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Ignorance Is the Enemy

Our world is made up of what some call a melting pot – a mixture of many different races, religions, and cultures. In the midst of these groups are further subdivisions – gender, age, education, social status, etc. All these groupings are but a few of the categories that divide us as people – categories that serve to pit us against each other every day of our lives. They remind us that we’re different.

As human beings, we are all different. This should be cause for celebration. We all want to feel like we’re special, after all. But although we are all different, we each also share many common traits with other individuals with whom we have no known association – physical, spiritual, intellectual, etc. While it’s true that we long to be special, we also want to feel like we fit in. This is the paradox of human beings. We long to be unique – but we want to be the same as everyone else.

The familiarity we enjoy being a part of a group with similar characteristics brings us comfort – makes us feel safe. We feel we belong with these people – we understand them because they’re just like us. This is the reason that different nationalities tended to settle in different neighborhoods within the same city when they came to this country in the first place – why different races seemed to find their own unique areas of town to call their own. The more we know about those who surround us, and the more we feel that they are just like us, the safer we feel. This is our ‘safety net’.

We need to come to the realization that we need people who are different than us to arrive at a better balance. The young can gain wisdom from their elders. The minority community can share their experiences during years of oppression with those who have never fallen victim. Members of different religions can discover the common beliefs of their faiths rather than concentrating on the differences. We can truly learn more from people who are different, than we can learn from people who share the same characteristics as us.

There are those, however, who carry the ‘safety net’ concept to an entirely different level. Some of these people regard anyone who is different as the enemy. They want nothing to do with the people they consider unlike themselves. They don’t understand these people’s language, their customs, or their ways of life. These ‘safety net’ people allow their own ignorance to dictate their existence – and thus, the existence of others. Ignorance breeds misunderstanding. Misunderstanding breeds fear. Fear breeds contempt. Contempt breeds hatred – which ultimately triggers violence.