Often when people behave in ways I find objectionable the route explanation is ignorance. They simply lack the knowledge to handle the situation in a “better” way. Expressions of my frustration at the state of affairs elicit the counsel to “have compassion” and sometimes that’s even possible. Then there are the times that the ignorance takes on an intentional flavor making me angry.
There’s an expression – burying your head in the sand –meaning a person has chosen to not take in knowledge that is offered to them. To me, this constitutes willful ignorance that I find unconscionable because the individual had the option to learn “better” and refused. In fact, I find it worse than someone whose behavior is based on a genuine belief that I am less capable, childlike, pitiable, or whatever. At least in that case the individual has paid attention long enough to listen to another perspective. I may not like their ultimate decision, but respect it as long as it doesn’t deny me what I need.
What constitutes willful ignorance? Receiving a request from a dyslexic person for alternative formats with an explanation as to why and two months later acting surprised, baffled, and unprepared when the same inquiry is made. Witnessing how a sighted person assists a blind man and later not knowing what to do. Attending a panel discussion where a wheelchair user explains how insulting the phrase “wheelchair bound” is and continuing to use that phrase over and over. Being given a concrete set of steps for creating alternative formats that is simple and easily done and never doing it. In other words, literally tripping over the facts and pretending the path was clear.
As disabled people become a more visible part of society and their experience better articulated, I see this type of thing with greater frequency and find it utterly incomprehensible. How can a person be told what to do and refuse to do it? Why would they ignore information? What is the mindset that makes this behavior alright? I don’t get it. AT all.
Unfortunately, in my own life I am dealing with a case of collective willful ignorance. While I might not understand it or know how to facilitate change, I do know my own limits. I will not lend my talents and energy to benefit a group that buries its collective head in the sand.
I just wish I could wrap my mind around the why of it. While it feels incredibly personal, I suspect it is not. Until I can comprehend the behavior, I know my unanswered questions will rattle around in the back of my mind. Insight welcome.