to have built a network of people who will listen to what I say and take them into account. I am a part of organizations that can serve as an outlet for my opinions. I didn’t know that I held that privilege, a privilege that should have been every person’s right—to speak and be heard.
I didn’t look at the other side of the coin, the people who ended up getting the shorter end of the stick. I will never forget how the families of the victims of Martial Law cried and took to the streets at the news that the government decided to honor the dictator that took the lives of their loved ones while a whole other side of the world watched comfortably on television. I will never forget the old lady that bears the heavy weight of kakanin on her shoulders, worn out from having to support herself and her family in the absence of help from our country’s institutions. I will never forget all these things that happen around me while I sleep comfortably inside my air conditioned bedroom.
The next time we recount the many good and convenient things we were born into, we must ask ourselves why we’re so comfortable sitting at home, scrolling past stories in our timelines, completely ignorant of what’s happening to those who aren’t as privileged as we are. Is it because we’re afraid that when we learn about something, we are therefore obliged to carry the responsibility to immediately act on it? Is it because we do not feel the consequences of not doing anything? Is it because we can afford to be unalarmed because we do not suffer the brunt of the state’s decisions, while the rest of our community does?
Let’s not forget that policies are created by those who have the power. People like us who have the privilege of speaking. If we are able to reach those in power, or if we ourselves become the people in power, we must never forget that we are able to decide how the system works for our community, our people, and our environment. We have the power to end suffering and ensure the world a better quality of life.
I’ve always been frustrated at my younger self for not being careful enough to recognize what I really needed to be healthy. Now, I’m more frustrated for not being able to see what I could’ve done for others all these years. I have realized that the key to solving a lot of our issues lies in seeking truths and utilizing them. It lies in our active participation and our initiatives. Our actions do not have to be grand or revolutionary, they only need to be started to avoid irreversible consequences. It begins by recognizing the change that we can create for ourselves and others with these actions. It starts by bursting our convenient bubbles and realizing that ignorance is really nothing but shallow, privileged bliss.